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Authorities Raid Home of Gay Porn Producer

Calabasas- Authorities raided the home of gay porn producer F. Mark Schaffel Saturday. Police searched Schaffel’s residence for over an hour possibly in connection with multiple counts of child molestation that law enforcement sources have leveled against Michael Jackson. Schaffel is a close business associate to Jackson but authorities have refused to disclose how or even if the search was connected to the sex charges the entertainer is facing.
Jackson is accused of seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to a minor for the purpose of committing a felony. He faces up to 24 years in prison if convicted.

Sheriff’s investigators from Santa Barbara County, where Jackson’s case is unfolding, searched the Calabasas residence of Schaffel between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, said John Caffrey, a deputy with the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department.

During the raid, police seized computers and other items belonging to Schaffel, a Jackson advisor who produced and sold footage of Jackson holding hands with a boy at his Neverland ranch to Fox TV in February 2003, police sources said.

Schaffel, who also produced Jackson’s song “What More Can I Give” two years ago, was not at home during the search, “Entertainment Tonight” reported on its Web site.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Chris Pappas declined to say whether a search warrant was executed, citing a gag order issued in the case .

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and two counts of giving the child an “intoxicating agent,” reportedly wine. He is free on $3 million bail.

Santa Barbara detectives have been tracking Schaffel’s movements since November, when they received a phone call from the FBI in Los Angeles informing them that Schaffel was under investigation for alleged involvement in child pornography in Budapest, law enforcement sources said.

Schaffel’s lawyer Tom Byrne denied last month that Schaffel had done anything wrong and declined any knowledge of an investigation into Schaffel’s activities.

Law enforcement sources said the agency last year investigated a videotape filmed and produced by Schaffel that involved alleged child pornography. The outcome of the FBI probe was unclear, but sources said the latest charges against Jackson renewed the agency’s interest in Schaffel’s activities.

The initial FBI probe was launched in the autumn of 2001 after the agency received a complaint from someone who provided a copy of a videotape filmed by Schaffel in Budapest that allegedly included footage of boys performing sex acts, sources said. Los Angeles Police Department detectives were also given a copy of the tape at the time – as were representatives of Jackson, sources said.

Santa Barbara detectives did not receive a copy of the Budapest video until December, after the boy featured in the Fox TV footage alleged to police that Jackson had molested him.

Schaffel’s association with Jackson first surfaced publicly in September 2002 after The Times reported that he had produced the pop star’s charity single, “What More Can I Give” – featuring two dozen stars including Ricky Martin, Reba McEntire and Mariah Carey. Schaffel had never produced a musical recording before and had no experience in the record business.

At the time, Jackson was in a bitter, public feud with his record company, Sony Music Entertainment. He had organized a fan protest at Sony’s New York headquarters and blamed “racist” executives at the company for blocking the release of the charity single, which he said was recorded to benefit victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It was later learned that Sony had backed off the project at the request of Jackson’s own advisors, after they discovered that Schaffel had produced and directed dozens of gay pornography videos.

Jackson’s advisors investigated Schaffel and found out that he and his business partner, Paul Hugo, once owned an adult film house called Sosume Industries, which distributed movies made by Schaffel through a subsidiary called Renegade Video. Schaffel also operated several gay porn sites on the Internet.

In an effort to convince Jackson to distance himself from Schaffel, the entertainer’s attorney, John Branca, showed the pop star a copy of the Budapest video now in the hands of authorities, sources said. Ultimately, Jackson’s attorneys fired Schaffel, notifying him in writing that the singer was terminating his contract because “information about Mr. Schaffel’s background, previously unknown to Mr. Jackson, [had] just been discovered,” according to a copy of the Nov. 15, 2001 legal notice.

But Schaffel didn’t stay out of Jackson’s life for long.

The producer resurfaced in the summer of 2002 to help Jackson create behind-the-scenes footage for an entertainment special, which included shots of the boy who later accused Jackson of molesting him. Following negotiations with several networks, Schaffel signed a $5-million deal for the pop star with Fox TV to air a Jackson special with the footage on Feb. 20, 2003.

The show was designed to discredit a Jackson special that aired Feb. 7 on ABC by British journalist Martin Bashir. The ABC documentary featured Jackson holding hands with the 12-year-old boy, who later claimed to have slept overnight in Jackson’s bedroom. Schaffel’s footage of Jackson at Neverland with the boy and his relatives painted the pop star in a better light.

In October, Jackson tried to resurrect the Schaffel-produced “What More Can I Give” charity project, premiering a video of the single at the Radio Music Awards. Jackson was honored with a Humanitarian Award on the program.

In November, Jackson began offering downloads of the song for $2 at a website, whatmorecanigive.com. But sources at Sony say Jackson has never secured permission to release the song by any of the artists on the recording. In addition, Jackson and Schaffel have never paid for the services of many individuals who worked on it, sources close to the project said.

 

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