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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Michael Jackson returning to California courtroom

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) — Pop star Michael Jackson was due back on the witness stand Tuesday in a $21 million lawsuit over canceled millennium concerts amid questions over his increasingly odd behavior and appearance.

Jackson’s three days of testimony at the trial in November touched off a frenzy in Santa Maria, a small agricultural town near his Neverland Valley Ranch in central California, even as it produced little courtroom drama.

Meanwhile, pictures taken of the reclusive Jackson during his first day on the stand sparked a worldwide sensation — offering a rare, up-close look at his surgically altered face, alabaster skin and flowing mane of black hair that some suggested was a wig.

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The self-proclaimed King of Pop arrived hours late for his much-anticipated second day of testimony and pool photographers said Jackson’s attorneys had tried to have them ejected from the courtroom as a distraction and because the pictures could find their way into the tabloids.

Jackson cut short his testimony for a trip to Germany, where he baffled fans and drew international condemnation by dangling his infant son, Prince Michael II, precariously from a hotel balcony, a towel covering the baby’s face.

The 44-year-old father of three quickly apologized for the stunt, saying that he had been “caught up in the moment” of displaying his child to a throng of fans gathered outside the hotel, and German authorities declined to investigate.

The next day he was spotted strolling through the Berlin Zoo with five-year-old Prince Michael Jackson I and four-year-old Paris Michael Jackson. The two children wore red veils over their faces in an apparent bid to foil photographers.

Bickering Lawyers, Screaming Fans

Back in California, authorities shrugged off the baby-dangling incident as outside their jurisdiction, despite calls for a probe into the welfare of Jackson’s children. The furor also prompted new questions over the mother of Prince Michael Jackson II, who has never been identified.

Jackson is a key witness in a lawsuit by German concert promoter Marcel Avram, who claims that the pop star agreed to headline charity shows in 1999 in Seoul, South Korea and Munich, Germany, followed by New Year’s Eve concerts in Australia and Hawaii — then backed out of the millennium events.

Avram also alleges that the Gloved One owes him millions of dollars spent to organize, promote and produce all four shows as well as money he spent on the superstar’s behalf, expecting to be repaid through proceeds from the millennium concerts.

Jackson’s testimony has so far been exceedingly dry, bogged down in bickering between lawyers, contract law and the singer’s apparent unfamiliarity with key facts of the case.

But Jackson’s appearance at the Santa Maria courthouse has been greeted daily by hundreds of screaming fans, who beseech him for autographs, compete in a lottery for seats in the courtroom and chase his van down the street.

Though Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch is nestled in the hills only 30 miles away, the reclusive star is rarely spotted in Santa Maria and his appearance in court was a major event — announced in banner headlines in the local paper and on television and radio.

Dozens of children have skipped school to catch a glimpse of the star, only to be nabbed instead by truant officers lurking at the courthouse in Santa Maria, located 160 miles north of Los Angeles.

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