Attorney - Jackson wants N.J. man to return memorabilia

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

NEWARK, N.J. -- Michael Jackson contends a New Jersey man had no right to costumes, letters and other possessions that helped fill a warehouse with his famous family's memorabilia.

A lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles also seeks to close a Web site created by Henry V. Vaccaro Sr. to show off the items.

Jackson is demanding his things back, but Vaccaro said he already has sold the goods to a European buyer.

"It's gone," Vaccaro, a construction company owner, said Tuesday.

Vaccaro, 63, said he was awarded the Jackson family's possessions following nine years of legal wrangling stemming from a failed business venture that wound up in bankruptcy court.

An attorney for Michael Jackson said the pop star's possessions should not have been included in the goods given to Vaccaro. Memorabilia included gold-trimmed costumes, financial documents, letters, awards, and one of Jackson's first outfits from the Jackson 5.

"Basically the lawsuit is that this guy Vaccaro has no right to any possession of any property belonging to Michael Jackson and to the extent he has any property that is owned by Michael Jackson, his possession of that is illegal," said Los Angeles attorney Brian Wolf.

Wolf said he would ask for a court order for the return of anything already sold.

The bankruptcy case allowed Vaccaro only to get property belonging to Michael Jackson's brother Tito and their parents, Katherine and Joe, Wolf said.

'We'll take 'em on'

Vaccaro said he could not comment on specifics of the lawsuit because he had yet to see it. "We'll take 'em on," he said.

Earlier this month, Vaccaro revealed that his Asbury Park warehouse had for more than a year housed Jackson family memorabilia won through the bankruptcy settlement.

Before shipping the hoard to a European buyer whom he has declined to identify, Vaccaro spent 18 months photographing and cataloguing it for his Web site.

Vaccaro has not revealed the sales price of the trove, but indicated it exceeded $1.4 million.

Vaccaro used to head a guitar company, which went bankrupt in 1992. A company owned by the Jackson family agreed to purchase it, but soon defaulted on payments, he said. Vaccaro sued the Jackson family company and was awarded a $1.4 million judgment, which the family said it couldn't pay.

Neither Michael, Janet nor LaToya Jackson were named in the suit because they had not used money from the company.

Vaccaro said he ultimately was awarded the contents of a California warehouse filled with Jackson possessions by a bankruptcy trustee after paying $65,000, much of which was used to cover the family's outstanding storage bills.

The memorabilia fight is latest legal case in which Jackson is embroiled.

On Monday, he added four defendants to his lawsuit against the charter jet company he accuses of illegally videotaping him in November as he flew to Santa Barbara to be booked on child molestation charges.

Jackson is charged with seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and two counts of giving the child an intoxicating agent.

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