Published June 16, 2004
LOS ANGELES – Michael Jackson (search) shelled out more than $15 million in hush money to moonwalk away from child-molestation allegations a decade ago, legal papers reveal.
He also signed a carefully worded agreement in which he concedes "negligence," but not sex abuse, the papers show.
Jackson signed the big-bucks, secret deal Jan. 20, 1994, giving a 13-year-old boy $15,331,250 in an annuity that became available to him at age 18, according to documents obtained by Court TV (search).
Jackson's camp lashed out Tuesday at the devastating report about the allegations.
"Whoever released this agreement, whether it is actual or not, did it deliberately and willfully, with the intent of influencing potential jurors — which is outrageous, and an act of desperation," said Raymone Bain, Jackson's spokeswoman.
Depending on when Jackson paid off the $15.3 million and how it was invested by trustees, the child could have cashed in for millions more.
Court TV reported that, in addition to the trust fund, Jackson also paid up-front lump sums of $2 million to the alleged victim, $1.5 million to his mother, $1.5 million to his father and $5 million to their family's lawyer, Larry Feldman.
Jackson's purchase of the boy's silence has been known, but Tuesday's report is the first to cite exact figures.
The civil settlement derailed Santa Barbara County authorities, who couldn't press a criminal case against Jackson without his accuser's cooperation.
"There was a frustration — then and now — that he [Jackson] never had to face charges," said retired county Sheriff Jim Thomas, who led that 1993-94 probe against Jackson. "I believe there was evidence to show he was guilty of those crimes."
The 1994 legal documents outlined Jackson's admission to "negligence" and not sexual molestation. That detail kept Jackson from admitting to a crime, and probably helped him get insurers to pay the debt.
"This settlement payment is in settlement of claims for alleged compensatory damages for alleged personal injuries arising out of claims of negligence and not for claims of intentional or wrongful acts of sexual molestation," the document said.
A legal expert said he doubts the settlement could be used against Jackson now, unless the King of Pop's lawyers gamble and put him on the witness stand.
If Jackson testified he's never molested a child, his civil settlement could be used to impeach him, said Fox News Channel legal editor Stan Goldman (search).
"This is another reason that'll keep him off the stand — from having to testify about these kinds of prior allegations," said Goldman, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
"How do you get this in [as evidence] otherwise. Is it really evidence of prior act? Not really, if he admitted to negligence and not sexual molestation."
Thomas scoffed at the legalese that let Jackson off the hook.
"How can you be negligent and not have committed it [the allegations]?" said Thomas, who now works as a consultant for NBC News.
The singer has massive legal woes right now, facing a grand jury indictment for conspiracy and lewd conduct on a minor in a case unrelated to the 1993-94 case.