Leno Wants Exception to Jackson Gag Order

Jay Leno (search), who has been subpoenaed for Michael Jackson's (search) child molestation trial, wants the judge to lift or clarify a gag order that could keep the comedian from one of his most vital sources of punchlines.

Attorneys for the star of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (search) said Judge Rodney S. Melville's sweeping order barring anyone involved in the case from discussing it outside court "could be interpreted to limit Mr. Leno's ability to publicly speak about the trial."

Leno's motion, released by Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Wednesday, was filed Feb. 18, a day after his lawyers said his subpoena was served.

"This motion was made on the grounds that this court could not possibly have intended its gag order, which was issued more than a year ago, to limit public personalities like Mr. Leno from commenting on public proceedings in this case," attorneys Theodore Boutrous and Michael H. Dore wrote.

Applying the gag order to Leno would be prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment and the California Constitution, the motion said.

If the gag order is applied anyway, the motion said, the court should clarify that the order "only limits Mr. Leno's ability to disclose evidence of which he may have direct, first-hand knowledge, assuming only for the sake of argument that any such evidence exists."

The motion requests that Melville expedite action on the entertainer's request.

Carrie Simons, a publicist for the show, said Wednesday she could not comment on the matter because of legal concerns. She declined to say whether the subpoena had led Leno to change the contents of his nightly monologue of jokes.

Jackson's defense contends the family of the boy accusing the pop star of molestation targeted celebrities for fraud, in particular by using the fact that the child was a cancer patient.

Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said during his opening statement to the jury that the family sought money from Leno, who was so suspicious he called Santa Barbara police to report that "something was wrong. They were looking for a mark."