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Tag Archives | Barry Rothman

The Settlement

A frequently asked question regarding the child molestation allegations against Michael Jackson is:

“If he was innocent why did he settle the first case out of court?”

To understand his possible reasons we have to understand the legal circumstances preceding and surrounding the settlement.

Michael Jackson and his accuser, Jordan Chandler, reached an out of court settlement on January 25, 1994. The settlement was illegally leaked to Court TV’s Diane Dimond in 2003, so we know the amount paid into a trust for Jordan Chandler was $15,331,250 [1; page 5]. (Note: Either Dimond or the person who leaked the document to her omitted the parts after the third paragraph. It is not known who leaked the confidential settlement to Dimond, however, Ray Chandler’s book, All That Glitters, calls Dimond Evan Chandler’s “closest ally” at one point [3; page 194]).

As you can see the document emphasizes that it is in no way an admission of guilt by Michael Jackson. On page 4 it states:

“This Confidential Settlement shall not be considered as an admission by Jackson that he has acted wrongfully with respect to the Minor, [blocked] or [blocked], or any other person or at all, or that the Minor, [blocked] or [blocked] have any rights whatsoever against Jackson. Jackson specifically disclaims any liability to, and denies any wrongful act against, the Minor, [blocked] or [blocked] or any other persons. The Parties acknowledge that Jackson is a public figure and that his name, image and likeness have commercial value and are an important element of his earning capacity. The Parties acknowledge that Jackson claims that he has elected to settle the claims in the Action in view of the impact the Action has had and could have in the future on his earnings and potential income.” [1; page 4]

One of the myths regarding this settlement is that “Michael Jackson bought his way out of a criminal indictment“. The fact is, however, the settlement resolved the civil proceedings, not the criminal. In fact, under American law one is not allowed to settle a criminal case. The criminal proceedings proceeded after this settlement and nothing in the settlement prevented the Chandlers from testifying against Jackson in a criminal court. Los Angeles district attorney, Gil Garcetti said right after the Chandler settlement in January 1994:

“The criminal investigation of singer Michael Jackson is ongoing and will not be affected by the announcement of the civil case settlement,” Garcetti said. “The district attorney’s office is taking Mr. [Larry] Feldman [the Chandlers’ attorney] at his word that the alleged victim will be allowed to testify and that there has been no agreement in the civil matter that will affect cooperation in the criminal investigation.” [9]

The Chandlers could have taken the settlement money AND testified against Michael Jackson in a criminal case. They eventually chose not to but it was not because they were forbidden to do so by the settlement. They could have done so, however after the Chandlers received their settlement money (which was their goal from the beginning as we will show below), they were unwilling to co-operate with the authorities investigating the criminal proceedings and were unwilling to testify in a criminal court. The criminal case was convened before two Grand Juries (one in Los Angeles and one in Santa Barbara) in February/April of 1994. After a seven months of investigation, multiple house searches, interviews of dozens of children and other witnesses, police officers traveling all around the world to find corroborating victims and evidence, strip searching Jackson’s body, both Grand Juries determined that they had not seen sufficient evidence to indict Jackson. The prosecution claimed they were not really seeking indictment, that these were only “investigating Grand Juries”, however the fact remains two Grand Juries found that the prosecution had not discovered incriminating evidence during the investigations sufficient to secure an indictment.

The criminal proceedings were never the Chandler’s priority. Less than a month after psychiatrist, Dr. Mathis Abrams reported Jordan Chandler’s claims to the authorities on August 17, 1993, an act that automatically kick-started the criminal investigation, the Chandlers filed a civil lawsuit against Jackson accusing him of sexual battery, battery, seduction, willful misconduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligence. They demanded a recovery of $30 million. (Before taking Jordan to Dr. Abrams the Chandlers had already requested $20 million, which Jackson refused to comply with. Details here.)

Normally, civil complaints are only filed after criminal proceedings are completed and justice has been served. One would naturally expect the parents of a molested child to pursue justice and not money. Only a criminal trial can result in jail time for the perpetrator. At the end of a civil trial, the only restitution available is monetary.

Moreover, in his book All That Glitters the accuser’s uncle Ray Chandler reveals that what the Chandlers really wanted was a “highly profitable settlement” from the very beginning. They filed their civil lawsuit with a settlement in mind. Ray Chandler describes a meeting between the boy’s mother June Chandler, her then-husband David Schwartz and the boy’s biological father Evan Chandler in civil attorney Larry Feldman’s office on September 8, 1993 as follows:

“By the conclusion of the meeting, June and Dave, like Evan before them, had no doubts about switching from Gloria Allred to Larry Feldman. The choice came down to either waging an all-out media campaign to pressure the DA to seek a Grand Jury indictment, or conducting subtle, behind-the-scenes negotiations toward a quick, quiet and highly profitable settlement.” [3; page 168]

(Emphasis added.)

Once again: this was before they even filed their civil lawsuit, which Larry Feldman did a couple of days later, now we know, with a settlement in mind. In actuality, according to Ray Chandler’s book and other sources as well (such as Mary A. Fischer’s article “Was Michael Jackson Framed?”, GQ, October 1994) during that meeting Evan Chandler and David Schwartz had a physical fight over the settlement money they planned to ask for. The Chandlers reasoning for aiming at a settlement rather than a trial was that they wanted to avoid the trauma of a high profile trial.  We will address this claim later in this article.

It is very important to emphasize that it was the Chandler family who demanded a settlement from the very beginning and it was not Michael Jackson who offered it! In actuality, since early August, 1993 Evan Chandler demanded money from the star which Jackson refused to comply with and that is what resulted in the Chandlers going public with their allegations. Had Jackson wanted to “hush” the accuser he could have paid them off before they turned to authorities and to the public. Details in our article about the Chandlers Monetary Demands.

Between September 1993 and January 1994 the disagreement between Jackson’s attorneys and Larry Feldman, the civil attorney representing the Chandlers was in regard to which proceedings should precede the other. Jackson’s attorneys wanted the criminal proceedings to go before the civil proceedings and losing this fight was basically what lead to the settlement.

In 2005, Jordan’s uncle, Ray Chandler in an article he wrote for his now defunct website (atgbook.net) claimed that Jackson’s attorneys tried to postpone the the civil lawsuit for six years, until the statue of limitations on child abuse expired. This is all he said, leaving the impression that Jackson’s side just wanted to hinder the process. However that’s a misleading half-truth. In actuality, Jackson’s attorneys attempted to postpone the civil lawsuit to allow the criminal proceedings to be held ahead of the civil proceedings.
They did not try to hinder the criminal proceedings, in fact they tried to get them heard ahead of the civil proceedings.

The reason being if the civil trial is held before the criminal trial it can give the prosecution in the criminal trial a major advantage because they have the opportunity to monitor the civil trial and study the defense’s strategy. They can then, therefore, adjust their claims and strategy in kind. Furthermore, unlike in a criminal proceeding, where the defendant can constitutionally refuse to be deposed without consequence, a defendant in a civil trial cannot refuse to submit to a deposition free of consequence. The prosecution then can use the testimony from the civil deposition in the criminal trial and adjust their claims in kind.

In addition, the burden of proof, or the rules for admissibility of hearsay evidence in a civil trial are more relaxed than in a criminal trial. Jackson’s attorneys were certainly aware that a civil trial was riskier for a defendant, even if the defendant is innocent. And they knew that if Jackson lost the civil trial it could prejudice the jury in an upcoming criminal trial.

There are many precedents where civil proceedings have been frozen to allow the criminal trial ahead, preserving a defendant’s right to a fair trial and preventing that right from being violated. According to precedent cases:

“When both criminal and civil proceedings arise out of the same or related transactions, the defendant is entitled to a Stay of Discovery and trial in the civil action until the criminal matter has been fully resolved.” [2; page 116-117]

However, in regards to the case against Michael Jackson, all such attempts by Jackson’s lawyers to stay the civil proceeding were dismissed by Superior Court Judge David M. Rothman. Apparently, the Chandler’s trump card was Jordan’s age. Here is what Geraldine Hughes (the legal secretary of Barry Rothman, the attorney who represented the Chandlers before Larry Feldman took over), writes in her book entitled Redemption:

“Michael Jackson lost all four motions. It was obvious from a legal standpoint of view that the scales of justice were not pointing in Michael Jackson’s favor. Instead, it was weighing heavily in favor of the 13-year old boy. Michael Jackson’s attorneys were applying precedent laws which were applied in a similar sexual battery case. Pacers Inc. v. Superior Court specifically held that it is improper invasion of the defendant’s constitutional rights not to stay civil proceedings where a criminal investigation is ongoing. But Mr. Feldman’s trump card was, “a child’s memory is developing,” and their inability to, “remember like an adult.” This law was designed to protect a small child’s ability to recall for prolonged periods of time after being a victim and/or witness to a crime. This case, however, involved a 13-year old boy, who was soon to be turning 14 years old.” [2; page 124]

Using this reasoning, Feldman filed a Motion for Trial Preference for the civil proceedings. “This is a special request to have the trial heard within 120 days after the motion is granted” [2; page 121]. In this regard, Hughes writes:

“Mr. Feldman filed a declaration by Dr. Evan Chandler in support of the Motion for Trial Preference which had one statement: that the child was under the age of 14. That was it! Dr. Chandler did not state anything else in his declaration, which is a written statement under oath declaring statements of truth. I have never seen a declaration concerning an important case this short in my entire legal career. A declarant will usually attest to several facts, especially concerning an important case like this one. They will also declare that said facts are true and correct and state their willingness to be called to competently testify under penalty of perjury. Is it possible that the information that Dr. Chandler declared was the only information he could competently testify under penalty of perjury?”[2; page 122]

Under extremely unfavorable conditions, Jackson and his attorneys might have found themselves in a position where they would have had to fight and defend Jackson on two fronts at the same time – in both a civil and criminal trial. On top of that they would have to prepare for a civil trial within 120 days, while the police for the criminal proceedings had seized all of Jackson’s personal records and refused to provide copies or even a list of what they took. “The District Attorney’s office was operating, with the blessings of the Court, in violation of Michael Jackson’s constitutional rights, and the Court was weighing heavily in favor of the 13-year old boy [2; page 133].”

After all motions to push the civil proceedings behind the criminal had been denied, the Jackson team was left between a rock and a hard place. The start of the civil trial was set for March, 1994 and Jackson was to be deposed at the end of January, beginning of February.

The Chandler’s motion papers accused Jackson and his attorneys of applying “delay tactics”, but they knew well that those “delay tactics” were all about getting the criminal proceedings heard ahead of the civil proceedings. Ray Chandler, in his book, All That Glitters, quotes a conversation that took place between Jordan Chandler’s father, Evan Chandler and their civil attorney, Larry Feldman and it proves that they were the ones utilizing delay tactics with regards to criminal proceedings:

“Later in the afternoon, after everyone had consumed their holiday repast, Larry Feldman called Evan with news they could all be thankful for. “Hey, Evan, you gotta hear this one. Howard Weitzman demoted Fields again. They definitely don’t want your deposition, or June’s deposition. They don’t want to preserve anything. If they’re gonna make a deal they don’t want anything on the record about Jackson.”

No shit! Larry, these guys are in a real mess.”

“Yeah, they fucked this up unbelievably. What could be better? But I’m going forward. We’re going to push on. So far there ain’t a button I’ve missed. The only thing we gotta do is keep the criminal behind us. I don’t want them going first.”

Larry had said it before, but it hadn’t registered in Evan’s brain till now.

“You mean if they indict, the criminal case automatically goes before us?”
“Yeah.”
“Jesus Christ!”
“Right! So we don’t want that.” [3; page 201-202]

It must be reiterated that only a criminal trial can send a perpetrator to jail; a civil trial can only result in a monetary award.

The California law that allowed the Chandlers to push the civil trial ahead of the criminal trial was changed eventually – according to Santa Barbara District Attorney, Thomas Sneddon directly because of what happened in the Chandler case. Because of this change, an accuser in a sexual assault case cannot pursue a civil lawsuit right away. The new law restricts a civil trial from preceding a criminal trial. It is for this reason that Jackson’s 2003 accuser, Gavin Arvizo, could not use the same strategy as what the Chandlers did in 1993. He had no choice but to begin a criminal trial first:

“The prosecutor in the Michael Jackson case praised a law that can halt civil lawsuits during related criminal cases, saying it would prevent a scenario where the singer’s accuser accepted a settlement and then refused to testify in the criminal trial.

The state law was passed because another child backed out of a 1993 molestation case against Jackson after the singer reportedly paid him a multimillion settlement, Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon said.

“It is an irony. The history of the law is that the L.A. district attorney’s office carried the legislation as a direct result of the civil settlement in the first investigation,” Sneddon told The Associated Press in an interview.” [4]

The hostile media campaign against Michael Jackson might have also contributed to a decision to settle. Tabloid shows paid people for sensational stories that supported the allegations. Several of those people were to be used by the Chandlers in the civil case. The combined stress of a legal proceeding and the media backlash led to a dependency on painkillers for which Michael Jackson eventually sought professional help. Business partners and advisers urged him to put the matter out of his mind and get on with his life and business.

It has also been suggested that Jackson settled because the strip search in December 1993 supported his accuser’s claims. This does not hold water and is fully addressed in a separate post here.

While Jackson’s motives for the settlement are often questioned, it’s a much less frequently asked question (although it would be similarly valid to ask): why did the accuser’s family settle? Had your child been molested would you want justice or money?

The Chandlers themselves claim they settled because they wanted to move on with their lives and not subject Jordan to media spotlight and scrutiny that would have been unavoidable in a high profile case and trial such as this. They also claimed they received several death threats from Michael Jackson fans and since Los Angeles District Attorney, Gil Garcetti refused to put the family to the Witness Protection Program, they were afraid for their lives. At first this seems reasonable, however Evan Chandler did not seem to be concerned about media spotlight and possible fan reaction when in his taped phone conversation with David Schwartz (the boy’s step father) in July, 1993 (BEFORE his son allegedly “confessed” to him!) he said of his attorney, Barry Rothman:

“[T]his attorney I found… I mean, I interviewed several, and I picked the nastiest son of a bitch I could find, and all he wants to do is get this out in the public as fast as he can, as big as he can and humiliate as many people as he can, and he’s got a bad [tape irregularity]…[5]

Ray Chandler tries to excuse this quote in his book by claiming that when Evan said Rothman wanted to “get this out in the public as fast as he can, as big as he can” he actually meant going to court, not to the media. The same claim is made about when on the same tapes Evan says of Rothman:

“He is nasty, he is mean, he is very smart [tape irregularity], and he’s hungry for the publicity [tape irregularity] better for him. [5]

However, there are some additional facts to consider regarding the Chandler’s intentions with publicity.

The Chandlers did not seem to be concerned about media spotlight, possible fan reaction, threats and Jordan not being able to move on with his life when when within days after the settlement they were shopping a book they have written about the allegations. Publisher Judith Regan:

“I received a call from Jordan’s uncle. He wanted to do a book in which he would describe in detail the allegation of molestation against Michael Jackson. So I asked him how he proposed to do this given the fact that the Chandlers had actually signed a confidentiality agreement and taken $20mln. And he said that Jordan’s father had given him all the information he needed for the book and he believed he was outside the bounds of the Confidentiality agreement because he would be the author. At the time I had the impression that the Chandlers were brazen opportunists and I found the entire proposal by the uncle to be distasteful. They enter a Confidentiality agreement and before the ink is even dry they are shopping a deal that violates this agreement?”[6]

That Ray Chandler was indeed shopping a book “within days” after the settlement was signed, is confirmed by none other than Ray Chandler himself in a Motion he filed with the Santa Barbara Court on October 25, 2004. [More about why this Motion was filed in our article entitled Ray Chandler’s Subpoena in 2004.] In support of his argument that he should be protected by the Shield Law Ray Chandler disclosed in that Motion ([7]; page 8):

“Within days after Jordan Chandler’s civil lawsuit against Michael Jackson was settled in January, 1994, Raymond Chandler traveled to New York City to seek a publisher for the purpose of putting the information he had gathered in the form of a non-fiction book for dissemination to the public. Such intent on the part of Raymond Chandler is evidenced by an article that appeared in the New York Post revealing his contact with a publisher one day after it occurred.” [7]

Ray Chandler, in making his claim that he should be protected by the Shield Law states in the Motion that he traveled to Los Angeles “within two days after the Michael Jackson child molestation scandal became public in August of 1993″ ([7]; page 8) and from late August through December of 1993 lived in the Los Angeles home of Evan and Jordan Chandler with the intent of gathering information about the molestation allegations and then publicly disseminating that information ([7]; page 13).

Ray Chandler eventually published his book in 2004 at the height of the media frenzy caused by the Arvizo allegations. Ray Chandler made his rounds in the media, giving interviews and appearing in documentaries heavily biased against Jackson. Obiously not concerned about media spotlight and not afraid of possible threats by Jackson fans.

Evan Chandler did not seem to be concerned about media spotlight, possible fan reaction, threats and Jordan not being able to move on with his life when he filed another lawsuit against Michael Jackson in 1996, this time for $60 million and a record deal so that he could release an album about the alleged sexual molestation of his son, titled “EVANstory” . According to the lawsuit “This album will include such songs as: “D.A. Reprised”: “You Have No Defense (For My Love)”; “Duck Butter Blues”; “Truth”; and other songs”. [8]

The lawsuit got thrown out of Court in 2000.

Sources:

[1] Out of court settlement between Michael Jackson and Jordan Chandler (January 25, 1994) as leaked to and/or by Court TV’s Diane Dimond in 2003
1993civilsettlementagreement

[2] Geraldine Hughes – Redemption: The Truth Behind the Michael Jackson Child Molestation Allegations (Hughes Publishing, January 2004)

[3] Raymond Chandler – All That Glitters: The Crime and the Cover-Up (Windsong Press Ltd, September 2004)

[4] Linda Deutsch – Prosecutor says law won’t allow Jackson to pay off accuser before trial (Boston.com/Associated Press, November 20, 2003)
http://www.boston.com/news/daily/20/jackson_case.htm 

[5] Taped phone conversation between Evan Chandler and David Schwartz (July 8, 1993)
schwartz_chandler

[6] Judith Regan on Michael Jackson Molestation Allegations on SIRIUS XM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQYeNfHVBtM&feature=player_embedded

[7] Notice of motion and motion of third party Raymond Chandler to quash subpoenas and/or in camera review; authorities; declaration of Raymond Chandler (October 25, 2004)
http://www.sbscpublicaccess.org/docs/ctdocs/102504nommot3rdpty.pdf

[8] Evan Chandler files another lawsuit against Michael Jackson on May 7, 1996 demanding $60 million and a record deal (Court TV Online, Legal Documents)
http://web.archive.org/web/20070916092707/http://www.courttv.com/archive/legaldocs/newsmakers/jackson.html

[9] Jackson Settles Abuse Suit but Insists He Is Innocent : Courts: Singer will reportedly pay $15 million to $24 million to teen-ager. Criminal investigation will proceed. (Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1994)
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-01-26/news/mn-15478_1_michael-jackson

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