Recordings of supposedly confidential conversations involving a lawyer and a private investigator are being played in federal court in Los Angeles this month, where attrorney Terry Christensen and private detective Anthony Pellicano are on trial for allegedly conspiring to wiretap the former wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, reports the Los Angeles Times. The trial is being closely followed in the legal community because it illustrates a type of relationship the public rarely sees: that of a lawyer and his private investigator. Prosecutors say Christensen paid Pellicano to illegally wiretap Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, who was engaged in a bitter child-support battle with his billionaire client Kirk Kerkorian. Christensen used information from the wiretap to gain a legal advantage in the case, prosecutors allege.
Christensen’s defense team contends the attorney knew of no illegal wiretap, arguing that Pellicano could have been getting his information from sources other than a wiretap. Some attorneys say the case has made them more cautious about whom they hire and how they obtain their information. “No case is worth your career,” said Ron Litz, who often deals with vicious divorce or child custody battles in which vengeful clients want to go after their spouses by any possible means. “Now that we know that lawyers are going to be prosecuted for it like Terry Christensen, we know that we have to keep that in mind and be more careful than in the past.” The National Law Journal called Christensen’s case a “wake-up call” for lawyers on how they use private investigators. A lawyer can be held criminally liable for his investigator’s conduct only if he had knowledge of the illegal acts and acted with the intent of committing a crime, said Steven Gruel, a former federal prosecutor.