Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Beverly Hills, Calif. Michael Jackson's inner circle met Monday at a posh Beverly Hills hotel to look at the entertainer's business affairs, four days before his first court appearance on child molestation charges.
The meeting was attended by attorneys, managers and accountants for the pop superstar, along with Nation of Islam leaders.
Jackson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, came out of a closed-door session at the Beverly Hills Hotel suite and allowed an Associated Press reporter and photographer into the room to ask a few questions, seeking to end the atmosphere of secrecy that had surrounded the gathering.
When asked why Jackson, 45, was not present, Geragos said, "Who says he isn't?" However, Jackson could not be seen in the room.
Members of Jackson's closest circle were gathered around a large table in the suite. At the head of the table was Leonard Muhammad, a high-ranking official of the Nation of Islam who has been described as an adviser to Jackson. Other Nation of Islam members were in an area outside the suite.
One of the celebrity guests at the hotel, Donald Trump, stopped to chat with reporters and was asked what he thought of the Jackson case.
"I think they're trying to make money off Michael and it's a shame," Trump said.
Earlier in the day, Jackson's brother, Jermaine, and a handful of fans had a news conference to describe plans to support Jackson during his Friday arraignment in a Santa Maria courtroom.
"My brother is innocent, he is 1,000 percent innocent," Jermaine Jackson said. "My mother, father, sisters and brothers are overwhelmed at the outpouring of the fans in the USA and all around the world."
Diana Dalo, a fan from Italy, said fans were planning a "huge gathering" in Santa Maria over several days that will include people from Spain, France, England, Canada, Mexico and Japan, as well as from around the United States.
Jackson is charged with seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He is free on $3 million bail pending his arraignment. Jackson has maintained his innocence.