A chauffeur for Michael Jackson has said in a sworn deposition that the entertainer instructed him to take a suitcase and briefcase from Jackson’s Century City apartment on the same day that investigators searched the property for evidence of sexual molestation, sources close to the case said Wednesday.
The chauffeur, Gary Hearne, was questioned by lawyers for more than five hours Tuesday, and some details of his statement were relayed to investigators Wednesday. The statement was videotaped, and a court reporter transcribed the session.
Hearne, sources said, told the attorneys that he ran the errand to Jackson’s Century City apartment late in the day, suggesting that he picked up the material after police had completed their search of the residence. Nevertheless, the sources said investigators were following up the chauffeur’s statements to determine whether anyone interfered with the serving of the warrants.
According to people familiar with the investigation, the chauffeur told attorneys that he received a call from one of Jackson’s aides on the same day that Los Angeles police officers conducted searches of the Century City apartment and Jackson’s Los Olivos ranch. That aide, Hearne allegedly said during his deposition, told him to go to the Century City apartment and await a phone call.
Hearne told the lawyers that about 15 minutes after he arrived at the apartment, he received a call from Jackson and Jackson’s private investigator, Anthony J. Pellicano, sources said. They asked Hearne to pick up a briefcase, a suitcase and a number of other items from the apartment, Hearne reportedly said during his deposition.
Hearne said he was instructed to take the suitcase and the briefcase, which he told the lawyers he never opened, to Pellicano’s home, according to sources. Hearne told the lawyers that he dropped the material off as instructed without ever looking inside either container. Because Hearne says he did not open the cases, he told lawyers that he does not know whether he removed evidence that might be of interest to investigators, sources said.
Larry R. Feldman, the lawyer for a 13-year-old boy who alleges that Jackson sexually molested him over a period of four months earlier this year, took the deposition from Hearne on Tuesday. Feldman refused to comment Wednesday.
Howard Weitzman, one of Jackson’s lawyers, also was present for Hearne’s deposition, but he, too, declined to comment on what transpired.
“I believe it is highly inappropriate to comment on the contents of any testimony taken in depositions,” Weitzman said.
Hearne’s deposition is the first in a long series that have been scheduled by attorneys on both sides of the mounting civil case, scheduled to go to trial next March. The boy’s lawyer expects to take sworn statements from a number of Jackson’s maids, as well as from Pellicano, Jackson and Jackson’s sister LaToya.
Jackson’s lawyers have stated in court papers that they expect to interview the boy who says he was molested, as well as the boy’s mother and father and others close to him.
Jackson, who dropped out of sight last month after canceling his world tour and announcing that he had become addicted to painkillers, vehemently denies the sexual molestation allegations, which he says grew out of a failed $20-million extortion attempt. Jackson has not been charged with any crime, but an investigation is continuing.
Although he declined to comment Wednesday on Hearne’s deposition, Feldman told reporters Tuesday that the chauffeur said he drove Jackson to the boy’s house at least 30 times, dropping him off at night and picking him up in the morning.
Feldman told reporters Tuesday that Hearne’s testimony generally corroborated the boy’s allegations.