Michael Jackson Wants Auction Items Returned

michael jacksonThe King of Pop wants Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to give him back his Three Stooges collection.

He also wants a couple of dozen more of his former possessions that Gonzalez has locked up at the courthouse in downtown Las Vegas.

The Gloved One’s sister Janet Jackson wants Gonzalez to return 35 items. Her list doesn’t include any pieces of malfunctioning wardrobe, but it does feature the original certificate of her marriage to singer James DeBarge, high school notes and corresponding doodles plus Brooke Shields’ phone number and script pages from her 1984 appearance on the “Diff’rent Strokes” television series.

Gonzalez ordered the singers’ one-time belongings stored at the Regional Justice Center while she sorts out who their rightful owners are and whether a lawyer for the company that auctioned off hundreds of other pieces of Jackson memorabilia in May at the Hard Rock Hotel tried to pull a fast one on the judge.

Next month, Gonzalez is to consider holding that lawyer in contempt of court.

Hearings about the cache of Michael and Janet Jackson’s “personal items” soon might be scheduled if the singers file formal requests to obtain them.

The stash includes one of Michael Jackson’s notebooks with sketches in it and “We are the World” sheet music signed by all the participants in the charity fundraising recording. The Stooges collection includes a binder filled with photo stills and a rare 1960 coloring book that Michael Jackson at one time had given to his nephew. It is signed: “Uncle Doo Doo M.J.”

Also in the stash are legal papers that address Michael Jackson as the defendant in copyright infringement lawsuits, a 1984 weekly bank ledger and a contract for the $30 million purchase of the Neverland Ranch.

The hoard at the courthouse soon will have two large Jacko items added to it.

A massive touring trunk, which the auction catalog described as containing personal items such as perfume oils, a magic book and hair clips, was being shipped to Las Vegas from the East Coast.

Also, Gonzalez was awaiting delivery of a large piece of Aboriginal art, which Michael Jackson received as an award from CBS Records Australia for record-breaking sales of “Thriller” down under.

Gonzalez ordered all of the items transferred earlier this month to a secured location at the courthouse after Universal Express Inc., the company that put the truckload of Jackson family items up for bid appeared to have gone behind the judge’s back to keep possession of the specified items.

Gonzalez has scheduled a trial for July 16 to examine whether New York attorney David DeToffol, who represents Universal Express, purposely tried to violate her previous orders regarding the set of Jackson items that were withheld from the auction and whether DeToffol was truthful in negotiations with the court.

Gonzalez has ordered Universal to pay for some of Michael Jackson’s legal expenses.

In May, Universal and Michael Jackson’s attorneys forged a settlement agreement, which has been sealed. Jackson lawyer Mark Dzarnoski said the agreement called for Michael Jackson to get back 25 of the items that had been headed for the auction block.

The auction took place May 30 and 31, and on the first of those dates, the attorneys were back in court discussing the settlement. Gonzalez issued an order prohibiting Universal from “selling, giving, conveying or transferring by any means” Michael Jackson’s 25 identified items.

“I thought May 30 was the end of it,” Dzarnoski said.

But he couldn’t have been more wrong.

A day after the auction, L. Joe Coppedge, the attorney for the auction house, Guernsey’s, received word that DeToffol had no intention of handing the items back to Michael Jackson and would sue Guernsey’s if it did not return all the items to Universal immediately. That same day, Coppedge received a letter from attorneys of Michael and Janet Jackson, who said they would hold Guernsey’s liable if their items were not returned.

Janet Jackson had joined her brother’s lawsuit against Universal and according to court documents had hashed out an agreement to have 35 items returned. But Universal never signed the agreement.

On June 8, Gonzalez issued an order for Guernsey’s to transfer all the items in question to the courthouse, which Coppedge said he gladly did.

DeToffol has argued he never violated Gonzalez’s order and does not contest the settlement. But, he said, he wanted the auction house to return the items to Universal because Universal was the steward of the Michael Jackson items and not Guernsey’s. He also argued that Universal has rightful title to the Janet Jackson items.

“Would it be fair to say you were trying to have Guernsey’s transfer the items to Universal?” Gonzalez asked him at a June 12 hearing to enforce the settlement.

“Yes,” he said.

Another twist in the case had come up by the time of that hearing: Gonzalez and the Jackson attorneys learned Universal might not even own the memorabilia.

As Universal negotiated the settlement with Jackson lawyers in May in Las Vegas, the company was involved in litigation in a New Jersey court, where several parties disputed the ownership of the items and sued Henry Vaccaro, who had sold the memorabilia to Universal.

On June 5, three days before he was ordered to turn the items over to Gonzalez, Guernsey’s attorney received a letter from the Superior Court of New Jersey directing the auction house turn over all unsold items from the auction to Universal within seven days while that court continued to hear the case.

Jackson attorneys have described the New Jersey litigation as a legal scheme cooked up, with Universal’s complicity, to abrogate the Las Vegas settlement agreement.

In the litigation, Vaccaro asserts he is the rightful owner of the memorabilia and had a contract to sell to Universal.

DeToffol, who did not return phone calls from the Review-Journal, assured the court that Universal was the rightful owner and was unwillingly brought into the New Jersey litigation as a defendant.

His contempt trial will give him the opportunity to present witnesses to try to convince the judge that he did not purposely attempt to violate her order.

He emphasized he never sold any of the Jackson items in question.

According to state statute, the penalty for contempt can be a fine of up to $500 and up to 25 days in jail.

Gonzalez said that she would notify the New Jersey court about the items she requested to be transferred to the courthouse and that the rest of the unsold items could be returned to Universal.

Related Link: Vegas Journal