Will 'private eye to the stars' dish his Hollywood dirt in court?

The trial of Anthony Pellicano, accused of illegal phone-tapping, starts this week

The trial of Anthony Pellicano, self-described "private eye to the stars", finally gets under way in Los Angeles this week, with Hollywood braced for revelations by a man who for the past two decades has been hired to dig dirt on everyone from top-grossing actors to studio bosses.

Celebrities Courtney Love and Chris Rock are among clients of the detective, who is charged with racketeering, illegal tapping of phones, bribing police officers to access official records and threatening witnesses. Targets of his allegedly illegal methods included movie hardmen Sylvester Stallone and Keith Carradine.

Dozens more members of Hollywood's aristocracy, such as Ron Meyer, the head of Universal Pictures, Mike Ovitz, a former studio boss and "super agent", and Brad Grey, the head of Paramount, are on a list of 244 names of potential witnesses issued by the court, either because they, or their lawyers, employed Mr Pellicano, or because he is alleged to have spied on them.

The detective's reputation for being able to make problems go away led Courtney Love to contact him when she was in dispute with her record company and former members of Nirvana, the band founded by her husband, Kurt Cobain. Chris Rock sought him out when threatened with a "non-consensual sex" claim, which came to nothing. Mr Pellicano's decline to the point where he is being held without bail began when a journalist who had written unflattering stories about another client, action star Steven Seagal, found a dead fish and a red rose on the broken windscreen of her car, below a note that read: "Stop!"

Bert Fields, a showbusiness lawyer whose firm represented Tom Cruise, could prove a key witness. He and his associates hired Mr Pellicano in several high-profile cases, although Mr Fields has denied knowing that the detective was using illegal methods.

Stallone has offered to testify against the detective, who is said to have bugged him when he sued his ex-business manager, Kenneth Starr, a client of Mr Fields. Sources close to the trial, however, say that the prosecution is concentrating on only a handful of sample offences where the detective is alleged to have played back tapes of bugged phone calls to clients.

The only star to be mentioned by name may be Carradine, whose former wife is expected to say that she listened to intercepted calls by the actor during a dispute over property in their divorce. Some of the potential for sensation also ebbed last week when Terry Christensen, the head of a Hollywood law firm, succeeded in obtaining a separate trial on charges that he paid Mr Pellicano $100,000 (£50,300) to wiretap the former wife of the billionaire Kirk Kerkorian in a child-support dispute.

The case was delayed for a week while some of Mr Pellicano's fellow accused, including Mark Arneson, a former LA police detective, and Rayford Earl Turner, a retired phone company worker, held last-minute talks with the authorities. But there were no plea deals, making it less likely they will turn against the private eye, who is conducting his own defence.

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