Jackson Clan Celebrates Aquittal

Michael Jackson's family and fans, and at least one of the jurors who acquitted him of child molestation gathered Friday night for a huge party that was billed as a celebration of thanks.

The pop star himself, who has not appeared in public since his 14-week trial ended Monday, was nowhere in sight.

Among the approximately 400 people who arrived at the Chumash Indian Casino was juror Pauline Coccoz. When she walked into the casino and heard Jackson's music playing, Coccoz said, the enormity of what had transpired hit her.

"They were playing 'Beat It,' and I almost started to cry," she said as she waited to enter the showroom. She said that earlier in the day, she had received a wristband needed for admission to the party.

The crowd erupted in cheers as Jackson's mother, Katherine, arrived to the sounds of the song "I'll Be There." She came on stage at the end of the show to thank her son's fans from around the world for their support.

"We couldn't have done it without you," Katherine Jackson said as her son Tito stood next to her, his hand on her shoulder.

Others spotted arriving for the show included defense attorney Robert Sanger and Jackson's magician friend, who calls himself Majestic Magnificent.

Reporters were kept out of the showroom, and an Associated Press reporter who got inside briefly was escorted out by tribal police. Casino officials said they had orders from the Jackson family to keep journalists out.

Tito Jackson has been performing periodically at the casino, and he had been scheduled to appear Friday night before it was decided to turn the show into what one of his band members called a celebration of thanks.

Coccoz said that when someone gave her the wristbands she decided to bring her family, partly as a public display of her confidence in the jury's verdict.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville, who placed a tight lid of secrecy on evidence in Jackson's trial, said he intends to release virtually every sealed document and also ordered that authorities return the pop star's passport.

Melville said he had accomplished his goal of providing a fair trial to both sides. He was still considering whether to release videos that were shown during the trial, and he allowed time for attorneys to object to unsealing specific documents.

"I have no intention to keep anything sealed except something that might involve privacy matters of a juror," Melville said during a hearing on motions filed during the trial.

Jackson, 46, on Monday won complete acquittal on a 10-count indictment that alleged he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, plied the boy with wine and conspired to hold him and his family captive to get them to make a video rebutting a damaging television documentary.

But Jackson's acquittal, however, doesn't necessarily mean his legal woes are over. Jackson, who has a history of paying millions of dollars to make child molestation allegations go away, could still be hit with a civil lawsuit.

At trial, the mother testified she did not plan a lawsuit and didn't want "the devil's money."

However, she could change her mind.

If Jackson is sued, he could face even more stress than during the four-month criminal trial because his accusers could force him to testify.

"If he refused to take the stand, there would be a default entered" and Jackson would be held liable for damages, said Daniel Petrocelli, the attorney who sued Simpson for the family of murder victim Ronald Goldman.

Jackson, who never took the witness stand in his criminal trial, emerged from court after the verdict looking frail. Friends and family said he ate little during his 4-month trial and the stress aggravated a back injury and left him in pain.