SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Michael Jackson was alternately portrayed as a gullible artist and a calculating businessman during closing arguments in the trial of a lawsuit that accuses the entertainer of failing to pay a former associate more than $1 million.
"Michael Jackson doesn't pay his bills. Mr. Jackson is a cagey, calculating witness," said attorney Howard King, who is representing businessman F. Marc Schaffel in his lawsuit against Jackson.
Jackson attorney Thomas Mundell told jurors Schaffel took advantage of the entertainer.
"I don't see the evil, conniving, puppet master he saw," he said of King's depiction of Jackson. "I saw the gentle, easily influenced artist who pays little attention to business matters."
And while Schaffel said he went uncompensated for his work, Mundell said, "he was living the life of Riley, traveling around the world in private jets."
"Mr. Schaffel saw Michael Jackson as an opportunity," Mundell said. "He could do projects for him and become part of the action."
The case was expected to go to the jury Thursday after Mundell concludes his argument, followed by a rebuttal from King.
During his closing argument, King said he was angry at the focus the defense placed on his client's past as a producer of gay pornography, calling it irrelevant.
A former Jackson lawyer testified during the trial that Schaffel was fired after Jackson was told of his past as a porn producer.
King also complained that Schaffel was unfairly portrayed as "some sort of parasite hanging on to Mr. Jackson."
King, who claims the effort to terminate Schaffel in 2001 never actually took effect, said negotiations with lawyers went on and on and that Schaffel actually came back on board to produce such projects as videos about Jackson that aired on Fox.
Among other debts, he said Schaffel was owed $664,000 for the Fox specials and $300,000 that Schaffel said he loaned Jackson when the entertainer told him he needed it delivered to a mysterious "Mr. X" in South America.
In all, he asked jurors to award Schaffel $1,474,280.