Attorneys for singer Michael Jackson were ordered by a Los Angeles court Tuesday to make the singer available before year’s end in the civil case lodged against the entertainer. The judge also set a date for the civil trial to begin and urged both sides to cooperate with discovery attempts.

Jackson’s lawyer Bert Fields dropped a bombshell during the court hearing Tuesday, claiming a Santa Barbara County grand jury had been impaneled and was close to indicting his client.

“A grand jury convened already in Santa Barbara County and they are about to take evidence,” Fields said. “And that means we should have a charging decision very, very soon.”

But Fields later backpedaled outside the courthouse, saying the district attorney there had only issued subpoenas for two witnesses, and a grand jury had not been sworn in. A hostile exchange between Howard Weitzman, Jackson’s criminal attorney, and reporters ensued when Weitzman said Fields “misspoke” during the hearing.

Larry Feldman, attorney for the 13-year-old boy, told the court that it could delay the civil case if the criminal case went forward. “I don’t know if there is even going to be an indictment,” Feldman said. “It may be an open file for six years.”

Feldman said his client would be pleased with Tuesday’s courtroom developments. “This is the first good news he’s had,” he said.

Superior Court judge David M. Rothman denied Fields’ motion to delay the civil proceedings until the criminal investigation involving Jackson had been completed, and set March 21, 1994, as the trial start date.

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