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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Latest Jackson trial due to start
By Peter Bowes
Los Angeles

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson is unlikely to appear at court
A year after Michael Jackson was acquitted on charges of sexually abusing a teenage boy, the singer is due to go on trial again.

This time, the pop star is facing the music over claims that he owes $3.8m to a former colleague.

Marc Schaffel, who produced gay pornography videos before teaming up with Mr Jackson as a business associate, says he is due the money for expenses, unpaid salary and cash loans that were never repaid.

Jury selection in the case is scheduled to start on Wednesday at a courthouse in the coastal resort of Santa Monica.

The venue is a far cry from the scene of last year's criminal case.

The four-month trial played out in the town of Santa Maria, 200 miles away in California's wine country.

Any story that has Michael Jackson's name in it becomes an international sensation
Linda Deutsch, celebrity journalist

Mr Jackson was in court every day, although, famously, ill-health caused the singer to be late on several occasions.

Every day he was greeted by hordes of reporters and a loyal band of supporters.

The Santa Monica case will be a far less riveting spectacle for the sole reason that Mr Jackson will not be in court.

"They will be like cases from two different planets," says Linda Deutsch, a veteran celebrity trial reporter and special correspondent with the Associated Press.

"The case in Santa Maria was very sensational because Michael Jackson was there every single day and his reputation, his life was on the line."

Mr Jackson has been living in Bahrain since the end of the criminal case. He is not required by law to be present for the civil hearing.

As a result there will be no repeat of the circus-like atmosphere that dominated the Santa Maria proceedings.

Charity record

"The stakes are not anything as high as they were in Santa Maria," says Ms Deutsch, who covered every day of the child abuse trial.

But the case remains important for an entertainment superstar whose financial woes have been widely reported.

As the evidence unfolds, aspects of the child abuse case are likely to be revisited since Mr Schaffel had a role in looking after the family of Gavin Arvizo, the boy who claimed Jackson molested him.

Mr Schaffel's claim that he is owed fees, relates to the work he did on September 11th charity record entitled What More Can I Give? The song was never released.

The claim also includes what Mr Schaffel says is his share of the proceeds from two TV specials produced to repair the singer's tattered image after the damaging documentary made by the British journalist Martin Bashir.

In Living With Michael Jackson the pop star spoke about sharing his bedroom with children.

Mr Schaffel produced what became known as a rebuttal documentary and a film that portrayed Mr Jackson in a positive light.

Video evidence

The films reportedly earned the singer $10m.

The case is likely to see plenty of mud slinging.

It has been alleged in court documents, by Mr Schaffel, that Mr Jackson is a "profligate" spender and "a master of manipulating the people around him".

The pop star has countersued, saying his former associate failed to pay costs from the production of the charity song and continued to represent himself as affiliated with the star after their business arrangement ended.

While he is not planning to make an appearance in person, videotaped depositions by Mr Jackson will be screened in the courtroom.

"It'll be the first time that he has really spoken in public since the trial," says Ms Deutsch.

Pocket money

However, it is understood that the singer will say he remembers little about the events in question.

The transcripts of the depositions suggest the singer was involved in some bizarre exchanges with Mr Schaffel's lawyer.

In one section the pop star was asked how he was able to get pocket money to go shopping.

The singer's response was that he obtained cash by leasing out cows on his Neverland property to ranchers.

The potential for more gossipy snippets of information about what many see as the crazy world of Michael Jackson, will keep the case in the headlines.

"For some reason, any story that has Michael Jackson's name in it becomes an international sensation," says Ms Deutsch.

"This one will be no different, but it just won't be on the same scale as the molestation trial."

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27 Oct 05 |  Entertainment


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