Jackson trial to focus on accounting

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[b]Jackson trial to focus on accounting[/b] By Martin Kasindorf, USA TODAY Updated 6/25/2006 10:25 PM ET SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A year after Michael Jackson’s acquittal on child-molestation charges, the singer is to go to trial again today against claims that he owes $3.9 million to an unindicted co-conspirator in his criminal case. Echoes of last year’s trial in Santa Maria, Calif., could resound through the breach-of-contract trial here that pits Jackson against former associate Marc Schaffel, says Howard King, a lawyer for Schaffel. Jury selection begins today. Jackson, 47, moved to Bahrain with his three children soon after the jury found him innocent. He probably won’t appear at the trial here, but jurors will see him in a videotaped deposition, defense lawyer Thomas Mundell says. Schaffel, 40, alleges in a court document that Jackson is a “profligate” spender and “a master of manipulating the people around him.” [b]Jackson’s lawyers say in a filing that Schaffel, who produced gay porn videos before forming business links with Jackson in 2001, is “a professional swindler and pornographer.”[/b] In 2004, the indictment against Jackson on charges of sexual misconduct, kidnapping and conspiracy named Schaffel and four others as unindicted co-conspirators. Witnesses at the 15-week criminal trial testified that Schaffel orchestrated hotel stays and shopping sprees for the 13-year-old alleged victim and his family, and planned to hide them in Brazil. Schaffel did not testify. Schaffel will testify here about his role with the family, King says. Jackson reimbursed Schaffel $74,000 that he spent “making the family comfortable,” but the pop star owes him “substantially more” — a total of $3.9 million for expenses, salary and cash loans, King says. King says Schaffel could tell the jury about “other payments of a confidential and personal nature which Michael is not going to want to have public testimony about.” [b]Despite bitter language in pretrial filings, both sides say sex-and-sleaze exchanges are unlikely at the trial. “There’s not a lot of salacious gossip for the press,” Mundell says. “I don’t think (Schaffel and his lawyers) have anything.”[/b] King says, “I don’t think that at the end of the day you’ll hear testimony about any of that.” [b]The case boils down to “an accountants’ dispute,” Mundell says. Jackson’s star witness will be a forensic accountant who will say Jackson owes Schaffel nothing for alleged loans, Mundell says.[/b] Among the issues: • ABC in 2003 broadcast a British-made documentary that showed Jackson cuddling the alleged victim and saying he shares his bed with boys. Schaffel produced a “rebuttal” documentary and a second pro-Jackson film. The films earned Jackson $10 million. Schaffel says he’s entitled to 20% of that and alleges Jackson still owes him $664,000. Jackson says the debt is $482,000. • As a charity project after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Schaffel produced a record and video of Jackson’s 1999 song What More Can I Give. Performing were Jackson, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and others. The record was never released. Schaffel blames Jackson for production costs beyond the $2 million Jackson supplied, leaving the producer “holding the bag” for an $800,000 overrun. Jackson denies liability.[i] [MJEOL Note: According to the court documents, Jackson’s attorney alleged that Schaffel used monies from a Jackson-funded Neverland Valley Entertainment account to fund the production. Subsequently, they say, Schaffel owes Jackson an reimbursement for these payments.][/i] Jackson, in a pretrial deposition, says he is “foggy” about some transactions. In one excerpt, he tells a skeptical King that he got his cash for shopping in 2003 from “the leasing of the cows” at his Neverland Valley Ranch, referring to payments from ranchers to let their cattle graze on the estate. Mundell says Schaffel plans to play these Jackson videotapes in an attempt to embarrass the singer by portraying him as a dreamy musician out of touch with his business affairs. “I’m not worried about that at all,” Mundell says. [i][MJEOL Note: Jackson contends that it is Schaffel who owes him over $2 million, and is countersuing.][/i] Source: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-06-25-jackson_x.htm

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