Remembering Michael Jackson's legal faceoff against Denver's Crystal Cartier
Along with tributes to Michael Jackson's music following word of his death yesterday, news reports have (rightly) gone into detail about his assorted legal troubles -- particularly those involving accusations of child molestation. But none that I've seen have recalled a trial that took place right here in Denver -- one that pitted Jackson against singer-songwriter Crystal Cartier. She argued that MJ had used portions of "Dangerous," a song she'd written, in a number with the same title that he claimed to have penned himself. "I don't know if [Jackson] knew it was my song at the time he made his decision to rape it," she told Westword at the time, "but he damn sure knew that it wasn't his."
Cartier wasn't able to win this battle in court, but she did score a 1994 Best of Denver award for Best Tabloid Trial. The blurb in question read:
Best Tabloid Trial: Crystal Cartier vs. Michael Jackson
This trial had everything: a superstar defendant fresh from settling a child molestation suit; a plaintiff who came to court in a tight, tight, tight black leather outfit that bulged as much as the eyes of those who saw it; a cranky judge who admitted knowing nothing about music; and a circus atmosphere of the sort seen far too infrequently in these parts. Michael Jackson's special guest appearance -- made just prior to a ruling by the jury that the King of Pop had not stolen the song "Dangerous" from Denver songwriter Crystal Cartier -- was the ideal capper for an exhibition that made The People's Court look like Masterpiece Theatre.
Prior to the start of this proceeding, Westword published "Dangerous Liaisons," a piece that made sport of Jackson and Cartier in equal measure. It's a reminder that pedophilia accusations had already overwhelmed his reputation as an onstage superstar a full fifteen years ago. Read it after the jump:
By Michael Roberts
Published on February 02, 1994
Michael Jackson always said he loved the children of the world; now he's paying the price. On January 25 an estimated $10 million of Jackson's money settled the civil suit of a fourteen-year-old boy who had claimed the singer molested him. But Jackson still can't rest easy -- he has another litigant waiting in the wings.
Crystal Cartier, a local singer-songwriter, is hauling the King of Pop into Denver District Court on February 7 to face charges that he used portions of a Cartier composition called "Dangerous" in the title song of his album of the same name. Cartier says she wrote her "Dangerous" in 1985, recorded it in 1990 and released it in early 1991, months before Jackson's album hit the stores. "I don't know if [Jackson] knew it was my song at the time he made his decision to rape it," Cartier says, "but he damn sure knew that it wasn't his."
Although reliable sources report that Jackson may make at least an electronic appearance in court (his deposition was taped), neither Holme Roberts and Owen, the Denver firm representing Jackson, nor Eberhardt and Eberhardt, Cartier's legal agents, will comment on the upcoming trial. So we've come up with our own handy guide for amateur legal eagles who want to judge the case for themselves--and predict the size of any settlement offer.
1. If Jackson's attorneys call his sister LaToya as a character witness, add $2 million to the settlement.
2. If the videotaped deposition features a nude Jackson with white splotches near his pubic area, add $3 million to the settlement.
3. If Cartier alleges during testimony that she was never compensated for composing "I Write the Songs," subtract $1 million from the settlement.
4. If witnesses from the Public Broadcasting System reveal that Jackson asked permission to borrow a Barney the Dinosaur suit and stroll around Los Angeles shopping malls, add $2.5 million to the settlement.
5. If author Erich Segal announces that he is suing Cartier for naming the album on which her "Dangerous" appears Love Story -- Part One, subtract $1.5 million from the settlement.
6. If Cartier reveals that her next album will be called We Are the World -- Part One, subtract $2.5 million from the settlement.
7. If private investigators testify that Jackson enjoyed listening to Cartier's album in his barium chamber, add $2 million to the settlement.
8. If Cartier alleges during testimony that she was never compensated for composing "Your Song," subtract $2 million from the settlement.
9. If "Weird" Al Yankovic comes forward to state that he wrote the parody "Eat It" before Jackson wrote "Beat It," add $1 million to the settlement.
10. If any fourth-grade students or executives from the Kempe Center are named to the jury, add $1.5 million to the settlement.
11. If representatives of Crystal Pepsi and Cartier jewelry stores claim the plaintiff's name constitutes copyright infringement, subtract $1 million from the settlement.
12. If Jackson concedes in his deposition that he used to date Cartier and once asked her to dress up like Shirley Temple in The Little Princess, add $3 million to the settlement.
13. If Jackson concedes in his deposition that he used to date Emmanuel "Webster" Lewis and once asked him to dress up like Shirley Temple in The Little Princess, add $4 million to the settlement.
14. If Cartier alleges during testimony that she was never compensated for composing "The 1812 Overture," subtract $5 million from the settlement.
15. If anyone notices that Jackson's "Dangerous" and Cartier's "Dangerous" don't sound all that much alike, forget the settlement altogether.