Aaron Russo Was Target Of Assassination PlotBy DAVID M. HALBFINGER
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Apr. 03, 2008
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LOS ANGELES — A hedge fund manager and art collector from New York testified under immunity Tuesday that Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private detective accused of wiretapping and racketeering, had once offered to have a movie producer killed for him.
Adam D. Sender, the owner of Exis Capital, a hedge fund that at one point had more than $1 billion in assets, said in Federal District Court here that he had paid Mr. Pellicano about $500,000 to investigate Aaron Russo, a producer and onetime talent manager whose film credits included “Trading Places.” Mr. Russo died of cancer last year.
In 1999, Mr. Sender invested $1.1 million with Mr. Russo. Later, Mr. Sender sued Mr. Russo, accusing him of pocketing the money. Mr. Russo dodged process servers for more than a year, until Mr. Pellicano was brought into the case at the urging of Mr. Sender’s new lawyer, Bert Fields. (Mr. Sender said he paid Mr. Fields’s firm about $300,000, but recovered only $25,000 from Mr. Russo.)
Mr. Sender testified Tuesday that Mr. Pellicano had wiretapped Mr. Russo for a year and had played recordings of Mr. Russo’s intercepted phone calls for him 10 or 15 times. But Mr. Pellicano grew sick of listening to Mr. Russo, Mr. Sender said. And, in a “frightening” moment in the garden of Mr. Sender’s mansion in Bel-Air, he said, Mr. Pellicano suggested killing Mr. Russo.
Mr. Pellicano said that “if I wanted to, I could basically authorize him” to have Mr. Russo “murdered on the way back from Las Vegas,” Mr. Sender testified. “He would have someone follow him back, drive him off the road and bury his body somewhere in the desert.” Mr. Sender said he had declined.
On cross-examination, Mr. Pellicano, acting as his own lawyer and speaking of himself in the third person, seemed more concerned with getting his own words right than with disputing Mr. Sender’s account. He does not face any charges related to Mr. Sender’s statements.
“Didn’t Mr. Pellicano say, ‘You’ve spent all this money, why don’t you just whack him?’ ” Mr. Pellicano asked. “Didn’t Mr. Pellicano say, ‘If you feel so badly about it, why don’t you just have him killed?’ ”
“He might’ve phrased it that way,” Mr. Sender said.