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Wed, Nov 26, 2003

Jet Charter Operator At Center of (Yet Another) Michael Jackson Controversy

It's Been At Least 20 Minutes... It Must Be Time For Another Jackson Scandal

A Santa Monica Jet Charter Company has found itself in very hot water with the revelation that officials from the company attempted to sell  video tapes of Michael Jackson and his lawyer, filmed without their knowledge or permission.

Jackson flew an XtraJet Gulfstream back to California (from Las Vegas) last week in order to surrender to authorities after being named in a child molestation investigation. At some point in the flight, Jackson and his lawyer, Mark Geragos, were taped while conversing about his case and other matters. Officials from XtraJet have allegedly been trying to sell the tape to various media sources in the days since the flight... a problem that came to the attention of the Jackson legal team and prompted immediate legal action.

XtraJet appears to be issuing somewhat confusing, if contradictory, statements about the matter. XtraJet's Jeffrey Borer admitted that the company explored selling the tapes "as any business person would."

XtraJet attorney Lloyd Kirschbaum told Geragos that the video had been covertly installed in the aircraft. Kirschbaum refused to turn over the tapes at Geragos' demand.

XtraJet president Mark Bethea told the media that his company didn't actually know who did the taping, but that an internal investigation had been undertaken to determine to find who had actually taped the flight. Bethea claimed that company officials did not know who was responsible.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Yaffe granted Michael Jackson a court order against the aircraft company XtraJet, which was attempting to sell a surreptitious videotape of Michael and his attorney to the highest media bidder.

"The videotaping of my client conferring with me was illegal and outrageous, as was the aircraft company's attempt to sell that tape for profit," said Mark Geragos, Michael's attorney. "This entire case is about cash, and anyone who believes differently is living in their own Neverland. We will be absolutely relentless in our pursuit of any and all extortionists regardless of how they try to gift wrap their lies in the cloak of justice. Michael is not going to be a pinata for every money-hungry publicity seeker to strike in the hopes of hitting it rich."

The videotape was made on November 20th while Michael and his attorney flew from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara for the singer's processing on criminal charges. The judge's ruling prohibits XtraJet from releasing the tape until a hearing next month where a permanent prohibition will be sought.

Anyone watching this case can see that new lows are being hit every day. Motivated parties are taking obscene measures to injure Michael with false allegations. We will aggressively challenge the rogue's gallery of grifters who are seeking dividends from Michael's ordeal. There is a very real, human price being exacted here, and Michael will do what it takes to safeguard his family and his name."

During the course of a televised press conference Geragos threatened to put XtraJet out of business and a number of legal experts have since opined that he may have the legal wherewithal to do just that. 

Charter operators and industry officials expressed disbelief at the actions alleged by Geragos on the part of XtraJet. NBAA Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs Pete West told ANN that "I can't imagine a reputable charter operator doing such a thing. It doesn't seem the appropriate thing to do." 

FMI: www.xtrajet.com

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