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Jackson's Lawyers Attack LAPD Investigation

November 17, 1993|JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In response to mounting legal pressure, lawyers for Michael Jackson have accused police officers of telling outrageous lies and of using "any device to generate potential evidence" against the entertainer, who is accused of sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy.

"I am advised that your officers have told frightened youngsters outrageous lies, such as, 'We have nude photos of you' in order to push them into making accusations against Mr. Jackson," lawyer Bertram Fields wrote in an Oct. 28 letter to Police Chief Willie L. Williams. "There are, of course, no such photos of these youngsters, and they have no truthful accusations to make. But your officers appear ready to employ any device to generate potential evidence against Mr. Jackson."

Fields added that "these tactics are not merely inappropriate, they are disgraceful."

Fields' accusations--the latest leveled by the Jackson camp against the entertainer's adversaries--are attached to a motion in the boy's lawsuit against Jackson and were obtained Tuesday by The Times. They were dismissed by the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission and derided by the lawyer for the boy whom Jackson allegedly molested.

The lawyer, Larry R. Feldman, said that even if the accusations were true, they would have no bearing on the boy's lawsuit against Jackson because the suit does not involve the LAPD or its officers.

"Attaching this letter to this motion is further evidence that they intend to try this case in the press, not in the courtroom," Feldman said. "This letter has nothing to do with a stay, nothing to do with the depositions. It has nothing to do with the civil case at all."

Gary Greenebaum, president of the Police Commission, had no comment on the civil suit, but he said Fields' accusations about the conduct of the LAPD are unfounded.

"My sense of the investigation by the LAPD is that it has been very, very thorough, very, very careful and very, very cautious," said Greenebaum, who received a copy of Fields' letter. "I've felt very good about the way the department has handled it."

Cmdr. David J. Gascon, an LAPD spokesman, declined to comment. Howard Weitzman, Jackson's criminal attorney, echoed the allegations made by Fields. "Investigating officers have misrepresented the state of the evidence in an attempt to trick people into saying things that are untrue," Weitzman said.

In a brief completed by Feldman on Tuesday, he argued that the judge presiding over the boy's lawsuit should reject Jackson's efforts to delay the case. Attorneys for Jackson have said the case should be put on hold until the criminal investigation is concluded or postponed for six years, when the statute of limitations for the crime of child molestation would expire.

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Legal analysts give that suggestion little weight, especially because Jackson is seeking to block lawyers for the boy from interviewing witnesses in the case. Although Jackson could refuse to answer questions by exercising his constitutional right not to be forced to incriminate himself, legal experts say it would be highly unusual for a judge to agree to block lawyers from interviewing other witnesses.

Feldman has also argued that the boy has a right to proceed with the suit so he can put the case behind him. As part of the document he submitted Tuesday, Feldman included a statement from the boy's therapist, who states that a long delay could hurt the boy's chances for recovery.

"I believe that it would be extremely harmful to the emotional health and well-being of my patient if there is a delay in the legal proceedings in this case," psychotherapist Nancy Cotterman-Garcia said in a declaration dated Nov. 11. "I further believe that a significant postponement of the court proceedings, such as the six-year delay requested by the defendant, will cause severe emotional distress to this child and interfere with his chances for recovery."

In his brief, Feldman added that a long delay in the civil case would make it much more difficult to gather evidence.

"Many of the witnesses are not residents of the United States," he wrote. "It will be difficult, if not impossible, to locate them six years hence. Some may die, some may forget, or at the very least, their memories will have faded."

Along with legal arguments, attorneys for both sides traded accusations about who has most aggressively courted media attention in the case.

According to Jackson's lawyers, Feldman "has deliberately sought out publicity as frequently as he possibly could, fueling the publicity fire at every opportunity, conducting a press conference about the case, offering to go on television talk shows to discuss it and even inviting the media to hearings."

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