411: Jacko's New Lawsuit; Verdict Aftermath

Jacko's New Lawsuit | Jacko the New Howard Hughes?

Jackson's New Lawsuit

Michael Jackson had better wake up and drink a stiff cup of black coffee this morning.

Before the day is over, I am told, he will be served with a subpoena to testify in the lawsuit filed against him a couple of months ago by former associate F. Marc Schaffel.

Schaffel, who regularly loaned Jackson money from 2001 to 2003, claims in the suit that the pop star owes him about $4 million. He has the receipts to prove it, too.

Ironically, Schaffel says that the Lincoln Navigator in which Jackson arrived at court yesterday was purchased with his money.

He says Jackson never paid him for the luxury-outfitted SUV. That's called nerve, my friends.

Jackson's deposition and testimony in this civil trial should be pretty interesting, a sort of detailed addendum to the criminal trial that just ended.

For one thing, the state of Jackson's financial affairs, already laid bare in this column and in court, will be further exposed to scrutiny.

Currently Jackson is making the payroll at Neverland. But I'm told his cash crisis continues. There is no money in his house accounts right now, for example.

There's other Jackson news: You read here over the weekend that Jackson's publicist, Raymone K. Bain, was dismissed by Randy Jackson, Michael's younger brother, without notice on Friday night.

Bain was subsequently unable to reach Michael, and left Santa Maria on Sunday morning for her home in Washington, DC.

Now I have been told that yesterday morning, before Jackson knew there was a verdict, he called Bain and asked where she was. He claimed not to know Randy had fired her, and said he would reverse the decision.

Whether Bain wants to expose herself to any more Jackson family intrigue will be another story.

On the music-business side, I am told that both John Branca and Charles Koppelman, Jackson's longtime advisers, have resigned from the board of directors of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Also out is another adviser, Miami lawyer Alvin Malnik.

Jacko: A Howard Hughes in the Making?

Michael Jackson runs the risk now of becoming a modern-day Howard Hughes — and I do not mean the one we saw in "The Aviator." I mean like the later Hughes — isolated, drugged and out of touch with reality.

Jackson is so out of it most of the time that it's unclear whether he even understood that he won his case. He showed up late for court yesterday morning, and it was very clear he was not, as they say, compos mentis.

In other words, had he been convicted, Jackson would have had to go to detox before he even landed in a jail.

That moment when Judge Rodney Melville told Jackson he was a free man was one of the weirdest I have ever seen in a courtroom.

Jackson, according to viewers in the overflow room who could see his face, wiped a couple of tears away. But the half-hearted pats on the back he gave attorneys Tom Mesereau and Robert Sanger was not the thanks one would expect for the men who had just saved his life.

Indeed, Jackson's relative lack of emotion at gaining a straight-across acquittal set the tone for what was an incredibly anticlimactic ending to the trial.

Not only did he not speak to the press or fans, he barely acknowledged them. Of course, since his publicist had been fired 24 hours earlier, this made the situation even tougher.

You may wonder what was going on in the courthouse all this time.

For one thing, sister Janet Jackson and brother Jermaine Jackson remained upstairs in the "green room" with a bodyguard because there weren't enough seats for them in the courtroom.

Michael's six family seats went to his mother, Katherine Jackson, his father, Joseph Jackson and his siblings Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, LaToya Jackson and Rebbie Jackson.

Before the verdict was read, Katherine Jackson dabbed away tears with a tissue. Tito put his arm around her. Joseph Jackson, her husband, pretty much ignored her.

Meanwhile, the jurors' attitudes didn't do much to encourage us that Jackson would be found innocent.

They were grim as they settled into their seats. Many of the women looked teary-eyed themselves. None of the dozen looked at Michael or his family, usually a dead giveaway that bad news is coming.

Only Juror No. 5, the 79-year-old grandmother, smiled and chatted with another female juror. That seemed odd.

Judge Melville added to the drama when, after speaking with the jurors, he then opened each manila envelope containing the verdicts.

You could hear people breathing and hearts pounding as Melville sliced through the envelopes and read them silently. I clocked it. This lasted about three minutes. It seemed like three hours.

Finally, the clerk read the verdicts. Count 1, conspiracy: not guilty. That didn't seem too surprising, since the conspiracy count was ridiculous and unbelievable.

Count 2, however, was the signal: not guilty of a committing a lewd act upon a child.

Counts 2 and 3 were specifically related to the accusing 13-year-old boy. If the jury was going to acquit on these, then the rest would fall into place. And they did.

I told you in this column on April 30, 2004, that the case against Jackson was a bad one and would not work.

The timeline made no sense. The district attorney had a personal vendetta against Jackson. The so-called "victims" were liars and cheats.

The DA knew it all, but persevered. It was pretty clear to everyone but him that Jackson was not guilty of committing these crimes. But there was no way Tom Sneddon could be persuaded not to do it, no matter who told him.

Sneddon's real accomplices here were the "journalists" who threw all caution to the wind, did no reporting and just attacked and attacked Jackson without ever thinking about the facts in the case.

As for Jackson, there will be more in days to come. But for right now, my guess is Neverland will return to business as usual. Jackson will now be emboldened to live however he pleases. There has been no learning curve here.

At the same time, Jackson leaves this year-and-a-half long experience more of a victim than ever before. He has no advisers left whom he can trust in — just a bunch of sycophants, yes-men and connivers who will not act in his best interests.

What a shame. We might just as well dial back to Nov. 17, 2003, the day before Neverland was raided. We are back to square one.