Family 'didn't want to cash in on Jackson'

Last updated at 15:28 04 April 2005

Michael Jackson's accuser and his family have never planned to cash in on child molestation accusations with a civil lawsuit, a family lawyer told jurors on Friday in the pop singer's criminal trial.

In a charged exchange between two of California's leading lawyers, Jackson's attorney Tom Mesereau repeatedly questioned lawyer Larry Feldman about any potential plans by the accuser's family to sue Jackson.

Jackson's lawyers say the family has charged the pop singer falsely to subsequently enrich themselves in a separate civil suit.

Jackson is charged with molesting the boy at his Neverland Valley Ranch and with plying the youth with alcohol in order to abuse him.

He is also accused of conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

The pop star has pleaded innocent. He faces more than two decades in prison if convicted.

Denied plans

Feldman, who has consulted with the family, repeatedly denied there were plans for a civil lawsuit but acknowledged that another boy he represented in a civil suit in 1993 won a significant settlement from Jackson.

"I had no plans to file a lawsuit" in the current case, he said at one point. "I have never been asked to file any lawsuit against Michael Jackson," he added, referring specifically to the current case.

But he conceded the accuser, now 15, had the legal right to sue Jackson for about five more years.

Though prosecution witnesses are barred by Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville from telling the jury how much Jackson paid the boy, Feldman said the case was "absolutely resolved in (the accuser's) favour."

Feldman also told the jury that after Jackson paid the family in 1993 the boy stopped cooperating with authorities, who never brought criminal charges against the singer.

Past accusations

Feldman's testimony also set the stage for the next phase of Jackson's trial, which will begin next week and feature nine prosecution witnesses to testify about past accusations of sexual misconduct by the embattled superstar involving adolescent boys.

The boy who accused Jackson in 1993, who is now in his 20s, has reportedly been unwilling to take part in the trial and is not expected to testify, though prosecutors have listed his mother as a witness.

Feldman said it was Jackson's legal team at the time who insisted on paying the boy's parents as part of the settlement "because they (Jackson's lawyers) didn't want anybody ever talking about this."

Jackson did not admit guilt in the 1993 case.

Attorneys for the 46-year-old entertainer say the current molestation allegations were invented by the mother of the boy, who was 13 at the time.