Michael Jackson’s Victory
by Joal Ryan Apr 10, 1998, 7:25 AM PT
A jury looking to "send a message," sent it loud and clear–vindicating Michael Jackson and awarding him $2.7 million in a slander suit against an author who claimed he’d seen a video showing the pop star having sex with a boy.
The verdict came down Thursday in a Los Angeles courtroom. "Jurors told us that they not only wanted to compensate Mr. Jackson and punish Victor Gutierrez, but to send a message that they are tired of tabloids lying about celebrities for money," Jackson’s attorney Zia Modabber told Associated Press.
Victor Gutierrez is the freelance writer sued by Jackson. The singer filed suit in 1995, seeking $100 million in damages.
Jackson’s complaint alleged that Gutierrez told Hard Copy reporter Diane Dimond that he’d seen a 27-minute video of the King of Pop in a compromising position with a boy.
Dimond later repeated those comments on a Los Angeles TV station, the suit said. During the trial, Gutierrez said another boy’s mother had shown him the tape. But he refused to produce any evidence of the X-rated footage.
He invoked a California law that allows reporters to protect sources. In the end, even Gutierrez’s attorney said "some of the jurors wanted to send a message to tabloids."
Gutierrez is the author of Michael Jackson Was My Lover, a book that claims to be the "secret diary" of the 13-year-old boy whose family once sued the singer for sexual molestation. Jackson denied any wrongdoing.
He settled the suit out of court in 1994. A criminal investigation into the case ended without any charges being filed. Jackson, 39, recently welcomed the birth of his second child–a daughter–by wife Debbie Rowe.