The grand jury testimony of the 14-year-old boy accusing Michael Jackson of child molestation was not a success, I am told.
Much was made recently of the boy's appearance before a grand jury convened by District Attorney Tom Sneddon in Santa Barbara. As was the case 10 years ago, Sneddon's case against Jackson depends on the grand jury believing the veracity of a teenager. But two grand juries in 1994, you may recall, did not conclude that Jackson had molested anyone.
Now I hear from sources involved with the case that the 14-year-old, who testified recently, did not make a good witness. In fact, I'm told that his own lawyer cut off the questioning when he saw things were getting rough.
This comes at a time when, I am told, the boy's mother -- who in 1998, according to statements made by her ex-husband in court papers, spent time in a mental hospital -- is again having similar problems. "She was hospitalized again," a source tells me.
So far the grand jury in the Jackson case has heard from several observers, but it has not been able to question a number of key people Sneddon hoped to bring in. They include the three Jackson employees -- Frank Tyson, Vinnie Amen and Marc Schaffel -- who actually dealt with the boy, his mother and her other children. Sneddon had also sent warnings out that he wanted to bring in the now 23-year-old man from the decade-old case. But that hasn't came to fruition, either.
If the testimony of the current accuser was indeed as "shaky" as it was described to me, it will be interesting to see where the case goes next. If the grand jury does not hand down an indictment, the lack of a case would abrogate any chance the family had for a civil suit or cash settlement, as in the 1994 case.
Jackson, by the way, has spent the last couple of weeks in Orlando, Fla., renting a swell small mansion from local time-share king David Siegel and hanging out at Disney World. Besides his children, he is also being attended to by Nation of Islam leader Leonard Mohammed.
Meanwhile, Dr. Carole Lieberman -- the Beverly Hills psychiatrist who filed a complaint against Jackson after his baby-dangling incident in early November 2002 -- says she wonders if Sneddon has a case at all.
Lieberman has a history of sorts concerning Jackson. She told me last week that she was the psychiatric consultant years ago on Randy Taraborrelli's unauthorized biography of Jackson, which was published in 1991. A dozen years later it was she who called Child Protective Services when she saw Jackson dangling his youngest child, baby "Blanket," from a German hotel window. She wrote again to Child Protective Services on Feb. 11, 2003, a week after Jackson was seen on the TV special "Living with Michael Jackson" holding hands with the boy who would later accuse him of child molestation.
"He's not fit to be a parent," Lieberman said in our conversation. She would not confirm, as my sources insist, that she is partnered in her endeavors to have Jackson's kids removed from him with zealous attorney Gloria Allred. Both Lieberman and Allred turn up constantly on TV to comment on Jackson.
But Lieberman, for all her criticisms of Jackson and assertions that he's guilty, told me, "The dates in the case will be its downfall."
Like this reporter, Lieberman questions the viability of the window of opportunity in which Sneddon claims Jackson abused his accuser -- Feb. 7 to March 10, 2003. This was right after the TV special aired and the world condemned Jackson for his closeness to the child. However, the child had been in Jackson's presence many times for nearly a year prior to the special's broadcast, and there is no allegation of impropriety then.
"I told Tom Sneddon, things don't add up," Lieberman said. "There's some kind of disingenuousness about the way he's handling the case, some of kind of ambivalence."
According to the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, Jamal Barrow, aka rapper Shyne, is getting a $3 million recording contract from Island Def Jam Records and a label deal. Barrow is in jail until 2009 for being the shooter in the famous Sean "P. Diddy" Combs/Jennifer Lopez shootout at Club New York disco in Manhattan on Dec. 27, 1999.
What the L.A. Times doesn't say: Island Def Jam, like P. Diddy's Bad Boy Entertainment, is part of the Universal Music Group. It's worth remembering that Combs walked out of court a free man in this case, acquitted, while Barrow -- who is said to be a son of the prime minister of Belize -- took the rap and went on to serve hard time.
Of course, three people who might be interested in Barrow's new income would be the victims in the case. Three people were shot at Club New York that night -- Julius Jones, Natania Reuben and Robert Thompson. It's unclear what has happened to their civil suits against Combs and Barrow. The "Son of Sam" law -- which prohibits felons from profiting from their crimes -- could easily extend to Barrow, especially if he starts rapping about the case on CD.
I wanted to call Casey Kasem and ask him if there's ever been a time when a recording contract was signed by a convicted felon who then went on to release records from prison -- or how he would record the albums from prison. Will Shyne/Barrow be making an act of contrition, asking for forgiveness? It's not likely. The name of the proposed label Universal would give him, according to the Times, is Gangland Records.
I told you last week that writers of two songs on a new album by singer Ricky Fante, on Virgin Records, recognized their tunes without their credits.
So it's happy news so far. The day after the story ran in this column, the legendary Dan Penn, I am told, got an offer to split the publishing rights for the Fante recording "Drive" 60-40 in his favor. Penn's song that Fante, Virgin Records A&R guy and album producer Josh Deutsch, Norah Jones songwriter Jesse Harris and Guyora Kats all lifted from is better known as "You Left the Water Running."
Meanwhile, Zomba Music is still in the process of settling Wilson Pickett and Jon Tiven's claim on "It Ain't Easy," for which the Fante group simply changed the lyrics but kept the title and melody. I'll let you know when that deal is done.
Meanwhile, since Tiven's songs are so good people are stealing them, you might be interested in an album Tiven produced by Ellis Hooks on Artemis Records. There's an original Tiven song on there called "40 Days and 40 Nights" that sounds like a hit -- and an original one at that!