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Jacko’s Been Busted Since 2003

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Michael Jackson was financially ruined and had only a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank in the days before his latest sex scandal, a lawyer for his ex-business partner revealed at the opening of the bitter civil trial yesterday.

“He was broke. He had a couple of hundred thousand dollars in the bank” when Martin Bashir’s explosive documentary, “Living With Michael Jackson,” aired in January 2003, said Howard King, a lawyer for Jacko’s former business partner, gay-porn producer Marc Schaffel.

“He owed hundreds of millions of dollars. He had creditors galore.”

Jackson’s lawyer, however, blamed the superstar’s business mismanagement on his creative “genius” – and said he was “just as forgetful as the famously forgetful Albert Einstein.”

“Genius comes with eccentricity and quirkiness in other areas,” Thomas Mundell said in his opening statement. Schaffel, who is suing Jackson for $3.8 million, says he offered to help the “King of Pop” repair his reputation after the damning documentary was seen around the world. He was supposed to produce a charity single and make two positive documentaries using the star’s home videos.

Schaffel claims the singer offered to pay him 20 percent of the profits from the shows, but still owes him.

He also claims he lent Jackson more than $8 million since 2001, and is suing him for $2,164,500 in repayments.

King promised to lift the lid on Jackson’s bizarre world, and told the jurors they would hear dozens of abrupt and strange phone messages left by the star for Schaffel.

Jackson, too, will give evidence, via taped depositions that were recorded on two occasions in September 2005 and May 2006, both times in London.

“I’m going to take you through the world of Michael Jackson,” King told the jury. “It’s going to be relevant to the agreement my client made with him and the breaches he made with him.

“This is not going to be a case about Mr. Jackson the creative genius; this is going to be a business case. I’m going to show you Mr. Jackson’s financial condition in January 2003.

“Compounding his problems was the Bashir documentary, which was destroying his reputation. It showed him holding hands with 12-year-old boys and had scenes of Mr. Jackson compulsive-shopping. It was a public-relations disaster.

“Marc Schaffel said we had lots of outtakes from the Bashir documentary that showed a better side to Michael Jackson and said, ‘Let’s put together a positive documentary.’ He said he would be able to sell it to Fox.

“Michael Jackson’s reaction was, just get my story out there. He didn’t care about the money. Schaffel produced it in his own home. He even persuades Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe to go before the cameras and say what a fine person Jackson is.”

King told jurors that Schaffel and Jackson agreed Schaffel should be given 20 percent of the profits of the documentaries, which he claimed grossed $10 million.

But he added, “Mr. Schaffel started getting monthly payments. It started off at $50,000 a month for a few months, then $25,000 for a few months, then the payments stop.”

The jury was briefly played the deposition in which King was seen interrogating Jackson about whether he remembers agreeing to pay Schaffel for making the TV documentaries.

Jackson tells King, “I don’t know.” He then adds, “You got money.”

King then tells Jackson, “But money doesn’t always make you happy.”

A smiling Jacko says, “I know that.”

Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas Mundell, in his opening, said Schaffel was a producer of gay pornography, a fact unknown to Jackson when Schaffel was hired.

“Michael Jackson terminated his relationship with Mr. Schaffel five months after it began,” when he learned of Schaffel’s gay-porn past, Mundell said.

Jackson’s former business manager, Allan Whitman, was the last to testify yesterday, saying he, too, was owed money. He’ll resume testimony today. Splash News

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