Michael Jackson's lawyer lashed out Tuesday at the charter jet company that flew the singer from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara, California, last week, claiming XtraJet videotaped the flight and tried to sell the tapes to the media.
"The videotaping of my client conferring with me was illegal and outrageous," attorney Mark Geragos told reporters during a press conference outside his Los Angeles office. Jackson flew home from Las Vegas on Thursday to face multiple charges of child molestation (see "Michael Jackson Surrenders To Santa Barbara Police").
The Santa Monica-based private air carrier insists it only found the tapes and did not make them, but Geragos claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday (November 25) that the company secretly and illegally videotaped the flight and then tried to sell the tapes for a sum in the high six figures. The lawsuit claims Jackson had a reasonable expectation of privacy while on the chartered jet and alleges invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, common law misappropriation of name and likeness, use of name and likeness, recording of confidential information, and unfair business practices.
The suit cites reports from "Extra" and FOX News that indicate the media have been shown the tape. FOX reported on Monday that it viewed the tape without audio and that the footage showed Jackson being calm, though often smiling or laughing, during the plane ride. The tape shows the singer drinking a soda and, at one point, spraying cologne.
XtraJet had no comment Tuesday but had earlier told reporters that the company found two video cameras with footage of the flight on them during a routine sweep of the aircraft. The company told the Los Angeles Times it did not know who was responsible for taping the flight and that XtraJet decided to show the tapes to media outlets because it was seeking advice on whether it was legal to distribute or sell the tapes. An XtraJet executive, Jeffrey Borer, told the Times that networks were asked sign a confidentiality agreement about the taping.
"They all expressed interest in buying the tape. We told them the tape was not available," Borer told the paper. "We did not ask a price from anybody. ... We were just trying to figure out the most ethical thing to do. We made no decision because we had Michael's best interest in mind, as we would any of our passengers."
Calling the taping "one of the most outrageous acts I've seen in my 20 years of practicing criminal law," Geragos angrily declared that Jackson is not a "piñata for every money-hungry publicity seeker to strike in the hopes of hitting it rich."
"This is not the lottery," he said. "This is this man's life. This is his family's life. These [molestation charges] are scurrilous accusations. This entire case is about cash, and anyone who believes differently is living in their own Neverland. We will land on you like a hammer if you do anything to besmirch this man's reputation, anything to intrude on his privacy that is actionable. We will unleash a legal torrent like you've never seen. We will land on you like a ton of bricks."
Earlier Tuesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge awarded Geragos a temporary injunction that prevents XtraJet from releasing the footage until at least December 19. A hearing on extending the order is scheduled for December 18.
On Tuesday evening, Matthew Geragos, Mark's brother and civil co-counsel for Jackson, said on CNN's "Larry King Live" that the FBI had taken possession of the tapes. An FBI spokesperson on Wednesday said he couldn't confirm that the tapes were impounded, but he did say that agents were sent to a location in Santa Monica on Tuesday.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."