Jackson begs to differ over cash claims

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7-8-06 [b]Jackson begs to differ over cash claims[/b] By Michael J. Tittinger Daily Press Staff Writer SM COURTHOUSE — The defense of Michael Jackson began in earnest on Friday in the $1.6 million lawsuit brought against the entertainer by a former associate, a day highlighted by bizarre twists such as cash loans smelling of French fries and a $1 million gift given by the singer to late actor Marlon Brando. The jury began the day watching hours of videotaped testimony by Jackson, who repeatedly said he couldn’t remember the details, financial or otherwise, of his dealings with F. Marc Schaffel, a former producer of adult films. Schaffel, who claims he was empowered to negotiate creative projects for Jackson in return for a percentage of the profits, was let go in 2001 after Jackson learned he was involved in the adult entertainment business. He then was back on the scene in 2003 and claims he is due unpaid royalties from a pair of TV specials. Schaffel was recalled to the stand quickly by Jackson’s attorney Thomas C. Mundell to account for all of the money Schaffel claims he is owed by Jackson. Schaffel originally claimed in his lawsuit that Jackson owed him $3.8 million for cash advances he made to the entertainer, as well as royalties and other services. He has since reduced his claim to $1.6 million. At issue is whether or not Jackson understood that the money he was being given was his own or a loan. Schaffel claims it was money that was owed to him for his work while Jackson believes the cash was generated by his own projects. Employees and business associates like Schaffel had access to Jackson’s money and often forwarded him large amounts of cash. Schaffel claims that he was a trusted advisor of Jackson’s and had access to accounts set up for entertainment projects. Mundell has sought to portray Schaffel as a hanger-on who parlayed his friendship with Jackson into a means of supporting his exorbitant lifestyle. “Mr. Schaffel has not proven his case,” Mundell told the jury at the outset of his defense. “Over the years, Mr. Jackson entrusted $7 million to Mr. Schaffel solely for Michael Jackson projects or for Mr. Jackson’s benefits. “If you loan someone money and you already have their money, then you are suing them for their own money.” Jackson repeatedly denied in his deposition any knowledge of his business dealings with Schaffel. When pressed by Schaffel’s attorney, Howard King, Jackson couldn’t remember the circumstances surrounding cash loans, contract negotiations and bundles of money for shopping sprees. Jackson said he was under the impression that any money Schaffel gave him over the years came from the singer’s own funds, according to the May 22 interview with King, including an alleged payment of $100,000 delivered in an Arby’s bag. The two subsequently used the term “French fries” to refer to cash advances. The singer also claimed he couldn’t remember giving Schaffel instructions to run errands, such as paying $1 million to Brando, whom Jackson considered a friend, for the actor’s appearance at Madison Square Garden show in September 2001. “(Schaffel) would always say, ‘I could get you this, I could get you that. I could get you some money up front,’” said Jackson, appearing in a Navy blue shirt from London. “He was always saying that … like begging it. “I would never ask him for his money. That’s ridiculous.” Jackson, who will not appear at the trial in person, denied he had rehired Schaffel in 2003 to produce TV specials for Fox, after the two had parted ways in late 2001 when Schaffel’s history in gay pornography came to light. Jackson said he didn’t personally fire Schaffel then because he didn’t want to embarrass him. Soon after taking the stand in the afternoon, Schaffel was asked about his real estate dealings, admitting that he had been convicted of unlawfully retaining a property he subletted on which rent hadn’t been paid. He also acknowledged he had taken out a second mortgage worth $350,000 to purchase a house in Calabasas in 2002. But when pressed whether or not he was in financial peril before striking a deal with Fox to produce a pair of Michael Jackson documentaries, Schaffel denied the allegations. In testimony earlier in the trial, Schaffel implied that he was well off before ever hooking up with the Jackson camp. On several occasions in the testimony played Friday, Jackson said that if it were proven that Schaffel gave him cash from his own holdings — and not money generated by Jackson’s entertainment projects — Schaffel should be reimbursed, but the singer added that Schaffel “never insinuated (the money) was his and I don’t believe it to be his.” “Nobody just gives me money,” said Jackson, who denied that his finances were in upheaval in 2003. “I would expect it if it was mine. I wouldn’t just take it from somebody. That’s not right. I work for what I get. “Don’t make like I’m begging from anybody. I have pride.” Jackson also laughed when it was suggested Schaffel lent him $375,000 in May 2003 to go shopping. “It sounds spoiled. It doesn’t sound like me, no,” Jackson responded. The trial, which began last Thursday and is expected to last up to 10 days, will continue on Monday in Santa Monica before LA Superior Court Judge Jacqueline A. Connor. Jacqueline Lee contributed to the reporting of this article. Source: http://www.smdp.com/article/articles/1906/1/Jackson-begs-to-differ-over-cash-claims

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