DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Crime

Michael Jackson's $15 Million Payoff

Agreed to pay $15 million to settle boy's 1993 sex abuse claim

Michael Jackson

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Michael Jackson's $15 Million Payoff

Chandler v. Jackson

1993 Michael Jackson Accuser's Family Lawyer Retainer

JUNE 16--Michael Jackson agreed to pay $15.3 million to settle child molestation charges leveled against him in 1993 by a California boy, according to a confidential legal agreement. A heavily redacted version of the document can be found here.

The January 1994 agreement contains a one-line reference to Jackson delivering "confessions of judgment" totaling $15,331,250 to the boy's attorneys. However, since the entire eight-page section of the agreement titled "Settlement Payment" is not included in the document, it is unclear how the eight-figure payout was distributed to the boy or what his parents were paid. However, a reference to the establishment of a "qualified funding asset" would indicate that an annuity (likely tax free) was a central part of the settlement.

As with most confidential deals, Jackson admitted no wrongdoing, noting that the cash was to settle claims for "damages for alleged personal injuries arising out of claims of negligence" and not for "claims of intentional or wrongful acts of sexual molestation." The agreement also states that Jackson elected to settle "in view of the impact the action has had and could have in the future on his earnings and potential income."

The settlement was signed four months after the boy and his parents filed a civil suit against the King of Pop and just weeks after the teenager signed a sworn declaration luridly detailing Jackson's alleged abuse.

The unredacted portions of the agreement do not address payment of the accuser's legal fees, though a September 1993 retainer agreement between the family and attorney Larry Feldman called for the family to pay their counsel's fee. According to the retainer, Feldman stood to earn $3 million on a $15 million settlement. Any recovery above that figure earned Feldman's firm an additional ten percent.

A redacted version of the settlement agreement was prepared in connection with a May 1996 lawsuit brought against Jackson by the child's father, who claimed that the singer breached terms of the 1994 legal agreement during a June 1995 interview on ABC's "Primetime Live." During that chat with Diane Sawyer, Jackson and then-wife Lisa Marie Presley accused the boy of fabricating his tales of sexual abuse. Those televised statements, the father argued, violated a provision of the 1994 agreement guaranteeing that Jackson would not publicly accuse the boy or his parents of "any wrongful conduct whatsoever." As part of the 1996 lawsuit, a California judge ordered that counsel for Presley--who married Jackson in May 1994 and divorced him in January 1996--be provided with the heavily redacted version of the 31-page settlement document. (22 pages)