An extract from
‘The Abrams Report’ for June 16
Guest: Mariaine Croes, Thomas Mesereau, Scott Cornfield, Clint Van Zandt
ABRAMS: Was Michael Jackson close to being convicted or at least hung jury? Documents just released by the court show the jurors initially said they could not reach a verdict on at least two of the charges against Jackson, the misdemeanor alcohol charges just hours before the verdict was read. The jury sent a note to the judge that read we cannot agree on the lesser counts of seven and eight. About 15 minutes later, another note, please disregard our previous request with counts seven and eight. Less than two hours later the jury had reached a verdict, not guilty on all counts.
Joining me now for what I like to call his first live lawyer-to-lawyer interview, Jackson‘s attorney Tom Mesereau. Tom, thanks for being on the program. Appreciate it.
THOMAS MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S ATTORNEY: Thank you for inviting me, Dan.
ABRAMS: So, you must have thought that things were looking pretty good when they sent out that first note if they are fighting over misdemeanor alcohol charges?
MESEREAU: You bet. It was obvious they had acquitted Mr. Jackson on the serious felony counts. They were briefly divided on some misdemeanor counts, none of which would have brought any jail time. And before we even completed our discussions with Judge Melville about that question they sent another note saying disregard the last note, so of course we were encouraged.
ABRAMS: Yes. Now, at the courthouse, there was a sense near the end of the case, as opposed to the beginning of the case, that Michael Jackson actually might get convicted of something. Was there ever a point where you were concerned that he might get convicted of one of the serious charges?
MESEREAU: No. The only thing I was worried about was the fact that I don‘t know the jurors. And when you are being judged by 12 people that you don‘t know there‘s always the possibility something could go wrong. But other than that normal concern, I was never concerned about their case. I never thought they had a case to begin with. I think it never should have been prosecuted. And we were always hopeful from the very beginning that Michael Jackson was going to be acquitted of all counts.
ABRAMS: And I have to say to be fair we had heard from various sources that you remained confident throughout the deliberation process. I remember saying to people you know come on, he can‘t really be that confident, and they kept saying yes, no, he is. He is. He‘s really that confident.
Let me ask you this, did you ever prepare Michael Jackson for the possibility of a conviction? Did you every sit him down and say look, if you are convicted they‘re going to—they very well may put the cuffs on you right there in court and take you away?
MESEREAU: Well you always have to be candid with your client about possibilities. That‘s part of your ethical and professional duty to the client. But I was always optimistic about the case from day one. I always thought the case was bogus. I always thought their witnesses would collapse on the witness stand. And I always thought the witness we had and the investigation we had done was going to be earth shattering in the courtroom and I think I was correct on all of those issues.
ABRAMS: But how do you say something like that to a guy like Michael Jackson? And how down you sit him down and warn him about what you hope isn‘t going to happen, what you say you think wasn‘t going to happen, but you still, as you point out, still have to warn him about the possibilities? How do you do it?
MESEREAU: Well what you often do with a client is you say listen, you know I‘m your lawyer, I have professional and ethical obligations to disclose to you what the realities are about this process. Here is what is theoretically possible under the law. Here is what could happen. And then you start telling your client candidly if you are going to be honest, and you should be, about how you think the case is going. And I always thought this case was a pile of rubbish and I still do.
ABRAMS: How did he react when you talked to him about that possibility?
MESEREAU: Well I don‘t want to go into confidential discussions with Michael Jackson, but Michael is a very easy person to deal with. He was always very down-to-earth, very sincere, very honest, very cooperative. You know, it would be nice if every client was as nice and comfortable to deal with as Michael Jackson. Believe me. He‘s a very down to earth, nice, kindhearted person.
ABRAMS: You say—talk about easy to deal with, so I‘ve got to ask you this question. There‘s that day that you‘re seen pacing in front of the courthouse waiting for Michael Jackson to arrive. He has gone to the hospital, the judge has said he‘s going to hold him in contempt of court if he doesn‘t get there within an hour. You are seen there on your cell phone frantically calling, et cetera. Tell us what was happening at that moment for you.
MESEREAU: Well, Michael had a health problem. He went to the hospital. We disclosed all of this immediately to the court. The judge got very firm about wanting to see him in the courtroom despite whatever health problem he might have. And of course, I called the hospital and said get him here immediately. And I did not want to have Michael held in contempt. I didn‘t want a bench warrant imposed. I didn‘t want bail to be revoked, so obviously I was concerned. But it was a legitimate health problem…
ABRAMS: Were you nervous?
MESEREAU: … and the judge—sure, I was nervous that would he get there on time, but this had nothing to do with any peculiarity of Michael Jackson. He had legitimate health problems that‘s why he was in the hospital.
ABRAMS: But have you ever had a client who‘s gone—I mean a lot of people kept saying why does he keep going to the hospital for back problems? I mean a lot of our viewers kept writing in and saying I‘ve had serious back problems, I don‘t go to the hospital every time my back hurts.
MESEREAU: Well you‘re not Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson is a unique individual who has had health problems from time to time, including serious back problems. So you‘re welcome to your situation and he is welcome to his.
ABRAMS: And—but when you say he was easy to deal with that didn‘t make it a little tougher having to deal with, as you point out, Michael Jackson being unique in that way?
MESEREAU: That particular day I was concerned about him getting there on time when the judge became unusually firm. But on a regular basis dealing with Michael Jackson was delightful. He was very cooperative and very kind and very understanding. And one of the reasons he got into this problem was because he has been too kind and too good-natured to too many people.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you about that…
MESEREAU: He‘s a very nice person to deal with.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you about that. I want to play you a little piece of sound from one of the jurors when—juror number one—when he was on our program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED JUROR: Based on the evidence that I have reviewed from the early ‘90‘s, I think that it‘s quite possible that he has molested children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So juror number one clearly didn‘t believe there was enough evidence to convict him in this particular case. But this juror, and some of the other jurors, saying that they thought it was either possible, likely, that Michael Jackson had molested children in the past. Were you always convinced that none, not a single one of the allegations, the youth pastor who came in and testified, other people who testified about things they saw, not a single one of those was true?
MESEREAU: That is absolutely correct. He has never molested a soul. The prosecution tried to prove that five individuals were molested. Three of them came in and said it was ridiculous, it never happened. One of them never showed up to testify and his family took money from Mr. Jackson. The other one who came in took money from Mr. Jackson, his mother took money from Mr. Jackson and his mother went to a tabloid and sold the story.
ABRAMS: So why do you think some of the jurors…
MESEREAU: You add all that up and what do you get?
ABRAMS: Why do you think some of the jurors believe that he had molested children in the past?
MESEREAU: Because I think the prosecutors kept trying to float false theories to influence them, and I think just the allegations alone disturbed people. But if you really looked at the facts carefully, if you really looked at the credibility or lack there of these witnesses, Mr. Jackson was not only not guilty, he was completely innocent of any of these allegations.
ABRAMS: Play a little bit of sound from prosecutor Ron Zonen on the program earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON ZONEN, PROSECUTED MICHAEL JACKSON: Ten years ago there were credible accusations from two young boys, Mr. Jackson paid them enormous amounts of money to make them go away. Ten years later another child comes along saying exactly the same thing. What are we supposed to do not file a case like that because somebody might be critical of us? They‘d be more critical of us if we didn‘t pursue that type of case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You can understand why it‘s hard for some to believe that someone pays $20-something million in one case for something that never happened.
MESEREAU: Not if you know the situation. Not if you know that Michael Jackson is a musical genius, a creative soul who likes to sit in trees and create music, who likes to spend time in the studio, who likes to walk alone through the forest. He‘s someone who doesn‘t like lawyers, doesn‘t like you know to be involved in serious and complex business discussions. And basically what he told people to do was hey, just settle this thing, I want to get along with my musical career.
And Larry Feldman, a very, very competent lawyer was representing some people and dragging it along and going to the airwaves. And yes, money was paid. It was paid by somebody who has probably grossed over $1 billion in his career. He now regrets making any settlement. He wishes he had taken the right to trial and if he had, he would have won the case.
ABRAMS: We are going to take a break. Tom Mesereau, if you could stick around for a moment there‘s I know one thing that I‘m sure he‘s looking forward to responding to, and that is someone who‘s out there saying that Michael Jackson shouldn‘t have custody of his kids anymore. We‘ll talk to Tom Mesereau about that.
And we‘ve got more on the search for missing American teen, Natalee Holloway. It‘s now been 17 days since she disappeared in Aruba. Police using a helicopter to search for her.
And a convicted child molester apparently took notes about what seems like or allegedly was the molestations of 36,000 children across five states. Police say he may be one of the most prolific child molesters they‘ve ever seen, apparently kept a diary of his alleged victims. Police are even asking for your help. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, more with Michael Jackson‘s attorney, Tom Mesereau, but first the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: They‘re reporting that Michael Jackson, $270 million in debt. That‘s amazing. This announcement was made at the Thomas Mesereau Neverland Ranch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We‘re back with Michael Jackson‘s attorney, Tom Mesereau. So Tom, Jay Leno there making some jokes at Michael Jackson‘s expense. Did the jokes bother you?
MESEREAU: Yes, they did because they were based on false facts, false publicity and a false understanding of the case. Fortunately, the jury was not affected by any of this nonsense and they acquitted him across the board.
ABRAMS: But you‘re going—you are going to talk to Jay tomorrow, right, on his show?
ABRAMS: Speaking of his finances, how bad are his finances and have all of your fees been paid?
MESEREAU: I‘m not going to tell you about my fees. That is confidential as you know as a lawyer, and as far as his finances go that‘s really not my area. I‘m not one of his financial advisors. I will tell you this. That Michael Jackson is most certainly not broke. He has all kinds of opportunities all over the world, and he will always do well.
ABRAMS: Any truth to the allegation that you or Michael Jackson, more
specifically, is trying to get back pictures that have been taken of him of
· in 1993, naked pictures?
MESEREAU: Well, my co-counsel made a motion to have all property returned by the court. As you already I think have gathered, Mr. Sneddon and his office have been trying for you know almost 15 years to try and find a case against Mr. Jackson and they have done all kinds of search warrants and seizures and they‘ve tried to hang on to anything they could for hoping that something might develop in the future, and we want all of his property returned.
ABRAMS: This is—let me play a piece of sound. This is from Tom Sneddon speaking on MSNBC earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM SNEDDON, PROSECUTED MICHAEL JACKSON: That is just another instance where the defense team doesn‘t know what they are talking about. I don‘t have those photos. The sheriff‘s department doesn‘t have those photos. Nobody can get those photos without a court order. There are only three names on the signature to get in there and you need signatures from two of them and a court—a judge‘s approval, so this is just typical of what‘s been going on in this case ever since it‘s happened. The people don‘t know what they are talking about and it‘s not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: What do you make of that?
MESEREAU: It‘s sour grapes. He knows they‘ve seized material through the years, which they‘ve hung on to. In fact, in this trial they tried to use some material they found in the early ‘90‘s to influence the juror in this case. And as you may recall one or more of the jurors commented on the fact that this material had nothing to do with these alleged victims. So all we want to do is get all of his property back and stop them from hanging on to it and trying to use it for improper purposes.
ABRAMS: In the opening statements you said the following, Mr. Jackson will tell you he found those kids going through his magazines and grabbed them from them and locked them in his briefcase. Michael Jackson will tell you he got a very bad feeling and intuition. The accuser‘s mother grabs Michael‘s hand and has her children all hold hands, and she says let‘s all kneel down and pray with our daddy Michael. Is sure sounded like in the opening statements you were saying Michael Jackson is going to testify.
MESEREAU: At that time I intended to put him on the stand and he wanted to be on the stand. But their case was so poor and their witnesses so lacking in credibility, and after we had showed the jury a two-hour and 45-minute interview with Michael Jackson about his life and his philosophy and how he lives, it looked as if it would serve no purpose. And I was correct. He was acquitted on every single count, felony and misdemeanor.
ABRAMS: But you‘ve even said that Michael Jackson is different than many people. And as a result, I would think that would have made you very nervous to put him on the witness stand.
MESEREAU: Not at all. When Michael Jackson opens his mouth, as he did in the interview that went for two hours and 45 minutes, you see what kind of a person he is. Very down-to-earth, very honest, very simple taste, and he‘s really a good person. And trust me that affected the jury tremendously.
ABRAMS: Well and some of the jurors made that quite clear on interviews that we did with them. They seemed to echo that statement. But I had that picture in my head of him testifying in that civil case, putting up the, you know, his hands behind his ears with the you know, the donkey sign or whatever it was. And you know I think people say boy it would had to have been a risk to even consider putting Michael Jackson on the witness stand.
MESEREAU: I don‘t think so at all. I think he would have been a terrific witness. The problem was that their case was so bad, their witnesses just were so destroyed, and our witnesses were so good that we thought about it and said you know we‘ve won the case, there is no purpose. We were correct.
ABRAMS: Well I think you were correct and I think that everyone sort of agreed at that point I think it would have been a mistake to put him on the witness stand.
Finally, let me ask you this about this new effort by Gloria Allred, who has filed a request that the Department of Child and Family Services to take Michael‘s children away from him, saying that there is a different burden of proof there, a lower burden of proof, and as a result that he‘s simply not a fit father.
MESEREAU: Gloria Allred is a publicity hound. She‘s trying to get something out of this case. She‘s devastated and humiliated by what she said about the prosecution‘s case and what the jury came back with, so she‘s looking for some press, she‘s looking for something to be involved in. So what else is new?
ABRAMS: And so I assume Michael Jackson will fight any effort to have his kids taken away from him?
MESEREAU: You bet he will. He is a wonderful loving, doting, caring father. He will absolutely fight it.
ABRAMS: So look, you are someone who‘s been involved with civil rights and
a lot of important causes. You‘ve taken on a lot of cases pro bono. I
think a lot of people may not know that. That you do a lot of work for
free for people who need it, et cetera. You are not the typical—quote –
· “celebrity attorney”, and yet you are now going to be the guy that many people are going to say get me Mesereau on the line. How does that feel?
MESEREAU: Well, I don‘t want to be known as an entertainment lawyer and I don‘t want to be known as a celebrity lawyer. My deep interest is in civil rights. It‘s in justice. I‘m going to continue to do pro bono work at clinics in Los Angeles. I‘m going to continue to try a death penalty case in the Deep South every year for free. And I‘m going to continue to be who I am. And I really would rather be known as someone who fights for justice than someone who just attracts celebrities.
ABRAMS: Well let me warn you that when you show in court these days, there may be a little bit of a different reaction whether you like it or not.
Tom Mesereau, thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
MESEREAU: Thank you, Dan, for inviting me.
Thnx Jessica for the article