Star's aides allegedly threatened boy's family

Jackson accuser's mother testifies she was forced to praise singer on video

April 15, 2005|By Sally Connell and Michael Muskal | Sally Connell and Michael Muskal,LOS ANGELES TIMES

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The mother of the boy accusing Michael Jackson of child molestation testified yesterday that the star's aides threatened to harm her family unless she portrayed the singer in a positive light on the video made to defuse the growing threat of bad publicity.

She said she was given a script for the video, but when she deviated from what she had been told to say, Jackson aides took her to get travel documents so she could be sent to Brazil. The woman testified that an aide threatened to kill her parents and a boyfriend if she refused to leave the country.

After 3 1/2 hours on the stand Wednesday, the woman returned for more than three hours of direct testimony yesterday. In addition to being the mother of the accuser, the woman is the key witness on the conspiracy accusations.

Jackson, 46, is charged with 10 counts, including child molestation, administering alcohol to a child to aid in the commission of a felony and conspiracy to kidnap, extort and falsely imprison the accuser's family. The accuser was 13 in the period from Feb. 4 to March 12, 2003, when the prosecution says the crimes occurred.

On Wednesday, the woman broke down four times on the stand, gestured frequently and begged the jury not to judge her. She was more restrained and focused yesterday, according to court observers.

Much of yesterday's testimony centered on Feb. 20, 2003, the day the family finished the rebuttal video. Later that day, the mother was interviewed by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, which was investigating whether she or Jackson had mistreated the children. No charges were filed.

The rebuttal video was one tactic used by the Jackson camp to offset the potential backlash from a 2003 British documentary. On that tape, Jackson held hands with his accuser while saying he often slept in the same bed with children, but in a nonsexual way.

Jackson aides gave the woman a script filled with positive comments about the singer for the video, the woman said. An aide cautioned her that if she didn't say the good things, "I know where your parents live," the woman testified.

"I was not to make any comment about child services and I did," she testified, critically describing the agency.

Later that day, she met with Los Angeles child services investigators. Jackson aides told her to record the conversation secretly and to show authorities a DVD of Jackson and the boy having a good time at Neverland, Jackson's ranch.

Still, aides told her that her performance was inadequate and she was going to have to leave the country, she said.

"Why did you agree to go to Brazil?" asked Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen.

"Because of my parents' life and my [boyfriend's] life," she answered. "Because they were going to be killed."

"Who told you that?" Zonen asked.

"Frank," said the woman, in an apparent reference to Frank Tyson, a Jackson aide and unindicted co-conspirator.

The woman said her Los Angeles apartment was closed by Jackson aides without her permission.

"My apartment was meaningless until they found out that Michael's things were there," she said, describing letters and gifts the singer had sent her son.

From Feb. 21 to March 10, she said, she stayed at a Calabasas hotel with Jackson aides and guards always present.

The defense has belittled the notion of any conspiracy to hold the family, noting that the mother went for salon treatments in limousines during her alleged imprisonment, that the children went to toy stores, and that Jackson spent thousands of dollars on the family.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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