Jackson 'paid $18m to avoid child abuse claim 10 years ago'

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The Independent US

Michael Jackson, the one-time "King of Pop", secretly agreed to pay more than $18m (£10m) a decade ago to avoid damaging child molestation accusations, according to newly-surfaced court documents.

Michael Jackson, the one-time "King of Pop", secretly agreed to pay more than $18m (£10m) a decade ago to avoid damaging child molestation accusations, according to newly-surfaced court documents.

The confidential papers, uncovered by Court TV, the American cable network, constitute what appears to have been a legal settlement, negotiated in 1994, between lawyers for Mr Jackson and for a 13-year-old boy who had accused the mega-star of sexually abusing him the previous year.

They have surfaced as Mr Jackson awaits trial on a new set of allegations from another boy. This time the singer, 45, faces a total of ten charges. They include committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, and conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

While it has long been known that Mr Jackson negotiated a financial settlement to bury the 1993 allegations, the details of the agreement and the financial sums involved had not previously been revealed. The document is carefully worded to acknowledge "negligence" on the part of the star in his relations with the boy but not actual sexual abuse.

"This settlement payment is in settlement of claims for alleged compensatory damages for alleged personal injuries arising out of claims of negligence and not for claims of intentional or wrongful acts of sexual molestation," it says.

Any legal acknowledgement of sexual molestation in the settlement could have had disastrous implications for the Jackson defence in the coming trial. Even without that concession, there will be concern in the Jackson camp of the negative influence the latest revelations may have on future jurors.

"Whoever released this agreement, whether it is the actual agreement or not, did it deliberately and wilfully with the intent to influence potential jurors in the current case, which is outrageous and an act of desperation," suggested Raymone Bain, a Jackson spokeswoman. She refused to say more arguing that the settlement had been bound by a confidentiality pact. "We are going to abide by that and not comment."

The court documents indicate that in addition to the $15.3 million, which was structured in the form of a trust that became available to the boy on his 18th birthday, Mr Jackson also agreed to pay the boy's parents $1.5 million each in lump sums as well as $5 million, plus expenses, to their lawyer.

The signing of the pact caused deep frustration to prosecutors at the time. The settlement, and the silence that was bought from the alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, robbed them of the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against Mr Jackson in court.

In a sworn declaration in 1993, the first accuser said he had met the pop star at his father's car rental business in California and had visited Jackson's Neverland ranch on frequent occasions. He said he had slept in Jackson's bed and the pair had engaged in open-mouthed kissing, fondling and oral sex.

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