Wednesday, March 16th 2005, 6:48AM
Does Court TV reporter Diane Dimond owe Tom Sneddon big time?
Yesterday, I learned that the Santa Barbara district attorney – whose prosecution of Michael Jackson is Dimond’s beat – played a key role in killing a slander suit that Jackson filed against her a decade ago.
In 1995, when Dimond was working for “Hard Copy,” she reported that Sneddon was searching for an explicit 27-minute videotape showing Jackson molesting a boy.
Sneddon soon concluded that no such video existed, but not before Dimond appeared on L.A.’s KABC radio and her Paramount-produced tabloid show to trumpet the imagined X-rated details.
“It was taken right before Christmas, as the story goes, and it was recorded by one of Michael Jackson’s own security cameras,” Dimond said on the radio, touting her “Hard Copy” scoop. “Truly explicit,” she added, noting that she had not seen the alleged tape.
Sneddon, in an unusual instance of a prosecutor involving himself in a civil suit, signed a declaration supporting Dimond’s version of events. The trial judge dismissed the suit, saying Jackson couldn’t prove malice or false reporting.
Jackson appealed the judge’s ruling, and Sneddon’s declaration was cited extensively in the November 1998 California Court of Appeal’s decision affirming the summary judgment.
Neither Jackson’s lawsuit nor Sneddon’s role in snuffing it is disclosed in Dimond’s official bio on the CourtTV.com Web site or in the detailed history of her Jackson coverage, which includes her exclusive November 2003 interview with Sneddon.
“The lawsuit was a public event, and it need not be disclosed every time Diane reports on Jackson, nor will it be,” Court TV officials said in a statement yesterday.
Doesn’t Dimond have a conflict of interest?
“Court TV does have a conflict-of-interest policy, and neither Diane’s reports on Jackson nor the fact that Mr. Sneddon submitted an affidavit supporting the defense of a lawsuit 10 years ago is even close to any kind of conflict of interest – at Court TV or any other news organization,” the statement insisted.
“For Diane Dimond to cease reporting on Jackson because he sued her would mean that he had intimidated her from reporting on his activities.”
I guess I’ll leave it to the court of public opinion.