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The State

Jackson Attorney Fined $1,000 for His Relentless Questioning

August 18, 2004|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

The judge in the Michael Jackson child-molestation case angrily slapped one of the entertainer's attorneys with a $1,000 fine Tuesday for repeatedly trying to pry information about a patient from a psychologist who was on the witness stand.

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville took the unusual action at a pretrial hearing that was punctuated with revelations that were not fully explored.

The most provocative was that an investigator for Jackson's former attorney, Mark Geragos, was a patient of Stan J. Katz, the psychologist who alerted authorities that Jackson may have molested a 12-year-old cancer survivor. The private investigator, Bradley Miller, reportedly held key evidence seized in a November search of his Beverly Hills office.

On the witness stand, Katz dodged defense questions aimed at getting him to acknowledge Miller as a patient. He said privacy concerns kept him from disclosing the identities of any patients.

But defense attorney Brian Oxman kept hammering away at the relationship between the two men.

Clearly fed up, Melville stopped the questioning, levied the fine on Oxman, and sternly addressed Jackson's lead attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr.

"Mr. Mesereau," he said, "you're in charge of this team. We've got a problem."

Jackson attended Monday's proceedings but not Tuesday's.

As it was in court Monday, the crucial issue Tuesday was whether prosecutors knew before their raid that Miller worked for Geragos. Defense attorneys contend they did, and that their search violated the principle of attorney-client confidentiality and therefore videotapes and other evidence seized should be inadmissible in court.

In his aggressive questioning, Oxman suggested the psychologist, who was interviewed by prosecutors before the search of Miller's office, could have told authorities Geragos employed Miller.

On the witness stand, though, Katz denied saying any such thing.

In another blow for the defense, Melville rejected a portion of their argument that the November search of Jackson's Neverland estate had been conducted illegally. But the judge agreed to allow the defense to challenge the seizure of specific items at the ranch.

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