Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A federal appeals court ordered Tuesday that imprisoned ex-Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano be re-sentenced after the panel tossed his computer fraud convictions.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld Pellicano’s 2008 racketeering convictions but vacated guilty verdicts for aiding and abetting computer fraud and unauthorized computer access, based on what the panel found to be faulty jury instructions.

“The panel held that the jury instructions defining both computer fraud and unauthorized computer access of United States agency information under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act were plainly erroneous, and that the error was prejudicial,” according to the opinion penned by Judge Richard R. Clifton.

Pellicano, 71, is serving a 15-year sentence in a low-security federal penitentiary in Texas for his convictions, in two trials, on more than six dozen felony racketeering, conspiracy and wiretapping counts for bugging the telephones of celebrities, attorneys and executives.

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors were “pleased that the panel upheld the most serious convictions in the case. In fact, the 9th Circuit reviewed dozens of claims made by the defendants, and the panel rejected all but two.”

Five other defendants were convicted of multiple offenses stemming from what the appeals court described as a “widespread criminal enterprise offering illegal private investigation services in Southern California.”

The appellate court said the vacated convictions will be remanded to Los Angeles federal court for further proceedings, including the possibility of a retrial.

The panel also overturned computer fraud convictions for Mark Arneson, a former Los Angeles police officer who Pellicano bribed for confidential information, and for phone technician Rayford Turner.

But the court affirmed the wiretapping convictions and three-year sentence of former entertainment lawyer Terry Christensen.

“The (racketeering) convictions against Pellicano, Arneson and Turner were affirmed,” Mrozek said. “With those convictions still standing, the government is very likely to argue that (the judge) should impose the same substantial prison terms that she originally imposed against these defendants.”

Operating out of an office on the Sunset Strip, Pellicano was hired for decades by some of Hollywood’s wealthiest deal-makers to dig up dirt on their own or clients’ enemies.

As detailed in the first trial, Pellicano’s clients included Hollywood power brokers such as entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey, producer-financier Steve Bing, entertainment czar Ron Meyer, talent agent Michael Ovitz, Madonna manager Freddy DeMann and comedian Chris Rock.

The list of those targeted featured some well-known names: Sylvester Stallone, Garry Shandling, Kevin Nealon, Keith Carradine and the late producer Aaron Russo.

A raft of civil lawsuits against Pellicano and the companies and agencies he corrupted are making their way through the courts.

— Wire reports 

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