John McTiernan wants to retract with a vengeance.
The Die Hard director moved Monday to withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of lying to federal investigators in connection with the multilayered wiretapping and conspiracy case against Hollywood detective Anthony Pellicano.
"He should never have been charged with a criminal offense," lawyer Milton Grimes said, explaining that his client pleaded guilty in April 2006 because he had not received adequate legal counsel at the time.
Additionally, fellow McTiernan attorney Cornell Price claims that a recording of McTiernan talking to Pellicano was illegally seized and that his client was drunk when initially asked about his ties to the detective.
Before making his about-face, McTiernan was due to be sentenced Monday on one federal count of making knowingly false statements to the FBI about Pellicano's alleged penchant for illegally wiretapping the objects of his clients' disgruntlement.
A postponement was granted until Sept. 24 to give U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer time to review the motion.
"It has been 17 months since this defendant pleaded guilty," Fischer said, questioning why it took so long for McTiernan to try to withdraw his plea. "It's time to get this show on the road."
The delay will allow the defense to prove that the tape of McTiernan and Pellicano should never have been admitted into evidence, Price said in court.
McTiernan was also intoxicated when the lead FBI investigator, Agent Stanley Ornellas, called him to ask whether he had ever hired Pellicano, and therefore was more or less entrapped into making his initial statements, the director's attorneys said after the hearing.
Federal prosecutors Daniel Saunders and Kevin Lally filed court papers last week urging Fischer not to entertain McTiernan's request.
It became clear this summer that the Predator helmer had "no intention" of fulfilling his sworn obligation to "be truthful with the government," the filing states.
Saunders said in court Monday that if Fischer grants McTiernan's motion, the U.S. District Attorney's Office will likely seek a new indictment against him and combine his case with Pellicano's.
Upon entering his plea last year, McTiernan admitted that he lied to federal agents on Feb. 13, 2006, when he told them he knew nothing about Pellicano's actions. And he agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation of the celebrity P.I.
McTiernan was arrested when authorities learned that he had hired Pellicano to eavesdrop on a business associate for him, and had not just employed Pellicano during his divorce proceedings, as McTiernan originally told the Feds.
The filmmaker stated in court that he paid Pellicano $50,000 to wiretap Batman Begins producer Charles Roven's office, but that he never received a report on the detective's findings and eventually fired him without learning any behind-the-scenes info.
Pellicano has pleaded not guilty to 111 criminal counts of racketeering, conspiracy, identity theft, witness tampering and destruction of evidence for allegedly using a number of shady methods to collect information about celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, Keith Carradine and Kevin Nealon; journalists; and prominent businesspeople for his high-paying clients.
McTiernan, 56, who is facing a maximum six months behind bars, was one of more than a dozen prominent SoCal figures to be accused of engaging in dirty dealings with Pellicano, whose trial is expected to finally get underway in February.