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Settlement near in Jackson lawsuit

The civil lawsuit aimed at singer Michael Jackson may be coming to a close, with attorneys for the 14-year-old boy who claimed the singer sexually molested him accepting a multimillion-dollar settlement. A court hearing scheduled for today could determine the outcome of the case.

Settlement rumors began circulating last week, with a number of reports alleging a deal between the two sides had been reached.

Larry R. Feldman, the boy’s attorney, and Howard Weitzman, one of Jackson’s lawyers, were unavailable for comment. But Johnnie Cochran Jr., the other attorney on the Jackson defense team, said Friday the reports of a huge settlement were “false,” but declined to elaborate.

The lawyers are scheduled to appear in Santa Monica Superior Court this afternoon, continuing a hearing that was originally set for last week but postponed at the court’s request. Presumably, the postponement was so the two camps could hammer out a settlement agreement, which insiders suggest could be more than $ 25 million. The delay also allowed the court time to evaluate Feldman’s recent motions, among them a request that the court order Jackson’s lawyers to turn over the singer’s financial records.

Change of legal guardian

Feldman recently also filed with the court a motion to remove the boy’s parents as his legal guardian, and substitute retired appellate court judge Jack Gersten. Feldman argued that an impartial third party would be more inclined to look after the best interests of the boy. Sources said late Monday the money would be placed in a trust fund for the boy.

The settlement could affect the criminal investigation of Jackson, as California law allows minor victims of alleged sex crimes the option of testifying in criminal proceedings. While a settlement agreement could not lawfully include a provision that the boy would not testify, the parties could agree that the boy testifying in open court would hinder his recovery, and therefore he could not be compelled to testify. It is unlikely that Jackson attorneys would enter into a settlement without assurances the boy would not testify.

Such a decision could thwart the ongoing investigation by Santa Barbara County Sheriffs and Los Angeles Police, absent any direct evidence linking Jackson, and if the boy is the singer’s only accuser.

The move to settle could also be a defense trial tactic. If the boy did testify in the criminal case, the existence of a civil settlement could be introduced in an effort to taint the boy’s credibility.

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