Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Pellicano: Wiretapper to the Stars

Password

Anthony Pellicano
Anthony Pellicano

The trial of Anthony Pellicano and six co-defendants is scheduled to begin in October 2006. Federal prosecutors are seeking to prove that Pellicano and his associates conducted illegal wiretaps and misused police databases for Pellicano's clients. They believe that their case is strong, but four years after FBI agents confiscated roughly 1,300 audio files from Pellicano's office, they have yet to break the encrypted code that protects them.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Lally laid out the situation at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer on June 12. The government has turned over 367 audio files to defense attorneys. Of all the files seized by the FBI, about 250 recordings were deemed irrelevant to any of the named defendants, and about 400 others are considered privileged communications between Pellicano and his lawyers and therefore not part of the case. More than 275 of the remaining files remain encrypted.

Defense attorneys were quick to complain that the prosecution was withholding evidence from them, reasoning that even if the material in those files were produced immediately, they wouldn't have enough time to listen to them thoroughly before the October trial date.

Co-prosecutor Dale Saunders explained that the government has been hindered in producing this evidence by the sophistication of Pellicano's encryption system. Saunders then glanced at Pellicano seated at the defense table. If the defense was "so desperate to get those files," Saunders said, "the man with the password is sitting right there."

Pellicano grinned.

Government hackers are currently working around the clock to break the code to those 275 audio files.  Further indictments are expected as Hollywood holds its breath.

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