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For Jay Leno, Michael Jackson Gags Are in Order

By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page C01

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville gave the all-clear yesterday for NBC late-night host Jay Leno to resume delivering his own cracks about the Michael Jackson child molestation trial.

The judge said even though Leno is a potential trial witness, the gag order shouldn't prevent him from making jokes on the air about the Trial of However Long It's Been Since O.J., reports The Washington Post TV Team's King of Pop correspondent, Hank Stuever.

Jay Leno arrives "late" to his show Thursday. The judge in the Michael Jackson trial says Leno may tell jokes about the singer. (Margaret Norton -- Nbc Via AP)

That is, so long as Leno doesn't talk about the part of the case that involves himself, the judge said.

"[Leno] makes a living as a comedian and talk show host, and it's not this court's intent to stop him from commenting on or making jokes about the case," Melville said.

The defense has subpoenaed Leno, who may be asked to testify about his experience with Jackson's accuser and the accuser's mom. Jackson's attorneys say the family tried to separate Leno from some of his millions, ostensibly to help with the boy's cancer treatment. The defense attorneys have said the family also sought financial support from other celebs.

Jackson's attorneys want a gag order to strictly muzzle Leno.

"He makes very cruel jokes about Michael Jackson, which might be very funny, unless you're Michael Jackson," defense attorney Robert Sanger told the judge, according to Reuters. "We're not putting [Leno] out of business if he didn't talk about Michael Jackson for a few weeks."

In fact, Leno has been getting lots of mileage out of the gag order this week, having guests deliver his opening monologue's Michael Jackson trial jokes, including Brad Garrett, Roseanne Barr, Dennis Miller and Carrot Top.

On Thursday -- the day Jackson made his dramatically late Loretta Young entrance at the trial, dressed in blue pajama bottoms, white T-shirt, black slippers and black jacket, with a bodyguard on each arm -- Leno was taped arriving at his studio in SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas, slippers and sunglasses, surrounded by bodyguards holding an umbrella over his head. Drew Carey delivered Leno's Jackson jokes that night:

"Michael Jackson showed up to court late today wearing his pajama bottoms. You know what? You find the kid wearing the pajama top and we have another court case on our hands."

In his clarification yesterday, the judge said: "I would not have expected [Leno] to not continue telling jokes."

And just when you were thinking the whole thing was settled, the judge goes and makes another ruling re Leno:

"I'd like him to make good jokes," he said.

And wham! -- back goes the gag order.

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