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Reporter Working for Jacko Prosecution?

WWW- Has Court TV’s Diane Dimond helped prosecutors gather evidence in the Michael Jackson case?

New Jersey businessman Henry Vaccaro Sr. claims that’s exactly what she did last March, vowing to alert Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon after discovering a pair of soiled Calvin Klein briefs – presumably Jackson’s – among the items in Vaccaro’s extensive collection of Jackson family memorabilia in a warehouse in Asbury Park.

The morning after Dimond’s visit, Vaccaro told me yesterday, Sneddon personally phoned Vaccaro, said that Dimond had informed his office about the underwear and other potential evidence, and asked to borrow the items for use in the investigation.

But Dimond, through a Court TV spokeswoman, insisted yesterday that she simply had sought comment from Sneddon’s office “on some evidence that might be of interest to the prosecution.”

Yesterday, journalistic ethics expert Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalist, told me: “The standard is that journalists should try to avoid becoming an extension of law enforcement or any government agency.”

If Dimond did so, “that would be very unusual,” Rosenstiel added.

In her Court TV report last March on Vaccaro’s collection, Dimond is shown daintily lifting the soiled briefs and speculating that they might contain “DNA evidence.” When the camera was turned off, Vaccaro recalled, “she told me she was going to call the prosecutor about this.”

Dimond, who has tangled with Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, is known to many close observers of the trial for coverage that seems to favor the prosecution in her reports on Court TV, as an analyst for other television outlets and in a newspaper column.

Dimond’s behind-the-scenes contact with Sneddon’s office was revealed in just-unsealed court papers involving litigation between Vaccaro and the Jacksons concerning who rightly owns the collection (which Vaccaro seized through a previous federal court judgment).

In a Jan. 13, 2005, letter to Sneddon, requesting the return of the items, Vaccaro writes: “I was contacted by your office after Diane Dimond of Court TV informed you that there were various items of potential interest to you among the contents of a warehouse in Asbury Park, N.J.”



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