Jackson accuser's mom ends 5-day testimony

Calif. jury left to decide whether allegations of abuse, threats are true

April 20, 2005|By Sally Connell and Michael Muskal | Sally Connell and Michael Muskal,LOS ANGELES TIMES

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The mother of the boy who testified that he was molested by Michael Jackson completed her testimony yesterday, leaving it up to the jury to decide whether she was a victim or a con artist, the clashing portraits that emerged from her five days on the stand.

The woman's time on the stand was one of the most dramatic periods in the prosecution's case, which District Attorney Thomas Sneddon announced would likely conclude at the end of next week, the ninth since opening statements.

For more than 20 hours of often rambling testimony and pointed, sometimes brutal cross-examination, the woman gestured, pleaded with jurors and explained how she felt watched and threatened by Jackson aides who wanted to control her family.

Defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. hammered at themes he had stressed for days, that the greedy woman lied to officials and used her children to get money from a variety of targets, including celebrities, the government and businesses.

The woman was followed by three Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department officers and a brief appearance by the woman's mother, the grandmother of the accuser. The lawyers also had a short private meeting to determine the order of the remaining witnesses in the prosecution's case.

In his last clash with the woman, Mesereau questioned whether her injuries were the result of domestic abuse or from guards at an El Monte-area shopping center in 1998. She insisted that it was the guards who beat her, but the defense attorney kept up his attack on the origin of injury photos introduced by the prosecution.

The woman is crucial to the prosecution's charge that Jackson conspired to kidnap, extort and falsely imprison her family after a British documentary embarrassing to Jackson was aired in 2003. Jackson, 46, is also charged with molesting her son, then 13, and giving alcohol to aid in committing a felony.

It was the airing of the documentary that began the series of events that led to the trial of the singer. Jackson and the boy appeared, holding hands, as the star said he slept with boys in a nonsexual way. Fearing the documentary would hurt Jackson, his aides pressed the accuser and his family to participate in a rebuttal video that praised Jackson for his generosity and support, the woman said.

She testified that she participated in the rebuttal video because she was told by Jackson aides that killers would visit her family. She also testified that she learned she and her relatives were under surveillance by investigators working with Jackson's former lawyer.

The prosecution played more surveillance tapes made by the private investigator. In the grainy video, her two sons are shown picking up uniforms from a dry cleaner. The mother is seen in a car and later on the balcony of an apartment.

In cross-examination, Mesereau was at times sarcastic and unrelenting in pressing the witness. Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville warned both attorneys several times to act more professionally. He told the woman to restrain her drama and meandering speeches that included several comments linking Jackson to little boys. Those remarks were stricken from the record.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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