A seemingly irritated Chris Rock took the witness stand today in Los Angeles and testified that he'd hired indicted Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano to investigate a since-discredited claim from a model that he'd fathered her baby.
Clearly uncomfortable in this type of spotlight, Rock walked into the courtroom to hushed silence from the capacity crowd and almost immediately drew the judge's ire during his swearing in, after answering "yup" to the standard question of whether he'd tell the truth.
The judge admonished him to sit up and speak clearly.
During 15 minutes of testimony, Rock said that he hired Pellicano in 1999 but was unaware of his alleged illegal activities on behalf of his clients.
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With his chin on his hand during most of his testimony, Rock explained matter-of-factly why he'd hired the private eye.
"Someone who was not pregnant with my child, claimed to be pregnant with my child and requested large sums of money," the popular comedian said.
DNA tests later proved the woman's claims to be false.
When asked on cross-examination whether he knew Pellicano was engaged in illegal tactics, Rock replied that he "relied on what my lawyer told me."
Prosecutors claim Pellicano, 64, took his investigator-for-the-stars routine too far, bribing police officers and telephone company employees to obtain information that could be used against his client's rivals in court disputes and personal battles.
He is charged with running a criminal enterprise that used illegal wiretaps to monitor and discredit his client's rivals.
Pellicano, who is acting as his own attorney, has pleaded not guilty to all charges, as have his co-defendants.
Rock apparent discomfort in cout is not surprising.
In a phone conversation that has surfaced on the internet - purported to be between the private eye and the comedian in 2001, two men who sound like Rock and Pellicano can be heard discussing Rock's accuser in jarringly blunt language.
"I'd be better off being accused of using a needle, better to be photographed with needles in my arm than accused of rape,'' laments a man believed to be Rock.
"Were going to take care of her one way or another,'' the other man, believed to be Pellicano, replies. "I'm going to blacken this girl up, totally. I want to maker her our to be a lying s---bag, manipulative [expletive]. Don't worry baby, we're going to take care of it.''
Prosecutors have not released a copy of the purported 31 minute conversation, but a brief excerpt was played in court Friday after Rock left the stand.
The excerpt seems to contradict Rock's indications on the stand that he wasn't aware Pellicano was using illegal tactics to gather information on Rock's accuser.
On the tape, Pellicano makes reference to a police report he has obtained and tells Rock "I'm not supposed to have this thing, do you understand?''
Rock replies, "Yes, I understand."
Rock is the highest profile celebrity to testify in a case that has riveted Hollywood for weeks. He testified that he hired Pellicano again in 2001 after the same woman claimed he had sexually assaulted her. The married comedian was never arrested or charged in connection with the woman's claim.
"Did you know Mr. Pellicano was following her?" asked defense attorney Chad Hummel, who represents Pellicano's co-defendant, former Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Mark Arneson.
"Not really," Rock responded.
Last month actor Gary Shandling testified that prosecutors had shown him documents indicating that police databases had been searched repeatedly for personal information about him in 1999.
At the time, Shandling was involved in a lawsuit with Brad Grey's production company over proceeds from his show, the HBO hit comedy "The Larry Sanders Show."
Prosecutors say Pellicano was allegedly digging dirt on Shandling for attorney Bert Fields, who was hired by Grey to defend against the Shandling lawsuit.
Shandling said he was unnerved to learn of the breach of his privacy. He said he didn't know whether the information had ever actually been used against him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.