Lawyer: No Suit Against Jackson
The lawyer who won a multimillion-dollar settlement from Michael Jackson over child molestation accusations a decade ago vowed in court Friday not to sue again -- even though his firm has been doing legal chores for the pop star’s current accuser.
The appearance by Los Angeles attorney Larry Feldman marked the first time that jurors have heard about the 1993 case, even viewing a portrait of the alleged victim as it was beamed on a courtroom screen.
Feldman’s testimony came on the eve of crucial hearings next week about past accusations against Jackson.
In 1993, Feldman sued Jackson over accusations that the entertainer had molested a 13-year-old boy. A criminal case against Jackson collapsed after the settlement, when the boy refused to go forward with it.
On Friday, Feldman told jurors in Jackson’s child-molestation trial that he had no plans to file another suit, but defense attorneys were skeptical.
Sounding a familiar theme, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. pointed out that under the law, Jackson’s current accuser, now 15, can file suit any time before he turns 20. Mesereau also suggested that a felony conviction in the current trial would make it easy for the boy and his family to win millions from Jackson.
But Feldman, a well-known trial attorney who has represented clients as varied as large oil companies and the late Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., insisted that an attorney “would have to be nuts” to target Jackson with a lawsuit in the current case. “It’s almost inhumane,” Feldman said. “I want to protect the child.”
Even if Jackson is convicted, he said, another trial could be extremely damaging to the boy, who is in remission after a near-terminal bout with cancer.
Underscoring Feldman’s credentials, Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Tom Sneddon asked whether he was known in Los Angeles as “one of the most successful plaintiff’s lawyers around.” Feldman grinned. “Say it again -- for the press,” he urged the D.A.
However, Feldman did not appear quite as confident when answering Mesereau’s questions about his firm’s involvement with Jackson’s current accuser and his family.
Feldman acknowledged that he and some fellow attorneys at the Century City law firm Kaye Scholer had done at least four legal tasks for the family since he formally dropped them as clients two years ago.
They included thwarting a move by Jackson’s attorneys to delve into the finances of the alleged victim’s grandparents. Feldman said the defense wanted to see whether the Spanish-speaking elderly couple were hiding money that belonged to the alleged victim’s mother.
Under questioning, Feldman also said his firm tried to keep the West Covina Police Department from releasing arrest records related to the family’s lawsuit against J.C. Penney -- a good example, defense attorneys claim, of the mother’s shakedown tactics.
The family was referred to Feldman in 2003 by Los Angeles attorney William Dickerman. The issue, Feldman testified, was to determine whether to take action against the ABC television network, British TV journalist Martin Bashir and other possible defendants.
The boy who was to become Jackson’s accuser had been filmed by Bashir at Neverland holding hands with Jackson and resting his head on the singer’s shoulder. His mother claimed that no release forms had been signed for the taping, in which Jackson admitted to a fondness for nonsexual sleepovers with young boys.
While talking with the boy, his brother, his older sister and their mother, Feldman said he realized they had discussed their Neverland experiences with psychologist Stanley Katz. Feldman had conferred with Katz on previous cases, including the 1993 lawsuit against Jackson.
When Katz concluded that Jackson had committed some sexual abuse at Neverland, the psychologist and Feldman reported it to Los Angeles social workers and Santa Barbara County prosecutors, Feldman testified. That report triggered the current case.