Michael Jackson'The Passion'

Jacko's Legal Team in Chaos

Michael Jackson's legal team is in tatters and falling apart, according to my sources.

Even as Jackson is busy complaining about rapper Eminem's latest video, which depicts the singer in a decidedly negative light, he is missing the point of his child-molestation case.

My sources tell me that Jackson's defense team, which lost some serious ground last week with decisions issued by Judge Rodney Melville, is in complete disarray.

The reason for the trouble seems to boil down to one person: Brian Oxman, the longtime friend and lawyer of Michael's brother Randy.

Oxman was the decision-maker who brought in Michael's current lead defense counsel, Thomas Mesereau. But I am told that Oxman has alienated all the other attorneys who are working on keeping Michael out of jail.

Among them is Steve Cochran, who over the years has represented Michael in a variety of cases as a partner of another longtime adviser, Zia Modabber.

On Friday, Cochran left the current case abruptly. Jackson issued a characteristically weird statement saying that Cochran left for "his own confidential reasons."

But I am told that it was Oxman who forced him out. The two were at each other's throats for months, according to insiders, with Cochran increasingly cut off from access to Jackson.

With Cochran gone and the role of John Branca severely diminished, Jackson is now completely separated from the legal team that has guided him through two decades of rough sailing.

Oxman, as I reported a couple of weeks ago, has had his problems with the California State Bar Association. His connection to Michael Jackson is through brother Randy, whom Oxman has represented in other matters.

Early in Michael's current problems, Oxman appeared on television constantly, claiming to be the "Jackson family attorney," even when he was not. Jackson's then-lawyer Mark Geragos repeatedly tried to get Oxman to stop making appearances. Eventually Geragos left the case.

My sources say that in the last couple of weeks, Oxman has done something unexpected and decidedly unorthodox: he's contacted potential defense witnesses in the case directly, trying to bypass their attorneys.

When he was rebuffed by these witnesses, a certain lack of diplomacy led to a scuffle among the members of the legal team. Mesereau, my sources say, seems not to understand the impact of Oxman's actions.

"The whole legal team is crumbling," an insider related to me over the weekend.

Where does this leave Michael? More isolated from reality than ever, say his closest associates.

As Jackson fights for his freedom and his career, he is now painted into a corner with just brother Randy, Oxman and Mesereau. Whether even the latter stays at this point is a question that may be answered before the week is over.

In the meantime, Jackson has apparently endorsed a one-off musical "event" in London's West End for Nov. 21st, and even floated rumors that he will attend this showering of affection.

London newspapers reported he would also be coming to the U.K. for his Heal the World charity. But here are a couple of things to keep in mind: Jackson currently has no passport (having surrendered it to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney) and his Heal the World charity is defunct in both Britain and America — it does not exist. Just FYI.

An Oscar for 'The Passion' Unlikely

My old friend Sean Smith reports in "Newsweek" that Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" is getting ready to mount an Oscar campaign.

He also reports that it's not likely to work. I agree.

But, as Sean says, the movie will not be entirely overlooked. Caleb Deschanel, a Hollywood favorite, may indeed score a nomination for cinematography. But Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus, has very slim odds for a Best Actor nomination.

That field is already crowded with possible candidates, including Jamie Foxx ("Ray"), Johnny Depp ("Finding Neverland"), Sean Penn ("The Assassination of Richard Nixon"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Aviator"), Paul Giamatti ("Sideways") and Kevin Bacon ("The Woodsman").

Smith points to the astounding box-office success of "The Passion" as a reason it might be nominated. But apart from all the other controversy, the Academy has often reasoned that big earnings are reward enough for some movies. "The Passion," members may reason, has already been acknowledged enough.