A Los Angeles resident has filed a $3.3 million claim against the estate of Michael Jackson on behalf of the city of Los Angeles to recover the taxpayer costs involved in staging the July Jackson memorial at Staples Center downtown. Attorney Jeff Grotke, who represents taxpayer Jose F. Vallejos' claim, says that his client might also consider suing memorial organizer Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owner of Staples Center, at some point as well.
"This is a creditor's claim against the [Jackson] estate," Grotke told LA Weekly. "This filing is a preliminary move before a civil suit."
Grotke argues that the memorial, essentially a 90-minute, televised show for 17,500 people, can be considered a funeral, and as such, the city has no place spending taxpayer money (actually $3.2 million) on a private funeral. "The kind of debt we're going after, the police expenses, we think they could properly be called funeral expenses," he said.
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The attorney described Vallejos as a concerned taxpayer from Lincoln Heights who recently had a friend pass away. He said his client had to stand on the street with a "tin can" to help collect money for his pal's funeral and was thus upset that the city paid so much, mostly for policing and officers' overtime, to stage an event for Michael Jackson.
The memorial has been a sore spot for the City Council, which has pondered whether or not to ask AEG to cover the city's $3.2 million tab for helping to stage the event. The city has argued that the memorial brought in $4 million in visitor spending to Los Angeles and was thus a good thing for business, but the Weekly largely debunked that number.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has threatened legal action against AEG over the memorial and has even indicated there could be a criminal investigation of the corporation in connection with the show. The council has asked the City Attorney to come up with charges, however, or back off so that it can move foward with its effort to get AEG to cough up some dough, an amount that some on the council have spun as a "donation" to the city.
AEG has a stake in Jackson's fame and has made millions from concert-rehearsal footage shot at Staples that was later used for the blockbuster film This Is It. Grotke said his client will consider suing AEG after his claim is likely denied. "We'll discuss the AEG issue whether or not they have also benefited," he said, noting that his client could go after the company's Jackson-related "profits."