Sex, drugs and abduction by limo - the claims against Jacko that even his enemies won't buy

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The Independent US

Six weeks after the end of the child molestation trial in which the erstwhile King of Pop went through a public wringer before being acquitted on all counts, he is back in the legal crosshairs all over again for his behaviour around tender-aged boys. This time, however, not even his worst enemy is likely to believe the allegations against him.

A Louisiana man called Joseph Thomas Bartucci Jr claims that, in 1984, he was lured into a limousine at the World's Fair in New Orleans and taken on a nine-day ride to California in which the world's most famous pop star supposedly performed oral sex against his will, tried unsuccessfully to get him to return the favour, forced him to consume mood-altering drugs, threatened him, cut him with a razor blade and plunged a steel wire into his chest.

According to Mr Bartucci, who was 18 at the time but apparently looked quite a bit younger, the limo then dropped him back off in New Orleans, with a melodramatic warning from Mr Jackson's staff not to breathe a word of what had happened. Mr Bartucci was so traumatised he forgot everything about the ordeal, keeping the experience completely repressed until 2003, when a television documentary about Mr Jackson's legal woes with the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office magically reawakened his memory.

Mr Bartucci's claims have been investigated by the New Orleans police, the Los Angeles police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, none of whom found grounds to go ahead with a criminal complaint.

With the state unwilling to do battle on his behalf, Mr Bartucci went ahead and filed a civil suit against Mr Jackson last November. He is seeking compensation for problems he alleges were provoked by the events of 21 years ago: depression, suicidal tendencies, marital difficulties, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Bartucci recently liquidated his insurance and teaching businesses because, he said, his eyesight was deteriorating and he could not see well enough to keep working. He dates the onset of his vision problems to his alleged encounter with the superstar. For this and other reasons, he is also asking for punitive damages.

Barring some new revelation yet to be made public, it is hard to see how Mr Jackson could possibly be troubled by so outlandish a case. Mr Bartucci has pinpointed the dates of the alleged limo abduction, in the latter part of May 1984, but seems unable to provide any corroborating evidence.

Mr Jackson's lawyers, however, say they can prove he could not have been doing what Mr Bartucci alleges on at least one of the days in question because he was photographed in the company of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, then the President and First Lady of the US.

Case dismissed? Not quite. We are talking about Michael Jackson, epitome of celebrity dysfunction. He has managed to fall out with the team of New Orleans lawyers he hired to make Mr Bartucci go away, and they are now suing him for $47,000 in claimedunpaid bills.

The pop star forgot to send a legal representative to a mandatory court appearance in New Orleans earlier this month, exposing him to the risk of civil contempt charges or, worse, a default judgement in Mr Bartucci's favour.

A new hearing has now been set for 17 August, at which Mr Jackson's lawyers hope to beg the court's forgiveness for their oversight and move swiftly to a dismissal of the suit. The singer himself is unlikely to make an appearance. According to his lawyers and representatives, he has made slow physical recovery from the ordeal of his criminal trial in Santa Maria, California, and has been back to hospital at least once.

Despite acquittal, his financial and professional future remain precarious. His father, Joe Jackson, was quoted in the German press recently, saying the singer was thinking of abandoning his Neverland ranch and moving to Berlin - scene of the baby-dangling episode in which he suspended his five-month-old son from a fourth-floor balcony to the horror of the fans arrayed below.