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Jury Says Jackson Owes $5.3 Million

A jury decided Thursday that Michael Jackson owes a concert promoter $5.3 million for backing out of two concerts planned to celebrate the millennium on New Year’s Eve 1999.

The verdict came in a $21 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against the singer by German concert organizer Marcel Avram. Jackson’s attorneys said it was Avram who canceled the shows over concerns they would not be profitable.

The jury deliberated for nearly two weeks.

Avram’s attorney, Louis “Skip” Miller, said he was pleased that the jury found Jackson was at fault. “The jury believed Avram, they did not believe Michael Jackson. That’s what the whole thing comes down to,” he said.

Jackson attorney Steve Cochran did not immediately return a call.

Avram said Jackson had agreed to perform two concerts on Dec. 31, 1999. He would have performed in Sydney, Australia, and then flown across the international dateline to Honolulu for another concert, technically within the same calendar day.

While much of the testimony drew little media attention, appearances from Jackson became worldwide news, mostly because of his ghostly appearance and witness-stand antics.

At one point, the 44-year-old Jackson hobbled into court on crutches with his left foot wrapped in bandages because of swelling from what he described as a spider bite. He also giggled during questioning and made comical faces at people in the courtroom.

Miller said he plans to appeal $6 million in damages that Judge Zel Canter barred the jury from considering. That amount represent the loss of TV revenues the concerts would have created and alleged debts Avram says he paid for the singer.

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