Media coverage played a role in settlement p. 29

By: Editorial Staff Lawyer who represented boy in molestation
suit against Michael Jackson says intense
coverage facilitated agreement before trial sp.

THE LAWYER WHO represented a 13-year-old boy in a molestation lawsuit against superstar Michael Jackson said intense media coverage of the case played a role in reaching an agreement before trial.
No dollar figure for the settlement was revealed by either side, but estimates have ranged from $10 million to $40 million.
In an interview published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, lawyer Larry Feldman said he felt a need to take the case to the media when he began representing the boy.
" . . . when I got into the case, I saw polls that showed 85% of the people believed that Michael Jackson was innocent and my lawsuit was an extortion attempt. That potentially could influence a jury . . . . Something had to be done to turn the tide so at least we could have a jury that was open-minded," Feldman told staff writer Dick Goldberg.
The lawyer said he was frustrated by the fact that the media seemed to be interested only in Jackson and showed "very little interest in my client, a little boy who was doing something very courageous in filing the suit and deserved the same respect as Michael Jackson."
Asked if media coverage hastened a settlement, Feldman replied, "I can only speculate on that, but logic dictates that Michael Jackson was more affected by it because his career depended on it . . . . "
Feldman, a Santa Monica, Calif., lawyer who is a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, also was asked if there was a difference in coverage between the tabloid press and the "general press."
"The tabloid press contaminates witnesses," he replied. "They pay witnesses to go on television and as soon as a witness takes a dollar, it allows the other side to argue that they are doing this for the money. And the more vivid the testimony, the more details they offer, the more its worth on television."
Feldman said he deflected money offers by making it clear that he would not allow his client or the boy's parents to be interviewed.
"I told the tabloids that if I ever saw the need for such coverage, I would go to the legitimate press rather than the tabloids," he recalled.
Feldman said the media blitz surrounding the case forced a change in strategy that brought him before the cameras as well.
He explained, "Everything that is normally done privately, secretly, depositions where you are at liberty to ask questions without fear of bad answers, became minitrials because that witness would walk out of the office and be interviewed on camera. Or the testimony of that witness would show up in a motion that the media would have access to. It was the most pressure I have ever experienced."
Media pressure in the case may not have ended. Possible criminal charges against Jackson are being investigated by the Santa Barbara County (Calif.) district attorney's office.
The Daily Journal said Feldman had a reputation for avoiding the media and arguing his cases in court.


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