In his first interview in three years, jailed private eye Anthony Pellicano accused federal authorities of exaggerating the strength of their case against him, which he predicted would soon fizzle out like a box-office flop.
Speaking by telephone from the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles last week, Pellicano insisted that he would never cooperate with authorities or testify against a bevy of A-list lawyers, Hollywood executives, business moguls and celebrities who have hired him over the years to dig up dirt on their adversaries.
"My loyalty never dies," said Pellicano, 62. "You're not going to see me take the stand against the clients and employees and other people that are going to be testifying against me. I didn't rat them out. You understand? ... I am going to be a man until I fall - if, in fact, that happens."
Until an alleged mob-style threat against a Los Angeles Times reporter almost four years ago landed him in prison, Pellicano was Hollywood's private eye to the stars - and their lawyers - for nearly a quarter-century.
His subsequent imprisonment in 2003 on illegal-firearms charges and indictment this year for alleged racketeering and illegal wiretapping has kept much of Hollywood on the edge of its seat, wondering who else might be implicated in a widening criminal probe.
The importance of Pellicano's vow of silence is not lost on his anxious clients and could be a critical factor in who else gets implicated.
So far, Pellicano and 12 others have been charged, including an entertainment attorney, a record company executive, two former police officers and several telephone company employees.
Six have admitted to lying to authorities and other charges stemming from hiring Pellicano or helping him conduct alleged illegal investigations; Pellicano and six others named in a 112-count indictment have pleaded not guilty.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders, the lead prosecutor, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Pellicano's statements.
In the interview, Pellicano spoke with characteristic bravado.
"The federal government has purposely tried to make this thing larger than life - like a Hollywood movie," he said. "To me, these are the acts of overzealous FBI agents and prosecutors who have never really accomplished anything in their careers. They are trying to use my name and reputation to build something better for themselves.
"I think they had it in their minds that this is some big case where I'm purportedly wiretapping all kinds of celebrities and there are all these tapes. By the way, where are all these recordings that they are talking about? The government said they have a bunch. But they have never provided them to us in discovery. And they never will. Because they don't exist."
Federal authorities haven't described in detail what they seized in searches of Pellicano's Sunset Boulevard office in November 2002, other than to say it was voluminous: thousands of pages of documents and hours of encrypted audiotapes, some of which the government is still trying to decrypt.
A key to expanding the federal case is proving that attorneys and others who hired Pellicano knew that he was obtaining information on their adversaries through allegedly illegal means.
Federal agents have been particularly interested in Pellicano's association with prominent entertainment attorney Bert Fields, who hired the detective numerous times over two decades. One case was a legal dispute between comedian Garry Shandling and Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey.
Fields, who has not been charged, has publicly acknowledged that he is a subject of the investigation but has denied wrongdoing. He could call Pellicano as a defense witness.
"There is no way in the world that any lawyer who has got any brains is going to hire somebody to do something illegal," Pellicano said. "Why throw away your law license?
"I'm a private investigator," Pellicano said, "but now I'm being called a racketeer because I have law enforcement contacts that provide me with information."
Chuck Philips writes for the Los Angeles Times.