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Michael Jackson: One year after the trial

King of Pop fled the country after his acquittal but did anyone care?

I often wonder what happened to the woman with the doves. If you’ll recall, when the Michael Jackson acquittal was announced one year ago, one particularly ditzy devotee waiting outside the courthouse released one dove for each “not guilty” count that was announced. Eventually, she was left with just an empty cage. Unless she is a dove wrangler for hire, available for verdicts at all major celebrity trials, I have to assume she was left with a bittersweet feeling.

Michael Jackson was free. But now he’s gone.

Since the acquittal on child molestation and related charges, Michael has been in the news only sporadically. A dispute over pay involving his Neverland Ranch employees here, a tussle over child custody with his ex-wife Debbie Rowe there. Also, there are recent reports that he may marry his nanny, although those reports have the smell of being nanny-generated.

Meanwhile, he’s living in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, where there was at least one sighting of Jackson visiting a mall in a black abaya robe traditionally worn by Bahraini women and a veil covering his face, with his three kids in tow, all wearing black scarves covering their faces. It was like spotting a funky offshoot of Hamas out on a bling fling.

One year later, what does the future look like for Mike?

There has been lots of speculation. Supposedly he is working on a new album that will be released on 2 Seas Records, a company owned by Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who is the son of Bahrain’s king. Said Michael in a statement: “I am incredibly excited about my new venture and I am enjoying being back in the studio making music.” At least we think it was Michael. It was a guy wearing a black veil.

But is there a market for a new Michael Jackson album? When you get past the dove lady and cuckoo birds like her, there are lots of skeptics out there. It isn’t just that Michael was accused of — but again, not convicted of — committing various sordid acts involving underaged boys, alcohol and pornography, or that he settled a lawsuit for $25 million that accused him of similar charges with another boy in 1993. It’s that the American public is suffering from Michael Jackson overload, and folks may not be interested in anything he has to say anymore, musically or otherwise.

Is he really ‘Invincible?’Michael’s last studio album was 2001’s “Invincible,” which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s top 200 album chart and sold more than eight million copies worldwide. But it also received mostly tepid reviews from critics, who will probably forever hold anything he does up to the high water mark that was “Thriller.”

But all artists, no matter how gifted, have a creative period where they do their best work. Paul McCartney is still an attraction, but his best songwriting days have long past. The same is true of the Rolling Stones. They and others like them release material that is still worth listening to, but it isn’t the kind of stuff that stays with you.

Michael Jackson is the King of Pop in name only. He’ll be 48 on August 29. He’s through with plastic surgery, or at least he should be, since he seems to have had every procedure save for breast enhancement. He can’t moonwalk like he used to. Reunions with his brothers don’t hold nearly the same fascination anymore.

And the child molestation trial, while it ended in his acquittal, did not allay fears that Michael may have engaged in behavior that runs contrary to the traditional American notions of mom, apple pie and sexual relations between consenting adults. A house full of little boys and cameras mounted outside the bedroom to ensure privacy is a big red flag, no matter what the jurors concluded.

The trial established one clear truth: Michael is officially weirder than LaToya.

Where to now?He can go anywhere in the world, of course. He can remain in Bahrain and record albums, although I would advise him to cool it with the little boys there, or at least keep robes and veils on at all times. Michael seems to like living with a sheik and with all the trappings of royalty in Bahrain. It’s like living at Neverland without having to worry about meeting the payroll every month.

He could return to the United States, but that might be problematic. His every move would be watched closely by overzealous prosecutors, unscrupulous paparazzi and would-be gold-digging nannies. He does have to return to the U.S. to deal with a civil suit filed by Marc Schaffel, described in news accounts as “a reputed porn producer and would-be Jackson confidant,” who is seeking $3 million. Jackson’s attorneys filed a brief that said: “To say that Schaffel is an unsavory character is an understatement. He is a professional swindler and pornographer with a long history of dishonest, immoral and manipulative behavior.”

If he does re-establish himself here in the U.S., the first thing Michael should do is hire a new head of personnel. The people he tends to surround himself with just don’t seem to be the crème de la crème.

The other option would be for Michael to live somewhere else altogether, where he could have the privacy he craves. If I were him, I’d buy a house next door to Tom Sneddon, the Santa Barbara County prosecutor who banked his career on the Jackson case and lost. He wouldn’t be crazy enough to go after Michael a second time, would he?

Then the dove lady’s cage wouldn’t feel quite as empty as it does now.