Michael Jackson was a “cagey, calculating witness” who took advantage of an associate, an attorney for the man said Wednesday in closing arguments of a lawsuit claiming the singer owes him well over a million dollars.
The pop star’s attorney, however, contended in his argument to the Superior Court jury that Jackson was the victim of financial manipulations by the former associate, F. Marc Schaffel.
The differing portraits came as the trial neared its finale. The case was expected to go to the jury Thursday after conclusion of the defense argument and a rebuttal by the plaintiff’s lawyer.
Schaffel attorney Howard King contended that Jackson, who did not testify in person, feigned forgetfulness in videotaped depositions shown to the jury.
“Mr. Jackson says under oath what he thinks he needs to say,” King said.
“Michael Jackson doesn’t pay his bills. Mr. Jackson is a cagey, calculating witness,” he said.
King added that he was angry at the focus that was placed on Schaffel’s past as a producer of gay pornography, which he said was irrelevant. He also complained about Schaffel’s depiction in the case.
“I resent that Mr. Schaffel is portrayed as some sort of parasite hanging on to Mr. Jackson,” King said.
Jackson’s attorney, Thomas Mundell, countered that King must have been at a different deposition than he was.
“I don’t see the evil, conniving, puppet master he saw,” Mundell said. “I saw the gentle, easily influenced artist who pays little attention to business matters.”
He said of the plaintiff, “Mr. Schaffel saw Michael Jackson as an opportunity. He could do projects for him and become part of the action.” Mundell also said that while Schaffel claims he worked for free, “he was living the life of Riley, traveling around the world in private jets. But that ended in November 2001.”
A former Jackson lawyer had testified that was when he told Jackson of Schaffel’s past, leading to a termination letter.
King, who claims the attempt to terminate Schaffel in 2001 was never completed, said negotiations with lawyers dragged on, and that Schaffel came back on board to produce such projects as videos about Jackson that aired on Fox. The videos were intended to rehabilitate his image after a damaging documentary.
King gave jurors his accounting of what is owed to Schaffel and urged them to award him $1,474,280.
Big items in that total were $664,000 for the Fox specials, $300,000 that Schaffel claims he loaned from his own funds when Jackson purportedly needed that amount delivered to a mysterious “Mr. X” in South America, and more than $91,000 in legal fees.