Michael Jackson Money-Feud Case Goes to Jury
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – A bitter money dispute between Michael Jackson and a former associate was placed in the hands of jurors Thursday after the singer's lawyer told them the plaintiff betrayed the star and urged them to "send him from this courtroom with nothing."
Attorney Thomas Mundell said F. Marc Schaffel can't back up claims that he is owed $1.4 million in loans and expenses, but Schaffel's lawyer argued that jurors must consider that his client's relationship with the singer existed in "Michael world, not our world."
"It's a world where a superstar professes love for Marc Schaffel and entrusts him ... Michael world — a world without receipts," attorney Howard King said in final remarks.
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Jackson has countersued, claiming that Schaffel actually owes him $660,000. Mundell said in his closing argument that Schaffel took advantage of a pop star who is "useless in his own business matters."
The jury went home at day's end and was to return Friday for more deliberations.
King urged jurors to accept circumstantial evidence and testimony from various witnesses about expenditures Schaffel made in the interest of promoting Jackson's ill-fated Sept. 11 charity record, "What More Can I Give," and $300,000 for a mysterious trip to South America.
Mundell argued that Schaffel actually pocketed $400,000 from a Japanese company for rights to the charity record, and that he used the money to make a down payment on a house.
King pointed out that Jackson's lawyers never asked the purpose of the South America trip. "They either know precisely why this money was delivered or they don't want to know and they don't want you to know," he said.
On the stand, Schaffel blurted out that he once was dispatched to help Jackson adopt boys in Brazil, a story Jackson's defense has denounced as a smear. In Jackson's 2005 child molestation trial, prosecutors claimed there was a plan to relocate a family making accusations against the pop star and take them to Brazil. The pop star was acquitted of the molestation charges.
Mundell read to jurors a voice mail message to Schaffel in which Jackson said, "Marc, please, please, never let me down. I have been betrayed so much by people. I want us to be friends and I want us to conquer the business world. Be my loyal, loyal, loyal friend."
Mundell concluded, "Members of the jury, Marc Schaffel was not Mr. Jackson's loyal friend. I ask you to send him from this courtroom with nothing."
The judge told the 12 jurors that only nine of them need to agree on any one cause of action for a verdict, but the same nine do not need to agree on each action. The five-page verdict form includes numerous questions the jury must answer relating to Schaffel's suit and Jackson's countersuit.
Schaffel initially sued for $3.8 million but the claims were cut to $1.6 million, and on Thursday his attorney asked for $1.4 million.