LeGrand Testimony Raises Qs about Ex-Associates’ Intentions MB #288
NOVEMBER 29 2005 — In light of the most recent attempts of ex-associates to get into Michael Jacksons pockets again .MJEOL wanted to take a look back at court testimony from attorney David LeGrand.
Two clients of attorney Howard King are suing Jackson: Dieter Wiesner and Marc Schaffel. Wiesner (or Weizner as it appears in court records) is currently suing Jackson for $64 million dollars. No one ever sues Jackson for a reasonable amount of money. It seems that everyone always wants to sue him for a gazillion billion dollars. But I digress.
Schaffel is suing Jackson as well. But Jackson is countersuing him for fraud, for concealing, commingling, and misappropriating funds. Schaffels also being sued for charging expenses for matters unrelated to the agreement between Jackson and him, for keeping false books of account, and for keeping $250,000 worth of paintings and statues that were to be delivered to Jackson.
It is of import to understand what was discovered in the Santa Maria courtroom concerning the association of not only Dieter Wiesner and Marc Schaffel, but also of Ronald Konitzer and John Branca with Jackson.
Recently, King has come under criticism for trying to race-bait by attempting to incite fury among the Jewish community; giving chopped up recordings allegedly of Jackson to the press. Reportedly, the tapes have not be independently verified for authenticity nor have the full context of the messages/conversations been released.
Aside from the unethical behavior, as a number of observers have suggested, King also appears to be tampering with the jury pool for the upcoming civil suits involving his clients Schaffel and Wiesner. This sparked an interest in reviewing testimony from attorney David LeGrand. LeGrand, a former attorney of Jacksons, had some truly interesting things to say about a number of characters around Jackson, including Kings two clients.
While the media may try to sensationalize the reporting, were going to do what we have always done at MJEOL: look at the facts as they have been made public.
_LeGrands Interesting Background_
LeGrands background includes working as an enforcement attorney for the State of Ohio Department of Commerce; specifically the Division of Securities. He was also counsel to the Commissioner of the Ohio Division of Securities. About his previous employment, he testified:
LeGrand: I was responsible for investigating complaints with regards to violations of state securities law and preparing appropriate recommendations to the Attorney General for civil and/or criminal action. Criminal action would be through a state prosecutor. Actually, I — for a time I was sworn as an assistant county prosecutor in Franklin County, Ohio, working with the white-collar crime division. (pg 9973, lines 1-20)
This is extremely important because between the testimonies of Ann Gabriel (Kite) and David LeGrand, the public found out there was suspicion about the actions of those around Jackson, and that an investigation was began with respect to what financial illegalities, if any, were taking place without Jacksons knowledge.
LeGrand was let go before he could finish the investigation, apparently. Remember, Wiesner, part of that investigation, is now trying to get money from Jackson. LeGrand gave an example in court about the kind of work he has done. He used to prosecute Securities fraud.
For the record, Mesereau had him give an example of securities fraud. This is what he testified to on the stand:
LEGRAND: Securities fraud is — a typical example would be where money is raised by promoters for investments where the disclosures by the promoters are less than accurate. You know, deceptive, fraudulent misrepresentations for the purpose of obtaining money from others.MESEREAU: Youre talking about prosecuting primarily financial-related crimes, correct?LEGRAND: Yes. (pg 9973-9974; lines 25-28, 1-5)
His role as an enforcement attorney was to do investigations and hand the cases over to the Attorney Generals office for civil actions, or over to the county prosecutors office for criminal prosecution.
Specifically for Jackson, LeGrand primarily was engaged in corporate and transactional work. He was introduced to Jackson by Ronald Konitzer, ironically, whom he had known for a while before his employment for Jackson. He came in under a plan to refine Jacksons business affairs and to bring in a new set of lawyers, accountants, and professionals. Some people had to be terminated in the process though.
__Suspicion all over the place__
During his employment as one of Jacksons lawyers, LeGrand says he became suspicious of a number of people and their possible involvement with side-dealings and such. He was asked about one of Kings clients, Marc Schaffel, during his testimony. He says his suspicion of Schaffel was a lot different from his suspicion of Wiesner and Konitzer. From the testimony:
MESEREAU: You grew suspicious of what Marc Schaffel was doing to Mr. Jackson at some point, correct?LEGRAND: I grew suspicious that Mr. Schaffel was seeking to benefit from Mr. Jackson or being in relationship to Mr. Jackson. My suspicion of Mr. Schaffel was different than my suspicion of Mr. Konitzer or Mr. Weizner.MESEREAU: Did you have much involvement with Mr. Schaffel in your work?LEGRAND: I had a fair amount of involvement with Mr. Schaffel at the very beginning of the development of the Take 2 production. And I was constantly trying to get Marc Schaffel out of the loop. I was trying to avoid his involvement or minimize his involvement in Mr. Jacksons affairs, and it was a struggle. (pg 10046, lines 9-25)
What LeGrand may have found out about Schaffels background could have been the reason why he wanted to cut Shaffel loose.
Schaffel apparently has a looooong history of stiffing and defrauding people, outside of his involvement with pornography. If King isnt careful, he too may become a victim of Schaffels. There is talk that those same people who were a part of LeGrands investigation — Wiesner, Schaffel, Konitzer may have tried to get rid of him(LeGrand) so he could no longer have the authority to dig up dirt.
LeGrand was to assist Jackson in developing a new team for cash management, accounting, bookkeeping and new lawyers with respect to creative elements (p 10003, lines 8-10). He also says it was his impression that Konitzer and Wiesner wanted to take control of managing Jacksons business. From the transcript:
MESEREAU: And was it your impression that Mr. Konitzer and Mr. Weizner were trying to take over the management of Mr. Jacksons business?LEGRAND: Yes.MESEREAU: Was it your impression that they wanted Mr.Jackson kept out of a lot of the day-to-day discussions?MR. AUCHINCLOSS: Objection; foundation.THE COURT: Sustained. (pg 10004, lines 10-18)
LeGrand got into his feelings of suspicion on the stand with respect to Wiesner and Konitzer possibly diverting funds. He testified he felt Konitzer was making bad decisions on Jacksons behalf. More from the testimony:
MESEREAU: Why did you become suspicious of Konitzer and Weizner?LEGRAND: I became concerned that they were in a position to divert funds. I was concerned about the — having appropriate documentation for tax purposes for Mr. Jackson and his companies. And in general, I — I began to disagree with some of Mr. Konitzers decisions on matters and felt that he was making bad decisions, I guess is the way to say it. So I — I became suspicious of his motives and actions. (pg 10006-10007, lines 25-28, 1-7)
Concerned about decisions made by people around Jackson? He certainly wasnt the only one. He says there was another attorney serving as escrow agent for some funds who he asked to give an accounting of Jacksons financial info. LeGrand testified he requested the info to get Jacksons new financial team up to speed. But when he received the information, he noticed that almost a million dollars had gone to Wiesner and Konitzer which was unaccounted for. Continued from his May 12 2005 testimony:
LEGRAND: I ultimately wrote a letter within, you know, a couple of days of learning of this. I wrote a letter to Mr. Konitzer asking him to account for this money.MESEREAU: Was the amount you were concerned about approximately $965,000?LEGRAND: Yes, the amount — the aggregate amount of disbursements that I set forth in that letter was $965,000.MESEREAU: And where did that amount come from, if you remember?LEGRAND: I believe the source of that funds was the FOX — some of the FOX payments with regard to the Take 2 video production.MESEREAU: Did you ever get a response to your expression of concern?LEGRAND: 7 A. Yes.MESEREAU: Why did you think Konitzer and Weizner had diverted $965,000 from Mr. Jackson?LEGRAND: Because the report I got from this other lawyer showed those disbursements.MESEREAU: And when you saw the record of those disbursements, what did you do?LEGRAND: I spoke to several of the other lawyers that were representing Mr. Jackson, and agreed that I should write a letter to Mr. Konitzer asking him to account. (pg 10008-10009 lines 25-28, 1-8; 10011 lines 6-15 )
LeGrand, as mentioned earlier, never found out where this money went. He engaged an independent private investigative company with one of his partners an Assistant Prosecutor — to check into the backgrounds of Schaffel, Wiesner, Konitzer, and John Branca. More on Branca later.
He also said statements he got from these people just didnt add up, which spurred on his misgivings.
Revealed during his testimony is that Wiesner and Konitzer actually managed to get a sort of joint power of attorney from Jackson. Its a wonder Jackson has one dime left. LeGrand was concerned for Jackson and talked to other lawyers about getting Jackson to revoke that power of attorney. He said:
MESEREAU: Did you ever learn whether or not Mr. Jackson had given a power of attorney to either of these two people?LEGRAND: Yes, I believe he did.MESEREAU: Did that concern you?LEGRAND: Yes.MESEREAU: Why?LEGRAND: I was concerned that they could abuse that power or exceed the authority of the power.MESEREAU: Did you do anything about that?LEGRAND: Yes. I spoke to some of the other lawyers that were representing Mr. Jackson, and we agreed that we would ask Mr. Jackson to revoke the power of attorney.MESEREAU: Was that done?LEGRAND: Yes. (pg 10014-10015, lines 15-28, 1-2)
But why was he concerned they would abuse their power? Like he testified earlier, he was being told things that just didnt add up. How much Howard Kings clients had to do with raising LeGrands suspicions remains to be seen. But one does wonder how King would contend with any information revealed about his clients goings-on during their employment for Jackson.
By most accounts, Schaffels background is a goldmine for any defense attorney. He apparently makes Janet Arvizo look like a saint. And LeGrand knew the importance of having investigative background material on Schaffel, Wiesner and Konitzer among others; especially considering the kind of access they all had to Jackson.
LeGrand said specifically that he remembers Konitzer and Wiesner telling him they wanted to gain control of Jacksons financial affairs, records, documents and agreements. From his testimony:
MESEREAU: Do you remember, when you were brought in to represent Mr. Jackson, Konitzer and Weizner telling you they intended to gain control of Mr. Jacksons financial affairs?LEGRAND: Yes.MESEREAU: Do you remember at that time Konitzer and Weizner telling you they wanted to gain control of Mr. Jacksons records, documents, and agreements?LEGRAND: Yes.MESEREAU: Do you remember, when you were brought on board, Konitzer and Weizner telling you they wanted to gain control of anything belonging to Mr. Jackson?LEGRAND: In general, Mr. Konitzer and Mr. Weizner wanted to take over management, overall management, of Michael Jacksons business affairs, financial affairs, and implement a new business plan for Mr. Jackson.MESEREAU: And they essentially told you in writing they wanted to control everything Mr. Jackson owned, right?LEGRAND: For the benefit of Mr. Jackson, yes.MESEREAU: Well, you then concluded they were doing it for their own benefit, didnt you?AUCHINCLOSS: Objection. Argumentative; leading; misstates the evidence.THE COURT: Sustained. (pg 10043-10044 lines 19-26, 2-23)
They wanted to take control of Jacksons business affairs? Remember how someone (or a group of ousted people) was pushing the idea in the media that it was the Nation of Islam (NOI) who was trying to take over Jacksons finances? Was that idea furthered in the media for a specific purpose? Possibly to take attention off the true intentions of those around Jackson?
It seems likely this was the case given what the public now knows. Further, LeGrand says it was only a matter of weeks before he became suspicious of Wiesner and Konitzer. Mesereau got LeGrand to admit on the stand that the first investigative report he received about Wiesner, Schaffel and Konitzer heightened his misgivings. More form his testimony:
LEGRAND: Weeks. I mean, whether it was four weeks or six weeks, Im not sure. But certainly by the end of February, early March period, I was very suspicious, and Im not sure of the time frame. The first investigative report that I got just increased my degree of suspicion. But at the same time that some of this was going on with respect to my concerns about Mr. Konitzer and Mr. Weizner, Mr. Malnik had entered the scene (pg 10045 lines 6-15)
And another figure enters the fray: Al Malnik. LeGrand says it seems everybody wanted to try to benefit from Mr. Jackson on way or another (pg 10046 lines 1-3)
Even according to testimony under prosecution questioning, everybody had their hands out for a piece of whatever they could get. For the Fox rebuttal, Jackson was paid in installments from Fox.
Just out of the first installment of $750,000, $11,000 went to assistants for Konitzer, $6,000 went to Stuart Backerman, $150,000 went to the Marc Schaffel owned Neverland Valley Entertainment. Also $90,000 went to Konitzer, $10,000 went to Gabriel Media, for Ann Gabriel. Kings other client, Wiesner, got $110,000.
Why these people needed all these funds is beyond many observers who tried to understand what point prosecutors were making. According to LeGrand, Jackson was not being informed in detail about what these expenditures were for.
Other money in the amounts of $1.4 million and $560,000 went to lawyer named Ken Finkelstein, supposedly to take over the management of these funds at the order of Wiesner and Konitzer.
LeGrand also had a few choice words about Konitzers handling of Jacksons affairs as well. He testified he initially thought Konitzer lacked the sophistication necessary to handle Jacksons business affairs. According to LeGrand, after he saw a document purportedly detailing Jacksons business structure, it solidified his opinion of Konitzer. Specifically he says:
LEGRAND: I found this document to be somewhat disturbing. It seemed amateurish. You know, I already had misgivings about Mr. Konitzers sophistication and capabilities, and this document simply reinforced those concerns. (pg 10060 lines 19-23)
Ouch. Were these people simply over their heads in dealing with Jacksons business affairs? Or was there something more sinister going on?
__Sony and Branca Suspicions?__
LeGrand had concerns about John Branca, long time Jackson attorney. Branca was a partner at a firm named Ziffren Law Firm, which also represented Sony.
Talk about a conflict of interest! Branca, too, fell under the umbrella of those who were being investigated by the investigative firm brought in by LeGrand and his associate. Apparently someone found out about an alleged offshore account and the players involved.
Mesereau asked LeGrand on the stand if he was concerned that Branca and Sony had set up that offshore account in the Caribbean to funnel money in an effort to defraud Jackson. There was a prosecution objection with was sustained. But questioning continued:
MESEREAU: Why did you investigate Mr. Branca?LEGRAND: I requested — well, let me back up. After consultation with my partner, Mr.Gibson, and discussion with I believe Mr. Joss at Paul Hastings, Mr. Gibson and I instructed the firm Interfor to investigate Mr. Branca, because Mr.Konitzer had indicated in several conversations that he was very concerned about Mr. Branca and that Mr. Jackson had expressed concern about Mr. Brancas loyalty.Also, there was — Mr. Schaffel related information that also was negative of Mr. Branca. So we made collectively the decision to ask Interfor to further the background investigation, to conduct investigation into Mr. Branca.MESEREAU: But at the time, Konitzer didnt know that you were also investigating him, right?LEGRAND: Thats correct.MESEREAU: At the time, Schaffel didnt know you were also investigating Schaffel, right?LEGRAND: Thats correct.MESEREAU: At the time, Weizner didnt know you were also investigating Weizner, right?LEGRAND: Thats correct. We did not inform them of the scope of — the full scope of Interfors actions at our request. (pg 10210-10211 lines 7-28, 1-2, 6)
Marc Schaffel related negative info about Branca as well? Isn’t that interesting? He testified that if an offshore account was set up with money being deposited to benefit Branca or others, it would be in serious violation with respect to Brancas responsibilities to Jackson.
Whether the mistrust against Branca was warranted or not, there were people with questionable loyalties and engaged in suspicious actions swirling around Jackson. Not being one to mince words, Mesereau asked LeGrand point blank Did you think at one point that Sony was paying Mr. Branca money to sell out Mr. Jackson? (pg 10212-10213 lines 28, 1).
Of course, prosecutors objected. But Mesereau did get on the record that LeGrands investigation indicated Branca was in some way involved in that offshore bank account and that Sony had transferred money into it. From the transcript:
MESEREAU: And the investigators report indicated it appeared that Sony was involved in that account, right?LEGRAND: The investigators report indicated that Sony had transferred money to the account.MESEREAU: Sony had transferred money to that account for the benefit of Mr. Jacksons lawyer, right?LEGRAND: Thats what was indicated in the report.MESEREAU: You investigated Mr. Branca because, in your words, you thought he was involved in self-dealing, right?LEGRAND: Again, you know, I want to be clear. I consulted with my partner and, you know, other lawyers, and we collectively made a decision to — that it was prudent to have our investigator look into the possibility of such actions being taken by Mr. Branca. (p 10214-10215 lines 8-15, 22-28, 1-5)
The investigation was to see whether or not offshore accounts were owned by Branca and Tommy Mottola. Yep, that Mottola. From his testimony:
MESEREAU: Isnt it true that you were trying to investigate offshore accounts owned by Branca and someone named Tommy Motolla?LEGRAND: Yes.MESEREAU: Who was Tommy Motolla?LEGRAND: He was a very powerful figure in the record industry at one time. I believe he was the president of the Sony Entertainment Division in the U.S. Im not sure of his exact title or position.MESEREAU: Were you concerned that Tommy Motolla and Mr. Jacksons lawyer, John Branca, were working together to defraud Michael Jackson?LEGRAND: Based on the suspicions that were expressed to me and my partner, we asked Interfor to look into these rumors. (pg 10217 lines 10-21, 25-27)
Branca conspiring with Sony to make it possible for Sony to acquire Jacksons half of Sony/ATV? It wouldnt be the first time that Sony would be suspected of engaged in underhanded dealings to gain control of the catalog. But lets go back to the court transcripts on LeGrands testimony:
MESEREAU: Was it your belief when you started this investigation that Al Malnik, Tommy Motolla, John Branca and people at Sony were trying to find a way to get Mr. Jacksons interest in that music catalog?AUCHINCLOSS: Objection. Argumentative; leading; relevancy.THE COURT: Overruled. You may answer.LEGRAND: Im not sure that I would include Al Malnik in that group, but I certainly was concerned that Branca and Motolla, in particular, had set the stage, so to speak, for Sony to be able to obtain Michaels interest in the Sony/ATV joint venture. (pg 10219 lines 13-26)
People conspiring to set the stage for a set up? Jackson publicly stated there was a conspiracy around him, and looks like he certainly had a serious basis to think so. LeGrand said he didnt find solid proof that Branca and Sony were definitely trying to defraud Jackson. But then again, he was apparently terminated before the investigations were completed.
Was there a connection between Sony and Bashir? That may seem too far fetched. But then again, I would have never believed someone would accuse Jackson of keeping them hostage at Neverland either.
__What about Bashir?__
Obviously LeGrand was brought aboard in relation to the way Bashir apparently reneged on promises to allow Jackson to review the final edited version of the ill-named Living with Michael Jackson so-called documentary.
LeGrand, at that point, hadnt come onto the scene in a capacity to begin an investigation into Bashir before the interviews with Bashir were shot. The backstory of Bashirs entry into Jacksons life came by way of Mesereaus opening statement.
Apparently, Uri Geller is the one who arranged for Bashir to meet with Jackson. According to Mesereau, Bashir thought he could get to Jackson by way of Geller. He befriended Geller gushing with flattery about the King of Pop, and saying that he wanted to better promote Jacksons charitable nature toward children.
Bashir promised to Geller that he wanted to bring Secretary General of the U.N., Kofi Annan, to meet with Jackson, among other things. And he assured Geller he could make that happen. So Geller arranged for Bashir to meet with Jackson. From Mesereaus opening statement:
MESEREAU: Geller arranged a meeting between Michael Jackson and Martin Bashir in London. And Bashir gave the same routine that I just described: “You are misunderstood.What you’ve done is so phenomenal. The world needs to know. I’m the one best positioned to do this project so the world really will understand who you are and what you’ve accomplished.” And he showed him a letter, somewhat crumbled up letter, from Princess Diana commending him for the way he had conducted her interview.Everything was sugar and spice and everything nice. Unfortunately, it was false. It was deception par excellance. The meeting was arranged. Michael met with Mr. Bashir. He agreed to do the documentary because he believed what I just told you. (p 154, lines 11-27)
Observers are still questioning whether or not that letter supposedly from Princess Diana was authentic. Also according to the opening statement, Jackson wanted any monies to be donated to charity, to which Bashir agreed.
Who knows if the money generated from that documentary ever actually was donated to charity. But Mesereau said outside of the money to charity plan, Geller also wanted money from Bashir in the form of a personal service fee. From the opening statement:
MESEREAU: Michael wanted any money he received to go to charity. Bashir assured him it would. Uri Geller also wanted money to go to charity, but he also wanted a personal service fee. He wanted a percentage of the net proceeds, and he worked that out with Bashir, not with Michael. (pg 156, lines 1-6)
If this is true, everybody and I mean everybody seemed to have their hand out with regard to Jackson. Geller has denied taking money. But how would Mesereau have known about this if someone didnt tell him? Anyway, this dovetails back into the discussion about LeGrands involvement.
It was the result of the coming together of Bashir through Geller to Jackson which set the stage for the Bashir documentary to happen. The story airs and Bashir is accused of breaking the agreement to let Jackson screen the doc ahead of time. But unlike what prosecutors alleged in court, Jackson wasnt panicked into engaging in illegal activities like kidnapping a family of people in response.
In fact, LeGrand said Jackson had initiated the assemblage of a team of lawyers both in the U.S. and in the U.K., and filed suit against Bashir and Granada Television. He also filed a complaint with the British Broadcasting Standards Commission, now administered by the Office of Communications (Ofcom).
Under prosecution questioning, LeGrand testified Jackson was more concerned about blurring out the faces of his children and being able to screen the documentary than anything else. And, unlike other prosecution assertions, LeGrand said Jackson never told him he saw the Bashir documentary as an opportunity to renew his career; nor did he do it for money.
There was no payment to Jackson for the Bashir documentary. He testified that the sum total of the agreement between Bashir and Jackson appeared to be two pieces of paper consisting of a little over a paragraph on each piece of paper (pg 9982 lines 15-16).
Typical contracts of that magnitude are normally quite extensive according to LeGrand. He said they were document ownership of copyright, licensing national, international royalties. More from his testimony on the subject:
LEGRAND: The two documents reflecting Mr. Jacksons agreement with Granada were terrible contracts. They were vague. They lacked, you know, precision, detail. There were numerous provisions that simply were not addressed. They were very simple, you know, one-paragraph documents. (pg 9983-9984 lines 25-28, 1-6, 19-24)
There is a question as to who drew up these documents, too. Were they meant to be vague? Or did Jackson just think he was doing a good thing for someone he trusted, which would ultimately suppose to be charitable in nature?
LeGrand says the legal team was successful at getting some concessions from Bashir and Granada; one of them being the agreement to blur out the faces of Jacksons children. He also said Jackson never used the word positive to describe what he was expecting from Bashirs final cut of the so-called documentary. Instead, Jackson wanted Bashir to be faithful to his life as he knew it. More from LeGrand:
LEGRAND: We, the various lawyers, asked Mr. Jackson several times to explain what he meant by, you know, faithful to his life as he knew it, and Mr. Jackson didnt use the word positive. He expected accuracy, sincerity in this documentary.AUCHINCLOSS: Okay. But is it safe to say that he saw this as a public relations opportunity?LEGRAND: I dont know what he saw it as.AUCHINCLOSS: Has Mr. Jackson ever expressed to you the public relations maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity?LEGRAND: Mr. Jackson never made such a statement to me. (pg 10071-10072 lines 26-28, 1-10)
Evidently, prosecutors were trying to establish an expectation which simply wasnt there on Jacksons part.
This further speaks to the point made by some Jackson supporters that the Bashir documentary was supposed to show Jackson warts-and-all, but in an accurate and fully contextual manner.
Jackson wanted accuracy and sincerity according to LeGrand. What he and the public seemingly got was a weasel-like interviewer purposely making misrepresentations to him; saying one thing to his face, then telling the public something different.
If only LeGrand was there soon enough to investigate Bashir. Who knows what he would have found. As for Howard Kings money-seeking clients Schaffel and Wiesner, they would do well to learn from past experiences of those who have sought to gain financially and illegally from Jackson.