2005's Biggest Court Cases

From Michael Jackson to Saddam Hussein, celebrities, leaders and regular people have made big headlines with criminal trials, and some cases will carry over to the new year. Here is a look at some of the most sensational and salacious legal battles of 2005.

Michael Jackson

The "King of Pop's" child molestation trial ended in June with his acquittal. He had been charged with molesting a boy sick with leukemia. In 1993, Jackson avoided a similar legal battle by settling out of court. Shortly after this year's victory, Jackson left his elaborate Neverland ranch and moved to Bahrain with his three children.

But Jackson's woes do not end there. He reportedly is in dire financial straits and it is said that his yearly spending exceeded his income by up to $30 million. He is also in danger of defaulting on $200 million in loans guaranteed by his stake in the Beatles' song catalog.

"I think he needs to sell the merry-go-round at this point," said ABC News legal contributor Joe Tacopina. "He's cash poor, but he still has assets. He'll be forever hounded by young men popping out of the woodwork and making accusations."

On top of that, Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, has sued him in California, accusing him of abducting their two children. Jackson says he will never return to the United States.

"The odds are stacked in his favor to maintain those kids because he's been their primary caregiver for some time," said former prosecutor and Court TV News anchor Lisa Bloom. "Moving the kids to Bahrain was probably, ultimately a very savvy move because U.S. law is not going to go far in Bahrain."

Scott Peterson

The former fertilizer salesman was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Connor, in November 2004. He is on death row at California's San Quentin -- the same prison where former gang leader, Stanley "Tookie" Wilson, was put to death earlier this month. Peterson is currently appealing his conviction.

Bloom said Peterson didn't have much of a chance.

"Only about 5 percent of these appeals are granted," she said. "He doesn't stand much of a shot. I predict Scott Peterson will fade away. I think Scott Peterson loves the fame and notoriety, loves having his picture on the front page. Now he's faced with being just another prisoner number whatever on death row, and that's the best punishment of all."

Also this month, a judge ruled that Peterson could not collect the $250,000 from Laci Peterson's insurance policy. It was instead awarded to Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha.

Debra LaFave

Last year, 25-year-old teacher Debra LaFave was charged with having sex with her 14-year-old student. She was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition after she allegedly had sex with the student in a sport-utility vehicle while another teenager drove.

LaFave struck a plea deal that would have given her three years' house arrest, followed by seven years' probation, but a county judge rejected the plan and set an April trial date. The judge said he did not want to go below the sentencing guidelines of the case. Those guidelines call for 16 years in prison. Her lawyer said such a sentence was too harsh because his client was "too pretty for prison."

Now both LaFave and the victim's mother are begging the judge to keep the case out of trial. The mother does not want her son to undergo the ordeal.

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