How Jackson’s lawyers lied and got away with it

Was Michael Jackson Forced to Settle by an Insurance Company?


UPDATE 06/01/2014: More information at end of story

When Michael Jackson was sued by the Chandler family for molestation, some people will have you believe that Jackson, even though he would have liked to have fought the case in court, was somehow forced by his insurance company to settle – thereby implying that Jackson was totally innocent. These people include fans, some sections of the media and even his own lawyers.

This is a complete fabrication.

First and foremost, let’s look at the main evidence that these people put forward – the motions presented in court during Jackson’s 2005 molestation trial.

First is “Mr Jackson’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Reference to Civil Settlement Amounts and Accompanying Documents”[1], filed by the defense on January 26, 2005. Upon reading the motion, you will notice that the defence were eager to keep the information about the settlements out of the trial.

Insurance is mentioned on page 5 of the document where it is stated (in a footnote):

In addition, settlements are often involuntary and dictated by insurance companies [quoting precedent]. Unless the plaintiff (i.e. Prosecution) is prepared to prove Mr. Jackson paid every dime of these settlements and that no insurance company was involved, plaintiff’s claim of conscious state or proof of criminality lacks foundation and is irrelevant.

OK, what do we have here? Certainly not any claim by Jackson’s lawyers that an insurance company forced Jackson to pay, just a vague statement that “settlements are often involuntary and dictated by insurance companies”. So, we can’t use that to prove Jackson’s insurance company forced him to settle, can we? One has to remember that it would have been easy for the prosecution to subpoena Jackson’s insurance company for the relevant documents, but the Prosecution knew that it was merely a ploy by the defence, and it was ridiculous to assert that Jackson was “forced” to pay by his insurance company

The prosecution replied[2], quite rightly, that on the Confidential Agreement and Mutual General Release, it was Jackson’s name and not an insurance company’s. It is clearly Jackson’s signature on the document, not the signature of a representative of Jackson’s (or any) insurance company. It is an agreement between Jackson and the Chandlers only.

Secondly we have “Mr Jackson’s Reply in Support of of Motion in Limine to Exclude Reference to Civil Settlement Amounts and Accompanying Documents”[3], filed by the defense on January 26, 2005.

The reply states that …insurance carriers rarely if ever sign civil settlements involving their insured because their only interest is to get a release from the claimant, and the issue here is not who signed the settlement, but who paid for the settlement.”

Very crafty lawyer speak, don’t you agree? Once again, there is no claim that Jackson was forced to settle, just a general claim about insurers. Even that general claim could not apply to Jackson’s signature being on the document because insurance companies do sign releases and what was the document in question? A Confidential Agreement and Mutual General Release.

Let’s go back to the main point about the settlement – Unless the prosecution is prepared to prove Mr. Jackson paid every dime of these settlements and that no insurance company was involved, plaintiff’s claim of conscious state or proof of criminality lacks foundation and is irrelevant.. This is the defence’s point, not the prosecution’s, and the defence is implying (not coming straight out and saying so) that Jackson wasforced to settle by his insurance company and thus cannot be held accountable. What the prosecution says is that no insurance company can force anybody to sign something they don’t want to sign (and especially if they are a celebrity worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the time). Who is right? Use common sense based on the facts.

So far we have no evidence that Jackson was forced to settle, and there is no evidence that anybody lied, but we have one more document to look at. This is “Mr Jackson’s Memorandum in Support of Objection to Subpoena to Larry Feldman for Settlement Documents”[4], filed on March 22nd, 2005, and it is where we come to the lie. This memorandum was authored by Brian Oxman, who after writing this memorandum was fired from the trial by the lead lawyers (although not directly over this document, they say). The relevant section reads:

“The 1993 Civil Settlement was Made by Mr. Jackson’s Insurance Company and was Not Within Mr. Jackson’s Control
The settlement was for global claims of negligence and the lawsuit was defended by Mr. Jackson’s insurance carrier. The insurance carrier negotiated and paid the settlement, over the protests of Mr. Jackson and his personal legal counsel.”
It is unfair for an insurance company’s settlement to be now held against Mr. Jackson or for the Settlement Agreement to be admitted as evidence of Mr. Jackson’s prior conduct or guilt. Mr. Jackson could not control nor interfere with his insurance carrier’s demand to settle the dispute.”

Incredibly, Mr Oxman failed to check any press reports from that time, where no mention or inference of any pressure from any third party, especially any insurance company, was stated or inferred. Oxman was taking the court, and later the public and the media when this motion was unsealed, for a ride. Fans take this document seriously enough to build an entire case that Jackson had no control over this suit and was railroaded. That suits their purposes as once again, it makes Jackson out to be a victim – a common theme for those who want to whitewash Jackson’s past behaviour – but it is built on a lie. Let’s look at what Jackson’s lawyer at the time, Johnnie Cochran, said at the press conference announcing the settlement:

“In the past 10 days the rumors and speculation surrounding this case have reached a fever pitch and, by and large, have been false and outrageous. As Mr. (Larry R.) Feldman (the boy’s lawyer) has correctly indicated, Michael Jackson has maintained his innocence from the beginning of this matter and now as this matter will soon be concluded, he still maintains that innocence.

“The resolution of this case is in no way an admission of guilt by Michael Jackson. In short, he is an innocent man who does not intend to have his career and his life destroyed by rumors and innuendoes. Throughout this ordeal, he has been subjected to an unprecedented media feeding frenzy, especially by the tabloid press. The tabloid press has shown an insatiable thirst for anything negative and has paid huge sums of money to people who have little or no information and who barely knew Michael Jackson.

“So today, the time has come for Michael Jackson to move on to new business, to get on with his life, to start the healing process and to move his career forward to even greater heights. This he intends to do. At the appropriate time, Michael Jackson will speak out publicly as to the agony, torture and pain he has had to suffer during the past six months.”[5]

No mention of any mysterious insurance company! Just an admission that Jackson wanted to “move on” and “get on with his life”. How Jackson thought that he could “move his career forward to even greater heights” after settling a claim of child molestation, instead of fighting in court for his reputation, shows the hubris and total lack of remorse he had over his behaviour with boys. In this interview with Cochran in People Magazine, published in June 1994, Cochran said it was he and Larry Feldman who negotiated the settlement, not an insurance company:

“[Cochran] was negotiating with Larry Feldman, the 13-year-old boy’s attorney, a courthouse colleague. In the end, he and Feldman hammered out a settlement in which the boy received an undisclosed sum and Jackson did not admit any guilt. “It was the only way to get the case off the front pages,” says Cochran. “I wanted Michael to be able to go on with his career.”[6]

Larry Feldman, attorney for Jordan Chandler, described signing the settlement:

“We signed off on the deal; that was it,” said Mr. Feldman, after a private afternoon meeting in the chambers of Judge David Rothman of Santa Monica Superior Court. Mr. Jackson’s two lawyers, Howard Weitzman and Johnnie Cochran Jr., were also at the meeting.”[7]

No insurance company representatives mentioned, of course. Michael Jackson was not at that meeting as he had signed the documents earlier in Las Vegas (as we will read later).

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Mark Geragos, Jacksons attorney in late 2003, had this to say when Jackson was interviewed on 60 minutes by Ed Bradley:

“I mean remember what happened to him ten years ago. He was humiliated. He was – he went through where somebody – was examining him. Was photographing him. Was having him – humiliating him in the worst way in terms of looking at his private parts and photographing his private parts. And – and he was subjected to some of the most, just intrusive kinds of things that you could ever imagine. I can only try to put myself into that situation and – and say look, if money could make that situation go away, maybe that – that was the calculus then.

Luckily for us, the 1993 case was discussed at some length by participants in a seminar hosted by the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 2010[8], where one of Jackson’s defence attorneys spoke about the negotiations.

Carl Douglas:

I remember sitting in private negotiations with Larry and three judges trying to work out some resolution to this case. I remember the sage words of one of the judges “It’s not about how much this case is worth; it’s about what it’s worth to Michael Jackson!” And ultimately that was an argument that had resonance as we bandied about some extraordinary numbers in 1993. The numbers were extraordinary for even 2010, but in 1993 they were really some fabulous numbers that were being bandied about.[8]

The opposing lawyer, Carl Douglas and three judges? It’s worth to Michael Jackson? Where is the insurance company representative?

Larry Feldman was “also correct that the decision that was hotly contested, in terms of having a trial in that case, set in 120 days was a devastating tactical loss for our team, and it was significantly powering efforts in trying to resolve the case.”[8]

The insurance company wasn’t “powering efforts in trying to resolve the case”?

“I was able to find some statements in my records of both a version of the facts that Larry was going to read, that all parties signed off on. And there was a version that Johnnie was going to read that all parties signed off on.”[8]

Where was the insurance company’s version of the facts that all parties signed off on? Of course, there were none. There was no insurance company involved.

Let’s not forget Carl’s strongest statement as to why a settlement needed to be reached:

“…in our [Jackson’s defence lawyers] perspective, you have to remember that there was a companion criminal investigation case going on by both the District Attorney’s office in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. There had been an occasion where Michael Jackson was examined, and his genitalia was recorded, which was part of an investigation. And that was part of the 300 pound gorilla in the mediation room. We wanted to do all that we could to avoid the possibility that there would be a criminal filing against Michael Jackson, and the reality was we were hopeful that if we were able to “silence” the accuser, that would obviate the need for any concern about the criminal side, so from our perspective there was a great deal of trust, not only with Johnnie and Larry because they had a twenty year prior friendship, there was a tremendous trust with Johnnie and the three judges being recommended. And we were facing the purple gorilla in the room of “If we don’t get this case settled before March, there is a criminal investigation looming, and no one wanted to consider the implications of that as it affected Michael Jackson”[8]

Carl also said

“I remember travelling to Las Vegas, and the Mirage hotel in January 1994, because I was the one that presented the settlement agreement to Michael.”[8]

What? The settlement agreement had to be presented to Jackson personally by one of his lawyers? Weren’t we told by Brian Oxman that it was out of Michael’s control and was being negotiated by an insurance company? [9]

Larry Feldman, the boy’s lawyer also spoke at the seminar:

So at some point, Johnnie and Carl came into the case. Johnnie and I go back a long way. I had the distinct privilege of representing Johnnie a lot of times in his life, and we were able to trust one another along with the help of three judges who sat in on a very secretive settlement, and we were ultimately able to get the case settled, and work with all of the problems, and all of the details for their benefit. And they trusted me, and I trusted them, and it was able to get settled. [8]

Seth Hufstedler, the seminar’s host, chimed in:

I thought that the two of them did a fabulous job establishing one other thing: that first Jackson one was settled, and the settlement did both sides a great deal of good, and it illustrates one of the important principles that we all have to deal with as lawyers, and that is: if the lawyers can trust each other, and work together, it works out very much better for their clients. They come out with some sensible answers, they have less hassle, and that’s one way to get things done.[8]

As you can see, everyone who was involved is in agreeance that the settlement was negotiated by the two parties and there was no other influence on the decision to settle! Brian Oxman lied about an insurance company negotiating the settlement.[10]

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Then again, perhaps Oxman was confused by press reports from January of 2005 that negotiations were taking place between Jackson’s insurance company, Transamerica, and Jackson’s lawyers to pay the settlement? This story, published by Associated Press referred an article which originally appeared in the now defunct British newspaper Today[11]

Click for a larger image

As you can see, the article references letters sent by Jackson’s attorney Johnnie Cochran to Transamerica, Jackson’s insurers, requesting they cover the settlement amount. It also details Tranamerica’s replies, including, even though Jackson wasn’t covered, a one time offer by Transamerica’s lawyer Jordan Harriman on January 13 2005 (which was rejected by Jackson). The article states that negotiations were continuing, however the same day the one time offer was made, Transamerica’s claims analyst also wrote a letter to Jackson’s lawyer Howard Weitzman to inform him that Jackson’s policy only covered Jackson for “accidental bodily injury”, but according to the settlement document the settlement was ostensibly paid for claims of bodily injury due to negligence, so it would not be covered.

So there we have it. Jackson was not forced by any insurance company to settle, it was the lawyers for both parties which negotiated the settlement. Perhaps the insurance company paid the settlement, however the obvious conclusion is that if they did, it is likely that the prosecution would have discovered that during the trial as it was an important point for them.


UPDATE

On the 3rd of January 2014, ex Jackson counsel Tom Mesereau appeared on a phone in Q&A session on an Internet radio show[12]. One of the callers asked about whether there was an insurance company involved in the Chandler settlement. This is a verbatim transcript of the conversation (the “motion by Brian Oxman” referenced is the one we have written about in the story above):

CALLER: Hi. Hello? Hi. My name is Lynnette, and I’m calling from Minnesota. I spoke with Tom in May about Wade, and, um, I’m a psychiatric nurse. I have a couple of questions about the ’93 settlement. Um, was there ever any evidence that it was settled by an insurance company, or paid by them?

TOM MESEREAU: Ah, my understanding was that an insurance company did not pay. Now, the settlement agreement was written, in my opinion, (and again, I was not involved in that settlement, ah, you should ask Cap Weitzman about the settlement, or John Branca about it), I was not involved in it. I didn’t even know Michael at the time, I wasn’t, I didn’t meet him until eleven years later, um, but…

CALLER: Right.

TOM MESEREAU: My understanding was that the settlement agreement was written to, um, permit the possibility that an insurance company would step in and pay, but I was also told that an insurance company did not pay.

CALLER: OH!

TOM MESEREAU: And that’s why there were some people running around saying an insurance company paid it, and that’s why it was settled, and uh, my understanding is that’s not correct.

CALLER: Well I think they base that on, um, one of the motions that were filed by Brian Oxman…

TOM MESEREAU: I’m well aware of that.

CALLER: Mmmm. And so they’re under the impression that it was paid by an insurance company, and if that’s the wrong impression, that’s the wrong impression.

TOM MESEREAU: I understand.

So, here we have further evidence to confirm our view that Jackson was never forced to settle any molestation claim by an insurance company. It was Jackson’s, and Jackson’s alone, final decision to pay over fifteen million dollars to a boy who accused him of molestation, rather than defend his honor and reputation in court.

 

[1]“Mr Jackson’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Reference to Civil Settlement Amounts and Accompanying Documents” PDF

[2]“Plaintiff’s Response to Defendant’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Reference to Civil Settlement Amounts and Accompanying Documents” PDF

[3]“Mr Jackson’s Reply in Support of of Motion in Limine to Exclude Reference to Civil Settlement Amounts and Accompanying Documents” PDF

[4]“Mr Jackson’s Memorandum in Support of Objection to Subpoena to Larry Feldman for Settlement Documents” PDF

[5]Michael Jackson settles suit, maintains innocence and “gets on with his life”, JET Magazine, published 14th February 1994 – Retrieved 18th November 2011

[6]L.a.’s Hottest Lawyer Works for Michael Jackson—and Reginald Denny, People Magazine, June 13, 1994 (Vol. 41 No. 22) – Retrieved 15th November 2011

[7]Michael Jackson Settles Suit For Sum Said to Be in Millions, New York Times, 26th January 1994 – Retrieved 10th November 2011

[8]Frozen in Time seminar held on 15th of September 2010, featured a panel of those most closely involved with the Michael Jackson molestation cases: the judge, Honorable Rodney Melville (Retired); the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Ronald Zonen; defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau, Jr. who represented Jackson in the Santa Barbara County criminal trial; attorney Larry Feldman who represented the alleged victim in the civil case; and attorney Carl E. Douglas who represented Jackson in the criminal investigation of the civil case.
Now available on Youtube as at 30th November 2011.

[9]Of course, let’s not forget what Jackson himself said.

In his interview with Diane Sawyer in 1995 he gave his reason for settling:

So what I said…I have got to do something to get out from under this nightmare. All these lies and all these people coming forth to get paid and all these tabloid shows, just lies, lies, lies. So what I did – we got together again with my advisors and they advised me, it was hands down, a unanimous decision – resolve the case. This could be something that could go on for seven years.

When the settlement documents were leaked in June 2004, he released a statement:

Jackson did not deny the amount that he reportedly paid, and said he settled the case only so he could move on with his life.

“I have always maintained my innocence, and vehemently denied that these events ever took place. I reluctantly chose to settle the false claims only to end the terrible publicity and to continue with my life and career.” (My emphasis added)

[10]Of course, this wasn’t the only time the defence lied. They also lied, for instance, about the blood spot in Jackson’s underpants being due to injections for his “vitiligo” when of course no such injections existed; and Mesereau’s patently false claim that Jimmy Safechuck had got married at Neverland. Perhaps this is to be expected when the behaviour of one of the defence team, Thomas Mesereau, was described as “”unethical, improper and possibly criminal” by another court (Citation 56 F.3d 1020, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Decided May 26, 1995) and barred from a case.

[11]Jackson ‘sought insurance help to pay boy’, New Straits Times – Jan 30, 1994 – Retrieved 9th November 2011

[12]King Jordan Blogtalkradio with Tom Mesereau – Retrieved 4th January 2014