LOS ANGELES –
The owner of a air charter service was ordered to pay attorney Mark Geragos and an associate several million dollars for ordering the secret videotaping of Michael Jackson and the lawyers as they flew with the pop star to his surrender on molestation charges in 2003.
According to court papers obtained Monday, Superior Court Judge Soussan G. Bruguera ordered XtraJet owner Jeffrey Borer and his company to pay Geragos at least $10 million and possibly up to $18 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Geragos' colleague Pat Harris was awarded between $1.25 million and $2.25 million in damages.
The amount of damages is dependent on whether both the company and Borer are separately responsible for punitive damages, or just Borer. Geragos' legal team claims the former, while Borer's claims the latter.
A court spokeswoman was not immediately able to clarify the discrepancy.
"Defendant Borer was the mastermind behind a scheme to desecrate and exploit sacred attorney-client communications for personal profit," Brugera wrote in the 21-page judgment filed Friday.
Geragos' and Harris' attorney Brian J. Kabateck said he was pleased with the decision.
"This is an important day for lawyers who generally represent celebrities and high profile people," he said.
Borer's lawyer, Lloyd Kirschbaum, said his client will appeal. He contended the attorney-client relationship could not have been breached because the video recording did not have sound.
"There was not any sound," he said. "You can't intercept a communication without sound."
Borer and co-defendant Arvel Jett Reeves pleaded guilty last year to felony counts of conspiracy. They acknowledged they installed two digital video recorders in a Gulfstream jet that flew Jackson from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara. XtraJet, which was based in Santa Monica, California, has since gone bankrupt, according to Kirschbaum.
Reeves was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Borer was sentenced to six months home detention rather than prison because he said he was the caregiver for his wife, who had chronic health problems. He spent part of that confinement at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina del Rey, California, saying his house had a mold problem and his wife was allergic.
The damages resulted from an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit filed by Geragos and Harris. Jackson, who was initially a plaintiff in the civil lawsuit, later dropped out of the case.
The pop singer was acquitted of the molestation charges in 2005.