This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, November 26, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It turns out that the family accusing Michael Jackson (search) of child molestation has a history of abuse lawsuits. Two years ago, the boy's mom sued a department store. She claimed that security guards beat her and her two sons in the store's parking lot after one boy walked out without paying for some clothing.
Joining us now, an attorney who specializes in sexual assault cases. Leonard Levine (search), that is today's big question. Is the family of Jackson's accuser, or does it appear they are, motivated by profit?
LEONARD LEVINE, ATTORNEY: Well, that is certainly going to be the argument by Mark Geragos (search). My thought was this is music to his ears. Now the question of whether that music ever gets played out in the court of law is a separate issue.
First, you've got to prove that the allegations against the department store were false. And there's no evidence to that effect yet. And it was a settlement, so you have to assume maybe there was some evidence of wrongdoing. Then you have to show that if the mother made up those allegations, somehow she got the child to make up the allegations.
... where these second revelations were I've heard about came out, where there was a divorce — custody battle, where the mother allegedly gave a script to the child to use in deposition. If you could prove all that, that the charges were false. The mother got the child to lie in this case, well then you have something. But at the very least, it looks like they are winning the battle of public opinion right now, and that is almost as important as what happens in the courtroom.
GIBSON: Let's back up a bit. This case that they were involved in involved a well-known department store. No point mentioning its name. It's immaterial. But the boy was apprehended upon leaving the store with something that the store said he didn't pay for. She said he was manhandled. She said she was manhandled. Mistreated. So in the course of him being accused of stealing, they file a lawsuit. The store settles for $137,000. A lot of money when you are accused of shoplifting.
GIBSON: Why then does that transfer to this charge? How is it Geragos uses that to undermine the credibility of the boy's story against Michael right now?
LEVINE: It only transfers if you can show, John, that those allegations were fabricated, that they were false. And if they were false in that case and the motivation was to get money from the department store, then the argument is maybe they're false in this case and it's the same motivation, money. And Mr. Geragos has already made that accusation already.
But first you have to prove the charges were false or no judge is going to let any of that evidence come in. It sounds good to the public. And that's why I said they “maybe winning the battle of public opinion,” but that is never going to see the light of day in a courthouse unless you can show it was false, and show that the mother got the child to lie in this case for financial motives as well.
GIBSON: But actually, isn't that exactly the point? What Mark Geragos is up against right now is a general public perception that arises from the 1993 case, from Michael Jackson speaking out and admitting he lets kids sleep in his bed with him ...
GIBSON: That Michael Jackson is guilty. And that the jury pool has already been polluted with that notion and Geragos needs to unpollute it with some sort of, you know, antitoxin. And this story is about as close as you can come to being able to do that.
LEVINE: Absolutely. It's been a very good week for Mark Geragos and Michael Jackson. First you had the allegation that the plane was bugged.
GIBSON: I don't think it's an allegation anymore.
LEVINE: You're right. And so the question is, why was that done? Who did it? And that's sympathy for Michael Jackson.
GIBSON: Well, this is curious thing. This is clearly a case of Michael Jackson being abused by somebody, the owner of the plane or somebody who had access of the plane, bugging the thing, taping conversations between Michael Jackson and his lawyer. No matter what you feel about Michael Jackson, you got to know that the attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct.
GIBSON: So they do all that. And now what Geragos seems to be doing is turning this jet airplane into the accuser. He is morphing that plane, an offense against Michael Jackson, into the kid who is accusing Michael Jackson.
LEVINE: Right. And he is making Michael Jackson into a victim as opposed to a defendant, which is exactly want you want to do. He is a victim of bugging. Now maybe he is a victim of a family who has sued people before and are only in it for the money. If you can get the public thinking that way, and not thinking of the Michael Jackson who settled a $20-million lawsuit 10 years ago, then you are halfway to an acquittal.
GIBSON: OK, but how do you — if you are the prosecutor, how do you make that boy believable with all this stuff?
LEVINE: Well, first of all, you fight very hard to keep any of this other evidence out of court. Second, hopefully you have corroboration. In other words, they searched Neverland. They were looking for something, photos, something, computer disks, anything that shows that Michael Jackson has an abnormal interest in children, which is what he's got, a sexual interest, which is what they have to show.
He is hoping that other victims come forward and make the same allegations against Mr. Jackson that this young boy did. If he's left with only the one allegation of this young boy and nothing else, then I would submit to you he is going to have a very difficult time of getting a unanimous verdict beyond a reasonable doubt against Mr. Jackson in a court of law.
GIBSON: Do you think there's a chance of getting this trial moved out of Santa Barbara County?
LEVINE: There's a chance. Santa Barbara County is a fairly large county. I think what you are going to find is that unless there is far more pervasive, negative publicity against Mr. Jackson than we've heard yet, you will be able to get a jury pool, some of whom probably have never even heard of Michael Jackson or heard of this case. It's very difficult to get a change of venue, as I think Mr. Jackson and Kobe Bryant are going to find out in his Colorado case.
GIBSON: Leonard Levine, appreciate it very much, Leonard. Thank you.
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