Michael Jackson was nowhere to be seen as his closest advisers gathered at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss his finances, but those in attendance said the pop superstar remains fully in control of his business affairs.
The meeting Monday — held days before Jackson’s arraignment on child molestation charges — was attended by his attorneys, managers and accountants, along with Nation of Islam leaders. They disputed reports that the religious group had assumed control of Jackson’s financial matters.
“Michael is in charge,” John Branca, one of the singer’s business attorneys, told reporters.
Jackson is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on child molestation charges in the Santa Barbara County city of Santa Maria. On Monday, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville ruled that cameras would not be permitted in the courtroom during the arraignment.
Monday’s meeting of Jackson’s brain trust was held behind closed doors, but Jackson attorney Mark Geragos briefly allowed an Associated Press reporter and photographer into the room to ask a few questions.
Jackson, 45, was nowhere to be seen, but an NBC reporter allowed in later in the day told The Associated Press the entertainer had been on a conference call with his advisers at that time.
Jackson spokesman Kevin McLin, who spent two hours in the meeting during the afternoon, said the entertainer was clearly in charge.
“It was just a sign of unity,” he said of the gathering’s purpose. “It was just everybody coming together. Michael is in control of everything.”
He declined to comment on the role of the Nation of Islam.
“Michael has a lot of supporters,” McLin said.
Nation of Islam in attendanceJackson’s advisers were gathered around a large table in the suite. At the head of the table was Leonard Muhammad, a high-ranking official of the Nation of Islam who has been described as an adviser to Jackson. Other Nation of Islam members were in an area outside the suite.
Also at the meeting were Jackson’s accountant, Allan Whitman; his music manager Charles Koppelman; his civil lawyer, Zia Modabber and other members of the Geragos law firm.
Outside the room, Koppelman was asked if the Nation of Islam was handling any aspect of Jackson’s financial affairs. “No sir,” he responded.
Security at the hotel was high and other guests were unaware of the meeting until they reached the end of the driveway where fans and camera crews were assembled.
Earlier in the day, Jackson’s brother Jermaine and a handful of fans held a news conference to describe plans to support Jackson at the arraignment.
“My brother is innocent, he is 1,000 percent innocent,” Jermaine Jackson said. “My mother, father, sisters and brothers are overwhelmed at the outpouring of the fans in the USA and all around the world.”
Diana D’Alo, a fan from Italy, said fans were planning a “huge gathering” in Santa Maria that would include people from Spain, France, England, Canada, Mexico and Japan, as well as from around the United States.
Jackson’s fan clubs plan to have groups of cars and buses travel to the courthouse in northern Santa Barbara County from areas including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orange County, Long Beach, Santa Monica, San Diego, Pasadena, Carson, Costa Mesa and Riverside, organizers said.
Jackson is charged with seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He is free on $3 million bail pending his arraignment. Jackson has maintained his innocence.