Mary Fischer on why MJ. settled the 1st case out of court

  by Helena on

To give you a ´feel´ of the atmosphere in which the decision to settle was taken back in 1993 here is an extract from Mary Fischer´s article Was Michael Jackson Framed? which shows how much friction there was between Michael´s lawyers at the time.

The atmosphere was that of a hysteria and complete pandemonium in the media and public at large. Michael began taking painkillers to deal with the stress, lost approximately 10 pounds in weight and stopped eating. His health deteriorated to the extent that he cancelled the remainder of his Dangerous tour and flew to the UK for a rehabilitation treatment. The Jackson legal team was of the opinion that Michael´ss health was so bad he wouldn´st be able to endure a lenthy trial.

Mary Fischer:

“From the day Weitzman joined Jackson´ss defense team, “he was talking settlement,” says Bonnie Ezkenazi, an attorney who worked for the defense. While Fields and Pellicano were still in control of Jackson´ss defense, they adopted an aggressive strategy. They believed staunchly in Jackson´ss innocence and vowed to fight the charges in court. Pellicano began gathering evidence to use in the trial, which was scheduled for March 21, 1994.

“The Chandlers had a very weak case,” says Fields. “We wanted to fight. Michael wanted to fight and go through a trial. We felt we could win.”

Dissension within the Jackson camp accelerated on November 12, 1993 after Jackson´s publicist announced at a press conference that the singer was canceling the remainder of his world tour to go into a drug-rehabilitation program to treat his addiction to painkillers.

Fields later told reporters that Jackson was “barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level.” Others in Jackson´s camp felt it was a mistake to portray the singer as incompetent. “It was important,” Fields says, “to tell the truth. Larry Feldman (Chandler´s lawyer) and the press took the position that Michael was trying to hide and that it was all a scam. But it wasn´t.”

On November 23, the friction peaked. Based on information he says he got from Weitzman, Fields told a courtroom full of reporters that a criminal indictment against Jackson seemed imminent. Fields had a reason for making the statement: he was trying to delay the boy´s civil suit by establishing that there was an impending criminal case that should be tried first.

Outside the courtroom, reporters asked why Fields had made the announcement, to which Weitzman replied essentially that Fields “misspoke himself.” The comment infuriated Fields, “because it wasn´t true,” he says. “It was just an outrage. I was very upset with Howard.” Fields sent a letter of resignation to Jackson the following week.

“There was this vast group of people all wanting to do a different thing, and it was like moving through molasses to get a decision,” says Fields. “It was a nightmare, and I wanted to get the hell out of it.” Pellicano, who had received his share of flak for his aggressive manner, resigned at the same time.

With Fields and Pellicano gone, Weitzman brought in Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Jonh Branca, whom Fields had replaced as Jackson´s general counsel in 1990, was back on board. In late 1993, as DAs in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties convened grand juries to assess whether criminal charges should be filed against Jackson, the defense strategy changed course and talk of settling the civil case began in earnest, even though his new team also believed in Jackson´s innocence.

Why would Jackson´s side agree to settle out of court given his claims of innocence and the questionable evidence against him?

His attorneys apparently decided there were many factors that argued against taking the case to civil court. Among them was the fact that Jackson´s emotional fragility would be tested by the oppressive media coverage that would likely plague the singer day after day during a trial that could last as long as six months.

Politics and racial issues had also seeped into legal proceedings — particularly in Los Angeles, which was still recovering from the Rodney King ordeal — and the defense feared that a court of law could not be counted on to deliver justice.

Then, too, there was the jury mix to consider. As one attorney says, “They figured that Hispanics might resent Jackson for his money, blacks might resent him for trying to be white, and whites would have trouble getting around the molestation issue.” In Resnick´s opinion, “The hysteria is so great and the stigma [of child molestation] is so strong, there is no defense against it.”

Jackson´s lawyers also worried about what might happen if a criminal trial followed, particularly in Santa Barbara, which is a largely white, conservative, middle—to—upper—class community. Any way the defense looked at it, a civil trial seemed too big a gamble.

Others close to the case say the decision to settle also probably had to do with another factor — the lawyers´ reputations. “Can you imagine what would happen to an attorney who lost the Michael Jackson case?” says Anthony Pellicano. “There´s no way for all three lawyers to come out winners unless they settle. The only person who lost is Michael Jackson”.

Jackson, says Branca, “changed his mind about taking the case to trial when he returned to this country. He hadn´t seen the massive coverage and how hostile it was. He just wanted the whole thing to go away”…

By January 1, 1994 $2million had been spent by prosecution departments in California, two grand juries had questioned two hundred witnesses but Jordan´s allegations could not be corroborated.

A few weeks later Chandler´s attorney, Larry Feldman, petitioned the court that he should be allowed access to Jackson´s finances over concerns that the singer´s wealth would give him an unfair advantage in court.

One adviser to Jackson stated “You can take pictures of Michael´s dick and he´s not gonna like it, but once you start trying to figure out how much money he has, that´s where he stops playing around”.

On January 25, 1994 Jackson settled a civil suit out of court. When asked why he paid off his accuser, Jackson answered: “I wanted to go on with my life. Too many people had already been hurt. I want to make records. I want to sing. I want to perform again… It´s my talent. My hard work. My life. My decision”. He also wanted to avoid a “media circus”.

This is how Mary Fischer sums up the 1993 case:

“It is, of course, impossible to prove a negative — that is, prove that something didn´t happen. But it is possible to take an in—depth look at the people who made the allegations against Jackson and thus gain insight into their character and motives. What emerges from such an examination, based on court documents, business records and scores of interviews, is a persuasive argument that Jackson molested no one and that he himself may have been the victim of a well—concieved plan to extract money from him”.

Michael later admitted that the 1993 financial settlement had been a MISTAKE.

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Mary Fischer, speaks to Greta Van Sustren about why the 93 case was a set-up. She defends her 1994 article. This interview was done in November 2003 on Fox News.
Click here to listen

Greta Van Susteren is an American journalist and television personality on the Fox News Channel, where she hosts On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren. A former criminal defense and civil trial lawyer, she appeared as a legal commentator on CNN co-hosting Burden of Proof with Roger Cossack from 1994 to 2002, playing defense attorney to Cossack's prosecutor.

Thank you Helena for your generosity sharing your investigation!