(CN) - The 9th Circuit on Monday refused to let the director of "Die Hard" and "Predator" off the hook for lying to FBI agents.
The federal appeals court in Pasadena blocked John McTiernan's move to suppress recordings made in 2000 by former Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano, in which the famous filmmaker discussed an illegal wiretapping operation.
According to the ruling, McTiernan paid Pellicano some $50,000 to conduct an illegal wiretap of two individuals. One of McTiernan's targets was "The Dark Knight Rises" producer Charles Roven, who worked with the director on a 2002 remake of "Rollerball."
Pellicano is currently serving a 15-year sentence for racketeering and wiretapping related to his work with various Hollywood big-wigs. While investigating Pellicano in 2006, FBI agents questioned McTiernan about the alleged wiretapping, and the director said he knew nothing about it. However, the FBI had a digital recording of a telephone conversation that proved otherwise.
McTiernan, who also directed "Hunt for Red October" and the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair", initially pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, but he soon took it back. The District Court in Los Angeles refused to allow it, but the 9th Circuit ordered a new hearing and the lower court eventually let McTiernan withdraw his plea. The government then reindicted him.
McTiernan moved to suppress the recording and, for a second time, sought to have U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer recused. The District Court denied both requests, and McTiernan again pleaded guilty to the charges while reserving his right to appeal to the 9th Circuit a second time. Under the plea agreement, the director was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
McTiernan claimed on appeal that the District Court should have suppressed the recording because it had been made in the midst of Pellicano's criminal enterprise. A three-judge panel unanimously disagreed on Monday.
According to Pellicano's testimony in his own trial, he recorded all of his phone calls only as a kind of "to do list".
"Recording a conversation for the purpose of creating a reminder list is not an integral part of the execution of an illegal wiretap and thus is not made 'for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act," wrote Judge Ronald Gilman, sitting on the panel by designation from the 6th Circuit.
The panel also declined to reverse the District Court's refusal to remove Judge Fischer from the case, finding that the director had failed to prove that the judge harbored a "deep-seated animus" toward him.