Lawsuit against private eye brings up star names

LOS ANGELES -- Sylvester Stallone and Chris Rock were included on a list of potential witnesses for the federal wiretapping trial of a Hollywood private eye and four co-defendants that was set to begin Thursday.

Lawyers also completed jury selection in the case Wednesday. Opening statements were to begin Thursday, with private investigator Anthony Pellicano acting as his own lawyer.

The witness list compiled by prosecutors and released Wednesday included 127 people, but it was not clear how many would actually testify.

U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer said she couldn't imagine federal prosecutors calling that many people to testify.

Also named were Brad Grey, chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures; Ron Meyer, president and chief executive officer of Universal Studios; and former Walt Disney Co. president and powerful talent agent Michael Ovitz.

Pellicano, 63, is accused of running a criminal enterprise that wiretapped phones and bribed police and telephone workers. Prosecutors said he obtained confidential information that could be used to gain advantage in divorce, business and other cases.

Stallone and comedian Garry Shandling, another potential witness, were alleged victims. Stallone told The Associated Press last month he wouldn't mind testifying. Representatives of comedian Rock retained Pellicano in a paternity battle, according to court documents.

Federal authorities previously questioned Grey, Meyer and prominent entertainment attorney Bert Fields - who is also on the list - about their connections to Pellicano.

Other prominent Hollywood figures on the list include Farrah Fawcett; attorney Bert Fields, whose clients include Tom Cruise; and actor Keith Carradine, whose ex-wife Sonia Will Carradine pleaded guilty to perjury in the case.

One of the first prosecution witnesses will be retired baseball player Matt Williams, who had a bitter divorce battle with his second wife, actress Michelle Johnson, in 2002. Prosecutors said in a court filing they have an audio recording of Williams and Pellicano but didn't elaborate on its content.

Prosecutors estimate Pellicano, retired Los Angeles police Sgt. Mark Arneson and former telephone company employee Rayford Earl Turner collected nearly $2 million (euro1.3 million) from what they say was a racketeering scheme.

Pellicano and his co-defendants, including Kevin Kachikian and Abner Nicherie, have pleaded not guilty.

In all, 14 people have been charged, and seven already pleaded guilty to a variety of charges including perjury and conspiracy.

Six of those seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, were expected to be called by prosecutors.

The trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks.

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