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Appeals court overturns $20-million award in secret Michael Jackson video

January 11, 2010 |  6:02 pm

A state appellate court overturned a $20-million award today in a case involving a secret videotape of Michael Jackson and his attorneys that was shot on a 2003 charter jet flight.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal concluded that the award against XtraJet and its owner, Jeffrey Borer, was excessive. To view the ruling, click here.

Jackson rode the celebrity charter from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara to surrender to face child molestation charges. During the flight, the singer was captured on tape talking with attorney Mark Geragos. Jackson was later acquitted of the molestation charges.

The award was made public in 2008 after a bench trial the year before by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Soussan G. Bruguera.

The bulk of the money -- $18 million -- was awarded to Geragos, with the remainder going to his associate, Pat Harris.

Brian Kabateck, a Los Angeles attorney representing Geragos, said he would probably seek a new trial.

"I think we're going be retrying this case," Kabateck said.

He described the case as "one of the easiest" of his career, citing the evidence presented against Borer, as well as a guilty plea he entered in federal court in a separate criminal case involving the secret tape.

Attorney Lloyd Kirschbaum, who represented XtraJet, could not be reached for comment.

Borer and an associate pleaded guilty in March 2006 to federal charges of conspiring to secretly record the pop star speaking with his attorneys.

The tape came to light in 2003 after Fox News reported that it had been approached by someone who wanted to sell the video footage.

In its ruling, the appellate court concluded that Borer's conduct was "sufficiently reprehensible to warrant punitive damages."

"There was abundant evidence that Borer acted with malice," the panel wrote.

However, the court concluded, the evidence presented in the case did not support the multimillion-dollar award.

-- Robert J. Lopez