Heat on Jackson’s accusers

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Heat on Jackson’s accusers November 27, 2003 Michael Jackson’s attorney angrily vowed to “land like a ton of bricks” on anyone who besmirches his client’s reputation and said that molestation allegations against the entertainer were motivated by money. “If anybody doesn’t think, based upon what’s happened so far, that the true motivation of these charges and these allegations is anything but money and the seeking of money, then they’re living in their own Neverland,” Mark Geragos said, referring to Jackson’s storybook playland home near Santa Barbara. Geragos called the news conference following revelations that he and Jackson were secretly videotaped while flying on a private jet to Santa Barbara last week for Jackson’s surrender. Geragos did not take any questions but promised a vigorous defence. “Michael Jackson is not going to be slammed,” he said. Geragos’s news conference came as doubts about the credibility of Jackson’s accuser and his family began to emerge. The family of the child has already been involved in two previous cases that involved abuse allegations: a lawsuit in which the family said they were battered by shopping mall security guards, and a divorce fight in which the father pleaded no contest to spousal abuse and child cruelty. In November 2001, JC Penney Co paid the boy’s family $137,500 to settle a lawsuit alleging security guards beat the boy, his mother and his brother in a parking lot after the boy left the store carrying clothes that hadn’t been paid for, court records show. The mother also contended that she was sexually assaulted by one of the guards during the 1998 confrontation. A month before the settlement, the boy’s mother had filed for divorce, beginning a bitter fight that would include criminal charges of abuse. The father’s attorney, Russell Halpern, said the mother had lied about the abuse and had a “Svengali-like” ability to make her children repeat her lies. Halpern said the father once showed him a script his wife had allegedly written for their children to use when they were questioned in a civil deposition. “She wrote out all their testimony. I actually saw the script,” Halpern said. “I remember my client showing me, bringing the paperwork to me.” The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse. The child’s mother has an unlisted number and could not be located for comment. JC Penney lawyers did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The family’s past legal cases could be critical in the current molestation case, if Geragos can show the mother or the accuser lacks credibility, said Leonard Levine, a defence attorney who specialises in sexual assault cases. “It sounds like music to a defence attorney’s ears – that there have been other cases where they have sued and there is at least an argument that the allegations are similar to the ones here,” Levine said, referring to the claims of physical abuse. “Once you can get evidence in that there’s previous evidence that either the child or the parents have fabricated evidence or testimony, you’re 90 per cent to an acquittal,” Levine added. Jackson was released on $US3 million ($A4.19 million) bail after his surrender last Thursday and immediately returned to Las Vegas, where he had been filming a video. Santa Barbara County authorities said today they now expect to file formal charges sometime in mid-December rather than soon after Thanksgiving. Jackson’s spokesman, Stuart Backerman, declined comment about the past lawsuits involving the accuser’s family. In a lawsuit filed yesterday against Santa Monica-based XtraJet, Geragos claimed that the charter company covertly installed two cameras in the cabin of the plane used by Jackson last week. Jackson’s attorneys won a temporary restraining order against XtraJet, barring any release of the tapes. The cameras “were recording attorney-client conversations and then somebody had the unmitigated gall to shop those tapes around to media outlets in order to sell them to the highest bidder,” he said. Separately, FBI spokesman Matthew McLaughlin said agents went to the headquarters of XtraJet and “currently assessing if a federal violation has occurred,”, McLaughlin said. Deutsche-Presse Agenteur, quoting government officials, reported that the tapes had been confiscated by the FBI. The tapes’ existence came to light when representatives of XtraJet showed it to several news organisations, saying they had found two videotapes aboard one of their jets and wanted to know whether it was legal to distribute or sell them. Geragos said he contacted XtraJet and was referred to an attorney who told him yesterday: “We had a lottery ticket and we thought we were going to do something with it.” “This is not the lottery,” Geragos said. “This is this man’s life. This is his family’s life. These are scurrilous accusations.” The attorney did not immediately return a call for comment. The lawsuit claims XtraJet asked Fox to pay a price “in the high six figures”. AP, DPA Source: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/26/1069825845830.html?from=storyrhs&oneclick=true

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