If Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz was trying to tamp down a controversy in a Las Vegas court case, bringing Anthony Pellicano into the picture was a funny way of doing it.
Katz’s name surfaced in a countersuit attached to ongoing litigation by a group of ballerinas who are accusing their former dance instructors of sexual exploitation. He was accused of paying one of the ballerinas, Sage Humphries, for sex when she was underage. He vigorously denied the claim, threatened to sue defense attorney Marc Randazza, and was dropped from his third-party complaint after it was shown that Humphries was of consenting age. She also denied the accusation, but acknowledged receiving $50,000 from Katz to support a movie project.
Scandal averted, right?
When Randazza moved to dismiss the claim without prejudice, leaving the door open to refile it if circumstances ever warranted it, Katz wasn’t satisfied. He had demanded the case be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it was ended for good.
In a letter dated July 24 from Katz attorney Robert Klieger, he accused Randazza of bad faith, abuse of process, and attempting to use the billionaire as “the proverbial ‘deep pocket’ from whom you could extort a settlement.” Bottom line: a dismissal with prejudice and a public retraction, or suffer the consequences.
Randazza dismissed without prejudice, then heard from a proverbial blast from the past. No, not the ghost of Frank Sinatra, but notorious former private-investigator-to-the-stars Pellicano acting in his capacity as a “negotiator.”
Inserting Pellicano into a story with a Las Vegas connection is like bringing gasoline to help put out a fire. Whatever his skills as a “crisis manager” may be, he was convicted of dozens of felonies and served 16 years in federal prison in a case with an enormous Las Vegas casino-industry connection. Illegal wiretapping, racketeering, wire fraud, conspiracy — the shady PI was a four-sport letterman when it came to digging up dirt on behalf of a client.
That included entertainment attorney Terry Christensen, who in November 2008 was convicted of conspiring with Pellicano to wiretap the former wife of Las Vegas casino king Kirk Kerkorian during a child-support dispute. Federal prosecutors proved in court that Christensen paid Pellicano more than $100,000 to tap into phone calls involving Lisa Bonder Kerkorian.
Kirk Kerkorian was never charged in connection to the case, but his denials notwithstanding, U.S. District Judge Dale Fisher left little doubt about the impetus of the Christensen-Pellicano arrangement.
Kerkorian’s friend and attorney Christensen, Fisher said, “marred the legal profession in the eyes of the public and demonstrated a disrespect for the justice system on a grand scale.” Christensen was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
Pellicano, proud of his reputation as a Hollywood “fixer,” was released from prison in 2019 and surfaced publicly in 2021 after he was hired by producer Joel Silver of Die Hard fame as part of an arbitration case involving Katz.
Back then, Pellicano told Variety, “It would be awful stupid of me to put up a website and say (I’m doing) things the government considers illegal. I have legal authority to negotiate this deal. There are many people who know about it. … I’m protected every which way but Sunday. If I had anything to worry about, I wouldn’t be talking to you.”
Which leads us back to a recent call Pellicano made attempting to get Randazza to dismiss the Katz claim with prejudice. Judge for yourself whether the former Hollywood PI was successful.
In response to a question about the call, Randazza replied in a statement that reads in part, “As far as we were concerned, Katz’s involvement in this was on ice — preserved only as a hypothetical issue. I had already not only withdrawn the claims, but I had filed a motion to strike my own pleadings. I issued a statement to the effect that nobody should repeat the allegations we made, because we had withdrawn and repudiated them.
“It was over, as far as my clients and Mr. Katz were concerned.
“Then we get a call from this petty criminal? From this guy who saw too many movies and wants to play the part of the tough guy, trying to influence how I defend my clients?
“That was the first thing that Katz did that I can say hurt my impression of him. If you hire a guy like that, what are you hiding? What are you afraid of? What are you thinking?”
At the very least, what the Pellicano-Randazza dustup has done is stir up some very ugly ghosts that some folks in Las Vegas would much prefer remain in the shadows of the past