[b]Former Jackson lawyer testifies on ill-fated charity record[/b] By LINDA DEUTSCH The Associated Press SANTA MONICA A former lawyer for Michael Jackson testified Tuesday that he tried to convince a Japanese company not to negotiate with a fired associate of the pop star for rights to a charity recording, but the company proceeded anyway with efforts to acquire the ill-fated song and stage a concert tour. Zia Modabber, testifying in a $1.6 million lawsuit against Jackson by former associate F. Marc Schaffel, said that when he learned of Schaffel’s contacts with the company, Music Fighters, his first concern “was to find out who they were and whether they were legitimate people to negotiate with. I never got to the bottom of it.” Modabber was put on the stand by Jackson’s attorney to support the pop star’s position that Schaffel, who claims he’s still owed royalties and other debts, enriched himself at Jackson’s expense while producing “What More Can I Give,” a song that was intended raise money for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism. In testimony Monday, Modabber said it was he who informed Jackson of Schaffel’s past as a producer of gay pornography movies, leading to his firing in November 2001, and he then sought to untangle Schaffel’s continuing efforts to profit from the recording after being terminated. Plaintiff’s attorney Howard King quizzed Modabber about his contacts with the Japanese company. “You informed Music Fighters they had to negotiate with Jackson and whatever they were stupid enough to buy through negotiating with Schaffel it would be worthless?” King asked. Modabber replied, “I believe I let them know that without Mr. Jackson what they were buying was worthless.” He said he had instructions to get a “clean transfer” of the rights to the master recording of “What More Can I Give” and have the song released for charity. “We didn’t want money going to Mr. Schaffel,” he said. “We wanted money going to pay the bills and to charity, but not to Mr. Schaffel, given what had happened.” Modabber acknowledged Schaffel was never paid a fee for his role in producing the record but he said that Schaffel breached the contract with Jackson which called for Schaffel to pay expenses for production. He also acknowledged that Schaffel owned the master recording. “Yes, he owned the master but it was not his to sell anywhere and put the money in his pocket. He had to use it within the purpose of the agreement, which was for charity,” the witness said.
King tried to show that Jackson actually planned to make money from the recording and that the initial contract gave Jackson all publishing rights and royalties from those. Modabber agreed there was a royalty provision in the contract once all bills had been paid, but he said all the money was to go to charity. Because of the complications involving Schaffel’s firing, he said, the planned release of the record was held up. “There was a plan to release it for the first year anniversary of 9-11, but they couldn’t get it done, and then it was going to be the second anniversary. And that’s when I lost track of it,” Modabber said. He was adamant that Schaffel’s contact with the project was terminated with the November 2001 letter. “What I knew is he had not paid. Mr. Jackson had paid and was being dogged with bills from creditors. My job was to end the relationship because he had not performed under the agreement,” Modabber said. “So you were the hired gun to get rid of Mr. Schaffel and you started looking for reasons,” said King. “I began looking into it and found he had not paid the expenses,” said Modabber. Modabber also acknowledged that Schaffel later turned up working for Jackson in 2003 but gave no details of that arrangement because, he said, by then he was no longer working on the project and was tied up handling another civil suit for Jackson. Schaffel initially sued for $3.8 million but some claims have been dropped. Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:32 PDT Source: http://www.pe.com/ap_news/California2/CA_Michael_Jackson_244740CA.shtml