SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The judge in the Michael Jackson case delayed ruling Friday on a complex question involving search warrants, but reiterated he would start the pop singer’s child molestation trial Jan. 31.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Rodney Melville set up an exhaustive schedule of hearings to dispose of motions that may be filed before trial. He also shot down any chance of further postponements.
Also Friday, lawyers on both sides spent hours poring over file folders seized by sheriff’s deputies from the home of Jackson’s personal assistant to sort out those that would be considered confidential. They were not released in open court.
The Los Angeles home of Evelyn Tavasci was searched Sept. 15. Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. contended attorney-client privilege was violated because deputies seized items related to the pop star’s legal representation – including folders labeled “Mesereau.”
Other items taken were phone records, e-mails and documents showing the Jackson defense team may have orchestrated demonstrations outside the courthouse at previous hearings.
Melville expressed concern about why the prosecution should have access to files regarding demonstrations. “Aren’t you only entitled to seize evidence relating to crimes?” he asked.
Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen said he felt the information would be useful if the defense were to file a motion for a change of venue.
Zonen also said there were records showing one of Jackson’s employees, Miko Brando, son of the late Marlon Brando, was given $20,000 to deliver to Jackson. “This particular person will likely end up as a witness at the trial,” Zonen said.
Defense lawyer Robert Sanger responded, “There is nothing unusual about Michael Jackson having $20,000 cash delivered to him for running his daily affairs.”
Sanger said much of the materials seized involved events long before Jackson was charged with child molestation, and added that deputies who served the warrants exceeded their authority to take materials.
Jackson was not at Friday’s court hearing. He has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to a boy.