$7 Million Judgment Against Michael Jackson

Jackson owes $5.3 million

Jury returns verdict in favor of concert promoters   

By Elizabeth Rodriguez

Entertainer Michael Jackson reneged on a contract with Marcel Avram and will have to pay the concert promoter $5.3 million for failing to perform at two millennium concerts, a Superior Court jury in Santa Maria decided Thursday.

Both sides claimed victory following announcement of the jury’s verdict, which came after a week of deliberations.

“Mr. Avram has been completely vindicated,” said the concert promototer’s attorney, Louis “Skip” Miller, outside the courthouse. Avram was in his home in Switzerland.

Avram claimed in his lawsuit that he lost millions of dollars when Jackson failed to perform in the millennium shows in Australia and Hawaii. Jackson, whose Neverland Ranch is in the Santa Ynez Valley, countered that Avram actually cancelled the shows months before.

“He’s very happy.” Miller said of his client. “It’s not just money; this is very important to him. It was his character, it was his integrity that the jury accepted.”

The money was awarded to Avram was for loss of profits. Despite the win, Miller said he will appeal some of Judge Zel Canter’s rulings that prohibited the jury from considering other damages.

Jackson’s attorneys said the $5.3 million ruling was a success considering the amount Avram sought in the lawsuit. “Facing the realities as they are, it was a victory,” said Zia Modabber.

Steve Cochran, Jackson’s lead attorney, would not discuss his client’s financial status, but did call the ruling a “financial success.”

“Mr Avram wanted to take off (Jackson’s) head for $34 million,” he said. “It was in his interest it fight.”

After the trial, members of the jury met with the attorneys and discussed issues in the case. Jurors asked the attorneys and their assistants for their autographs.

Some jurors said there were tense moments during the week-long deliberations, but they were able to solve disagreements peacefully.

“Nothing was out of control,” said one juror.

Some of the jurors said they became friends during the four month trial, and planned to get together in the future.

The trial received international attention when it began late last year, especially during Jackson’s several appearances in Santa Maria to testify. Hundreds of fans gathered outside the courthouse to watch his arrival and some were given tickets to sit in the courtroom. Jackson’s face and courtroom antics also made headlines.

In contrast, at Thursday’s verdict reading, only local media representatives were present.