1:08pm PT by Eriq Gardner
TMZ Settles Lawsuit Over Leaked Interview of Michael Jackson's Ex-Wife (Exclusive)
TMZ has settled a lawsuit with a producer who formerly worked for the late pop star Michael Jackson over claims that the site broadcast allegedly stolen, confidential and copyrighted footage of an interview with Debbie Rowe soon after her ex-husband died.
In 2003, Fox News' Geraldo at Large aired an interview with Rowe, who was married to Jackson between 1996 and 1999 and is the mother of two of his children.
The interview was produced by Marc Schaffel, an associate of Jackson's, whose production company scored the exclusive chat by signing a secret agreement with Jackson himself. Because of a confidentiality deal signed by Jackson and Rowe at the time of the divorce, Jackson had to personally release Rowe from her non-disclosure obligations, and he did so by turning to Schaffel, whom Jackson had reportedly hoped would produce a TV special that would act as a response to the allegations that Jackson had had an improper relationship with a young cancer survivor. (Later, that relationship deteriorated as Schaffel and Jackson sued each other, each claiming millions owed.)
The interview that aired on Geraldo, however, wasn't the good stuff.
Schaffel held back hours of unaired footage that might have been deemed more sensitive for Jackson.
After Michael Jackson was indicted for child molestation in December 2003, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff obtained and executed a search warrant on Schaffel's home and seized the interview. Two years later, the County Sheriff represented that he returned the property and hadn't released the "confidential outtakes" to anyone.