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Jackson, Nation of Islam no role

Jan. 4, 2003 • Tuesday January 6, 2004

Jackson’s lawyer said the singer was in “full control” of his affairs.

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — Michael Jackson‘s attorney denied reports that the Nation of Islam was taking control of the singer’s business, saying that Jackson was in “full control” of his affairs.

“The idea that there is some takeover by the Nation of Islam — someone is spinning you,” lawyer Mark Geragos said in a statement posted Sunday on Jackson’s Web site.

Jackson, 45, is free on $3 million bail after prosecutors in Santa Barbara County, California, charged him with child molestation in December. He faces seven counts of child molestation involving a boy under 14 and two counts of administering “an intoxicating agent” to a minor in the same case.

Sources close to the situation told CNN last week that the Nation of Islam, a Chicago-based African-American Muslim separatist group, was playing a significant and critical role in Jackson’s affairs. The sources said Leonard Muhammad, the chief of staff and son-in-law of the Nation of Islam’s founder, Louis Farrakhan, set up Jackson’s recent interview on the CBS 60 Minutes program and was working out of Geragos’ office.

In addition, Muhammad could be seen standing behind Geragos at a news conference the attorney called to respond to the charges. But the Nation of Islam has said it has “no official business or professional relationship” with Jackson.

Spokesman quits over ‘strategic differences’

Another statement from Jackson’s camp Sunday disputed the explanation issued by former Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman for his resignation last week.

Backerman said he quit because of “strategic differences” with Jackson’s advisers.

“I resigned and in no way was I fired,” Backerman said. “I resigned because I lost confidence in the way things were going. However, my resignation has not changed my tremendous support and love for Michael Jackson. I believe he is innocent of these molestation charges and that will be proved.”

But current Jackson publicist Kevin McLin said Backerman was dismissed after making an unauthorized statement to reporters outside a December 20 party for family and friends at Jackson’s Neverland ranch.

“Both Mr. Backerman and I agreed not to make any statements to the press without authorization by Mr. Geragos,” said McLin, who was present at the time Backerman made those comments. “Mr. Backerman spoke to the press without that authorization and was terminated for refusing to acknowledge that agreement.”

CNN Correspondent Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

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