Jackson lawyer tries to show ‘pattern of false claims’ in suit

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[b]Jackson lawyer tries to show ‘pattern of false claims’ in suit[/b] By LINDA DEUTSCH The Associated Press SANTA MONICA Michael Jackson’s attorney called a forensic accountant to the stand Tuesday to try to show that a former associate suing the pop star for $1.6 million deceptively juggled money to enrich himself. Accountant Jan Goren said he was able to trace most of the complicated transactions in a ledger kept by plaintiff F. Marc Schaffel, but could not find that all of the explanations by Schaffel were accurate. Schaffel has brought a complex case involving sums he claims he’s still owed, including royalties from a charity record project and from two video programs about Jackson that aired on Fox, among others. Jackson attorney Thomas Mundell has pointed to a lack of receipts in some cases or called witnesses to broadly undermine the credibility of Schaffel’s claims. Goren, for instance, said a $500,000 transaction Schaffel claimed was a loan to Jackson was not a loan at all. Schaffel had testified that Jackson was in New York at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and later took a bus across the country, called Schaffel to ask for $500,000 in case he needed to go into hiding with his family, and then stopped at Schaffel’s home to pick up the money. Jackson has denied the story. Goren said Schaffel did withdraw that amount from a checking account for Neverland Valley Entertainment Co., the business he was in with Jackson, but then deposited the same amount into his personal money market account. Jurors were shown checks and the transaction documents. “That check did not go for cash,” said Goren. “It was actually just moved from the cash account to the money market account.” Mundell also asked the accountant if he identified “any ‘cash to MJ’ transactions that were not bona fide.” “Yes,” said the accountant, “numerous ones.” Outside court, Schaffel’s attorney, Howard King, said he would rebut the claims when he cross-examines the accountant and said it would become clear that Schaffel is not seeking reimbursement for any of the alleged loans which are being challenged as deceptive. “It’s not part of this case,” King said. Mundell said he was introducing the details to show “a pattern of false claims of loss” by Schaffel. “We want the jury to look at the pattern of deceit,” he said outside court. Goren testified that he did an extensive review of all accounts in the case, for which he has been paid $50,000 and is to receive another $25,000 from Jackson’s defense. The accountant said he came to the conclusion that Schaffel did not get his full 20 percent of the income from the two Fox videos he produced for Jackson, which sold for over $10 million. After offering different ways of calculating the sum, Goren figured Schaffel is probably owed $471,000. But the defense contends that given the number of deceptive transactions by Schaffel, he is owed nothing. In another development, Schaffel returned to the witness stand and explained why he backdated checks after he was fired by Jackson in November 2001 and said the amount was lower than the $784,000 reported Monday. He said he backdated a number of checks totaling $189,000, which he said would cover expenses he felt he was owed by Jackson as part of their original contract. He said Jackson had agreed to pay for a lease of a residence or commercial property for Schaffel for up to three years for up to $10,000 a month, and that was one of many expenses he felt should be covered after he left Jackson’s employment. The figure of $784,000 was the sum on a ledger shown to the jury as Mundell questioned Schaffel on Monday about the backdated checks. Addressing confusion, lawyers for both sides said outside court that the shown total was actually a compilation of expenses Schaffel claimed he incurred for Jackson and was due for reimbursement. There was also more testimony from former Jackson attorney Zia Modabber, who on Monday said he informed the singer of Schaffel’s past as a producer of gay pornography movies, leading to his firing in November 2001, and then sought to stop Schaffel’s continuing efforts to profit from the recording “What More Can I Give.” The recording was intended raise money for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Modabber said he tried to convince a Japanese company not to negotiate with Schaffel for rights to the recording, but the company proceeded anyway with efforts to acquire the ill-fated song and stage a concert tour. Modabber said 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.” Because of 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. Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 19:25 PDT source: http://www.pe.com/ap_news/California2/CA_Michael_Jackson_244802CA.shtml

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