Robert Blake Civil Case Settlement Soon

03/31/2005 at 08:00 AM EST

Robert Blake Civil Case Settlement Soon
NICK UT/EPA/Landov
Robert Blake, acquitted two weeks ago of criminal charges stemming from the 2001 murder of wife Bonny Lee Bakley, is set to reach an out-of-court settlement with Bakley's family in order to avoid a civil wrongful death trial, lawyers for both sides are saying.

The former Baretta star, 71, did not attend Wednesday's closed hearing with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Schacter, but lawyers for both sides said they have agreed to meet next week to review Blake's finances, Reuters reports.

The actor's attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, says he's warned the other side that Blake is burdened by a heavy federal and state tax debt. "His clients' best interest of ever getting any money is best served by good faith discussions now," Schwartzbach said.

An attorney for the estate of Bakley and her four surviving children said he feels Blake also wants to avoid negative publicity.

"Robert Blake realizes the importance to his future acting prospects of not being proven a murderer in a court of law," said Eric J. Dubin. "He also wants to avoid the stigma that O.J. Simpson got after his civil conviction."

Former gridiron star and actor Simpson was acquitted of the 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman, but was later found liable for their deaths and ordered to pay a $33.5 million civil judgment.

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