Forget The Longest Yard. This might have been the longest day of Chris Rock's life.
The funnyman appeared to be suffering from an unusual bout of stage fright as he turned up Friday at a jam-packed Los Angeles courtroom to testify in the federal wiretapping and racketeering trial of disgraced Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano.
Visibly nervous, the dark-suited Rock spent approximately 15 minutes on the stand. At times he spoke barely above a whisper, admitting how he had employed the sleuth in 1999 to dig up dirt on Hungarian model Monika Zsibrita after she filed a paternity suit against him.
Before he could continue, however, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer interrupted and asked the Never Scared star to speak up.
"Mr. Rock?" she said cheerily. "Project."
Raising his voice (but not by much), Rock recounted how he met Zsibrita in late 1998, while temporarily estranged from his wife.
The model later filed a lawsuit accusing him of impregnating her during a one-night stand at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Rock testified that he turned to Pellicano's investigative expertise on the advice of his attorney.
The feds allege that the Hollywood gumshoe unlawfully gained access to Zsibrita's DMV and other confidential records from police databases after bribing former LAPD Sgt. Mark Arneson.
Under cross-examination by Arneson's lawyer, Chad Hummel, the stand-up comic told the court he thought Zsibrita was looking for a quick payday.
"Someone who was not pregnant with my child claimed to be pregnant with my child and requested large sums of money," Rock said.
He acknowledged hiring Pellicano for a second stint in 2001 after the model accused Rock of sexually assaulting her. But Rock noted he was unaware of Pellicano's purportedly shady methods.
"I relied on what my lawyer told me," he replied.
Bolstering the government's contention that the investigator had unlawfully obtained Zsibrita's information, Rock recalled being told by Pellicano that he had seen the police report regarding the alleged assault.
"He said, 'I'm going to read it to you, but I'm not supposed to have it,' " Rock told the court.
Asked by Hummel if the rape allegation was true, Rock fired back: "I'm here as a free man. I didn't do anything wrong."
Two DNA tests subsequently revealed that he was indeed not the father.
The 64-year-old Pellicano, who's representing himself from charges that could land him in prison for the rest of his life, refrained from cross-examining Rock, who hurried out of the courtroom with his bodyguard in tow as soon as he was dismissed by the judge.
The entertainer joins an ever-growing list of Hollywood heavyweights to take the witness stand to discuss their dealings with the P.I. Others taking the stand have included Garry Shandling, Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey and actor Keith Carradine.
Zsibrita, 35, is also on the government's witness list, as are such celebrities as Sylvester Stallone, Farrah Fawcett and Die Hard director John McTiernan.