Jackson Not Out Of The Woods Yet

His brother says Michael Jackson is "at peace" following the superstar's victory in his child molestation trial.

But for how long?

As O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant and Robert Blake have learned, the end of a celebrated criminal case doesn't necessarily mean the end of the defendant's legal woes. All were hit with lawsuits after winning acquittal.

At trial, Jackson attorney Tom Mesereau Jr. alleged that the 13-year-old boy the singer was accused of molesting at his Neverland Ranch in 2003 was trying to shake down his benefactor.

He and his mother were "looking for a big payday," Mesereau argued.

Jackson has a history of paying millions of dollars to make child molestation allegations go away.

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 following Monday's victory in which a jury found the 46-year-old pop star not guilty on all 10 counts.

The accuser's family hasn't spoken publicly since the verdict.

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.

Simpson was acquitted of killing Goldman and Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, but found liable for their deaths in the subsequent civil trial. Simpson, who didn't testify at his criminal trial, took the stand at the civil trial.

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.

"Look what they put him through for so long, and its time for him to just get back into himself and just let the light come into him ... ," Jackson's brother Jermaine said Wednesday on CNN's "Larry King Live."

He added that his brother is "at peace and we're very happy."

Jackson also has the option of suing, and Jermaine Jackson said if he had been the one on trial he would sue for malicious prosecution.

"They tried to bury him," he said.

If Jackson's accuser does decide to sue, he should have no trouble hiring a lawyer. The publicity alone would attract eager candidates, even if they had to work on contingency and gamble on winning to be paid.

"It's considered to be golden," said Carl Douglas, a lawyer who has represented Jackson in past civil matters and was a member of the "Dream Team" that won Simpson's murder acquittal. "They will take a case with a big-time defendant just to get in the papers."

The lawyer who appears most likely to file any civil suit, Los Angeles attorney Larry Feldman, didn't return a call seeking comment Wednesday. Feldman represented a boy who received a multimillion-dollar settlement after making molestation accusations against Jackson in 1993. He's also the attorney the accuser's family approached after their close relationship with Jackson ended.

One key difference in a civil trial that would benefit the family is the lower standard of proof required for a guilty verdict. While all 12 jurors in the criminal case would have had to find Jackson guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," in a civil case plaintiffs must simply show "a preponderance of the evidence" indicates guilt, and only nine of the 12 jurors must agree.

For those and other reasons, Jackson would have to be prepared for another trial, Douglas said.

"He has to send a message to the world: 'If you're going to come after Michael Jackson, you have to be ready for a war,"' he said.

Family members also would face even more stinging attacks on their credibility than in the criminal trial, including the mother's alleged history of welfare fraud and other possible scams.

"The defense was able to portray the mother as greedy, manipulative, grasping," said John Nockleby, director of the civil justice program at Loyola University Law School. "If she is the plaintiff, her credibility is sorely lacking."

The family's motives for the suit would also be critical.

"Money is not a good enough reason," said Petrocelli. "The jury will see right through that. In the O.J. Simpson case, it was about justice, and money was barely mentioned."

All the experts warned that any lawyer taking on a suit against Jackson would face enormous costs.

And the payoffs in cases against celebrities have been questionable.

While the jury that held Simpson liable for the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman awarded a total of $33.5 million to the families, little was ever collected. In the case of Jackson, prosecutors presented evidence at his criminal trial that his once vast fortune is in peril.