The real villain in the Jackson case is plain old greed

MIKE LITTWIN

September 17, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

If you thought the Michael Jackson affair couldn't possibly get any uglier, read on.

We have now moved into the "civil lawsuit" part of the scandal. You saw that coming, didn't you? The lawyers are lining up for this baby like it's a Hollywood casting call for a sequel to "The Firm."

They smell blood. Oh, and money.

And while litigation is, of course, as American as murder on the highways, this is not your typical, rear-ender-cum-neck-brace deal.

This is something much worse.

As everyone knows, Jackson has been accused of sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy. The police have not yet filed charges and may never, if they can't corroborate the allegations. And so the boy sues. Right. That's what the suit says -- that the boy sues. Like the boy, say during soccer practice, piped up, "Hey, guys, know any really boss litigators?" and then called an attorney himself.

The parents did this.

The parents, who are divorced and in the middle of a custody case and each with his or her own lawyer, obviously are the force behind this, even though the kid's lawyer had the nerve to say, "My young client has shown great courage in prosecuting this matter."

The parents are apparently courageous enough to allow their child to testify in court -- and to be cross-examined in court -- as to the unspeakable wrong they say has been done to him.

Why?

What else can it be other than money? That's the payoff in a civil suit.

How much money would you take to put your child through that kind of an ordeal?

In this case, the parents are already quite wealthy. The father is often described as a Beverly Hills dentist to the stars. The mother's new husband is described as the founder of a rental car agency. They don't need the money, and neither would the child.

Yes, there are good and even compelling reasons to testify in criminal cases. Obviously, child molesters should be put behind bars or in medical facilities where they can get help and, more important, cannot get at children. But you do this with the greatest caution and always with concern for the child's well-being.

You don't have to be a psychologist -- all you have to do is watch daytime talk shows -- to understand the depth of pain that sexual abuse can cause. If this child has been abused, he needs help and care and nurturing and love.

But does he also need to be involved in civil lawsuits?

In the best-case scenario, the suit is a ploy on the part of the parents to move the L.A. police investigation along. If it's my kid, though, I'm wondering how more lawsuits, more publicity and more headlines can possibly be beneficial to him.

In the worst-case scenario, and the one presented by the Jackson side, this suit fits neatly into a pattern of seeking money. The Jackson people have described the entire affair as an extortion plot. And they have accused the father, a sometime screenwriter, of telling Jackson he would drop the charges if Jackson would set him up with a $20 million production company.

Can that be true?

Could anyone possibly be willing to go into partnership with someone who had molested his child? This is a screenplay that would not sell.

Now that the suit has been filed, what does Jackson do?

He can't afford to settle, obviously. Whatever its merits, this has moved way beyond a nuisance suit. If Jackson settles, he has virtually admitted guilt and finds himself ruined. Nobody, no matter how big a star, survives this kind of scandal if it's clear he's guilty.

And if the suit goes to trial, with all the attendant publicity, Jackson may be ruined anyway. It's one thing to have unsubstantiated charges floating around in the air and quite another to have them actually heard in a court of law.

However it plays out, if Jackson is a child abuser, he has already been effectively stopped. The parent who gives his kid over to Jackson at this point should immediately be held for observation.

But the issue here is the child. If he has been abused, there should be justice. But why file a civil suit when there's a criminal investigation still under way?

His lawyer said, "This child's life and emotional well-being hangs in the balance of what happens here."

That's probably true. But I don't see how this lawsuit does anything but tip the scales against him.

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