Split decision: Jury awards money to Jackson and adviser who sued
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – In a split decision Friday, a civil court jury awarded a former Michael Jackson adviser $900,000 – far less than he claimed in the money dispute – and awarded the pop star $200,000 in his cross-complaint.F. Marc Schaffel originally sued for $3.8 million, but his claims were later reduced to $1.6 million, and his attorney ultimately asked the jury for $1.4 million in commissions, unpaid loans and expenses before deliberations began Thursday.”Obviously, I’m very happy,” Schaffel said outside court. “We got less than I asked for but considering all the factors on what we were able to present, I’m pleased.”Jackson’s attorney had said Schaffel owed the pop star $660,000 before the pop star fired the associate in November 2001 after learning of his past as a producer of gay pornography.”What bothered Michael Jackson the most about this trial,” the singer’s spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said, “was that from the onset F. Marc Schaffel tried turning a bookkeeping matter into something more and he willfully tried impugning Michael Jackson’s character with false and unsubstantiated claims.”The trial delved into claims involving work Schaffel did to produce two videos aired on Fox that were intended to rehabilitate Jackson’s image in the aftermath of a damaging documentary, and claims involving “What More Can I Give,” an ill-fated Jackson song intended to raise funds for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.Jurors said they came to the figure of $900,000 by accepting Schaffel’s claims that he was owed commissions from the two videos and for some other expenses.Jackson attorney Thomas Mundell said he had always conceded that Jackson owed Schaffel a percentage of funds earned from the Fox videos, and court documents showed that Schaffel turned down a settlement of $500,000 a month before trial.Jurors said that after much arguing they accepted Schaffel’s claim that he spent $300,000 of his own money on a secret mission to South America for Jackson. Schaffel claimed he gave the money to a “Mr. X.””We fought a lot over that,” said juror Irma Beard, a retired law office worker. She and jury foreman Roy Shimogaki said they were troubled by the claim.Both, however, said they were not influenced by explosive claims about the mens’ lifestyles.Jackson’s lawyer had focused on Schaffel’s past in gay adult movies, and Schaffel had blurted out on the witness stand that Jackson once wanted him to go to Brazil to find boys for him to adopt. He later modified that statement to “children” to expand Jackson’s family.Beard said none of that came up in deliberations, and the jury tried to focus on financial figures.”Schaffel’s life is his life and Michael’s life is his life,” she said.Both laughed when asked if they considered Schaffel a credible witness.”We wouldn’t go that far,” Shimogaki said.”The plaintiff was not the most upstanding character and neither was the defendant,” Beard said.The jury had to answer multiple questions. All the verdicts for Schaffel were unanimous while three for Jackson were not unanimous. But only nine of the 12 jurors needed to agree.Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor plans to hold a separate specific accounting phase of the trial to look at the claims. The result of that could lead to adjustment of the awards.Cathleen Yancey, a student at Brigham Young University, said she wanted to award Jackson more than the $200,000 but that one of the jurors was adamant “and was the most opinionated.”The jurors agreed one thing: They were glad Jackson did not appear in court as a witness, saying his videotaped deposition was sufficient.”If he was here, it would have been a frenzy,” Yancey said.
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