[b]Absent Jackson is Still A Presence[/b] BY MICHAEL J. TITTINGER Daily Press Staff Writer … Jackson’s camp contends Schaffel was a glorified “gopher” who had no experience in the music industry, with Mundell indicating it would be preposterous to allow him to produce such a complicated recording session that included in upwards of 20 major label recording artists. “Michael Jackson is a trusting, gullible, almost childlike man,” said Mundell, explaining that a slew of advisors surround the entertainer to protect the forgetful genius. “He’s a hard guy to take advantage of… but if you want to rip off Michael Jackson, the way to do it is get close to him. You have to become his friend.” Mundell claims Schaffel befriended Jackson, then took advantage of that trust by demanding reimbursements and repayment of loans of which Jackson was not aware. Schaffel is seeking a total of $3.8 million for circumstances surrounding the 2001 recording session, as well as compensation he says he’s due from producing a pair of television specials about Jackson for the FOX network. He also wants reimbursement for two cars — a Bentley worth $240,000 and a Lincoln Navigator worth $80,000 — his lawyer claims he surrendered to Jackson in efforts to help out the financially strapped star in return for the owed production payments. Opening arguments got underway in the late morning after a pair of alternate jurors were selected, rounding out the six-man, six-women panel who can expect a trial as long as 10 days in the Santa Monica Courthouse. Following the jury’s being sworn in, Judge Jacqueline A. Connor acknowledged the sensationalism aspect of the case. “When this is all over, you can write a screenplay or a book, whatever, you just got to make us look good,” she said with a smile. “But until then, don’t talk to anyone about the case.” Jackson’s decision to bypass the courtroom and appear solely through recorded media didn’t sit well with at least one prospective alternate juror, a music promotions manager who was ultimately dismissed. “If it was me, I’d be here making sure my money wasn’t going to be taken from me,” he said. Asked if he was reassured that Jackson’s top advisor, attorney L. Londell McMillan, was representing him in court, the 22-year old replied, “It’s not his money. It’s Mr. Jackson’s money. He’s going to get paid no matter what happens.” McMillan, seated at the opposite end of the council table, just shrugged and smiled. Schaffel’s attorney seized on that sentiment in concluding his opening statement. “After all the evidence has been heard and the cases made, I’m going to have at least 10 questions I’ll wish I could have asked Mr. Jackson if he was sitting right there,” said King, pointing towards the empty witness stand. Among the witnesses King intends to call to the stand are Alvin Malnik, a Florida businessman who performed services for Jackson free of charge, and reportedly loaned the singer $7 million in 2003. “Jackson will deny ever borrowing from Malnik,” said King, alluding to the taped deposition, excerpts of which will be played throughout the proceedings. “So we have a witness in Mr. Jackson who does not remember getting $7 million three years ago.” The trial resumes today at the Santa Monica Courthouse. Source: http://www.smdp.com/site/archives/063006.pdf

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