Doctor in Jackson case avoids jail in support case

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2009 5:59 PM

The physician being investigated in Michael Jackson's death reached an agreement Monday in a separate child support case that kept him out of a Nevada jail.

Prosecutors in Las Vegas had sought an arrest warrant for Dr. Conrad Murray after he failed to appear for previous hearings before Family Court officers attempting to collect unpaid child support for a California woman and her 11-year-old son dating back to October 2008.

With Murray at his side, defense lawyer Christopher Aaron paid $700 cash in court and promised Murray would pay another $303 to the woman, who submitted a letter to the court saying she was willing to forgive the $15,500 Murray already owed if he began paying $1,003 a month.

The woman, Nenita Malibiran of Santa Clara County, Calif., did not attend the hearing and did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

The arrangement surprised Clark County Senior District Court Judge Gerald Hardcastle, who briefly questioned Murray about whether the woman had been coerced into what the judge called "a pretty magnanimous act."

Murray said she had not. Prosecutor Gerard Costantian said he spoke with the woman and was convinced the act was voluntary.

"It strikes me as unfair," the judge said. "But having said that, it's her money."

At the prosecutor's request, Hardcastle set a Jan. 4 status hearing and told Murray he must appear in person to ensure he has been making monthly payments.

After the hearing, Murray and his lawyers were hustled from the courthouse to a waiting car while an armed court officer kept reporters in the courtroom.

Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said later that he didn't know why the media was detained.

"They're police officers," he said. "I guess they can deem what is necessary for public safety."

Aaron credited Malibiran afterward with giving Murray a break while he's a focus of the Jackson death investigation.

Aaron has said Murray, a cardiologist, had been unable to pay because he had to close his medical practice and move due to threats following Jackson's death June 25.

The lawyer said Murray was "unemployed and unemployable," and the money paid Monday came from unidentified benefactors.

"He's not a deadbeat," Aaron said. "She waived it today because she understands his circumstances."

Costantian said he had been prepared to ask the court to find Murray in contempt and jail him unless he could demonstrate an inability to pay. Any reduction in Murray's monthly child support obligation will have to be approved by a California court, he said.

The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Jackson's death a homicide, caused primarily by propofol and another sedative.

Murray told investigators he administered propofol as a sleep aid, along with multiple sedatives, in the hours before Jackson died.

Murray has not been charged with a crime but is the focus of the Los Angeles police investigation, according to documents made public with search warrants served as his home and offices.

His lawyer in that case, Edward Chernoff, attended Monday's hearing in Las Vegas but did not take part.

"The problem is, because it's Conrad Murray, the case attracts exceptional attention that it really didn't deserve," Chernoff said. "This really should have been merely a child support issue."

Miranda Sevcik, a spokeswoman for Murray, said he continues to maintain he neither prescribed nor administered anything to Jackson that should have killed him.

Murray, who is licensed in Nevada, Texas and California, had been hired to a lucrative $150,000-per-month contract to be the pop star's personal physician during a world tour.

At the time, the financially troubled physician owed at least $780,000 for settlements against his business, outstanding mortgage payments on his large Las Vegas house, delinquent student loans, credit cards and child support.

Another judge in Las Vegas is due Wednesday to consider unsealing search warrant documents stemming from a police raid Aug. 11 at a Las Vegas pharmacy from which authorities say Murray legally purchased propofol.

Meanwhile, Janet Jackson said she blamed Murray for her brother Michael's death.

She told ABC News in an interview to air Wednesday that Murray should no longer be allowed to practice medicine.

"He was the one that was administering," Jackson said. "I think he is responsible."