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Jacko Trial Day #5

SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The teen who claims Michael Jackson molested him extols the pop icon’s virtues as a role model, friend and father figure in a videotape recorded right before the alleged molestation.

“He treats me just like he is my father,” the boy, now 15, says in the video, which was played for jurors Friday at Jackson’s molestation and conspiracy trial.

The comments were recorded by Jackson’s personal videographer, but never made it into the so-called “rebuttal video” that jurors have heard so much about since Jackson’s trial opened Monday.

The video, which the Fox Network bought from Jackson’s production company for $3 million, was made in response to a Feb. 9, 2003, documentary in which the accuser and Jackson held hands and talked about sleepover parties at the entertainer’s Neverland Ranch. The accuser, his older sister, younger brother and mother all participated in the Feb. 19, 2003, taping of the rebuttal video, and praised Jackson’s kindness, humility, positive outlook on life and his ability as a parent.

Prosecutors say, however, that the comments were all scripted by Jackson’s media team and recorded after the family was held against its will at Neverland Ranch and hotels in California and Florida.

The conspiracy charge against Jackson stems from the alleged detention of the family, who met and befriended Jackson while the accuser waged a successful battle with a cancer doctors had deemed unbeatable.

Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon played the outtakes during testimony from the accuser’s older sister, now 18.

Identified in court papers as “Judy Doe,” the witness told jurors that at one time she believed everything she said on the tape, but Jackson’s damage-control team was lurking behind the scenes with scripts designed to show the pop star in the best light.

“What Michael is is a family man,” said the accuser’s mother, who seemed to take control of the interview.

Sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, the accuser’s mother expressed concern that in response to Martin Bashir’s “Living With Michael Jackson” documentary, people were taking Jackson’s truly “innocent relationship” with her son and making it something “dirty.”

It’s clear from the videotape that the accuser and his family were trying hard to portray Jackson as a father figure. The word “father” was used dozens of times to describe him, and the family steered clear of talking about the many gifts and private time Jackson spent with the accuser and his younger brother while a guest at Neverland Ranch.

Exactly what motivated the family’s performance is at dispute in the trial.

Prosecutors contend the family spoke under duress, late at night and after being denied requests to go home. The defense claims the comments represented what the family members actually felt, and that any of their over-the-top comments could be explained by the desire of the accuser’s mother to get rich on the rebuttal video.

When it became clear the family members would not be compensated for the video, they conceived of the molestation allegations, according to defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.

“You said those things because you meant them, right?” Mesereau asked “Judy” on cross-examination Friday.

“Kind of,” she said.

“Didn’t you tell a grand jury in Santa Barbara County that you meant what you said?” Mesereau asked.

“Yes,” she conceded.

Mesereau fired question after question at the witness in an effort to establish that she has said different things at different times, prepared for her testimony with Sneddon, and conveniently said she had forgotten things that would make her look less truthful.

“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago, and I was very young,” the woman said in response to one question.

“Did someone tell you to say that, when you get in trouble when the defense attorney?” Mesereau asked. “Did you ever use that stock phrase when the prosecutor was asking you questions?”

The defense believes the accuser and his family have a civil lawsuit waiting in the wings and need to be careful not to jeopardize their chances of cashing in by anything they say at the criminal trial.

The sister, for example, stuck to her claim that Jackson poured her a cup of wine from a bottle, even though Mesereau pointed out that she never told investigators that when she was interviewed in July 2003.

At the time, she said she figured it was wine because they were in a wine cellar. In trial testimony, however, she was sure it was wine because she saw Jackson pour from a wine bottle.

“They didn’t ask me that question. I did see him,” she told jurors.

“That’s not what you told the sheriffs that day,” Mesereau shot back.

Mesereau also tried to poke holes in the conspiracy case by noting that the accuser and his family were often taken to public places by Jackson’s security detail, including a federal building where passports were applied for in connection with a trip to Brazil that never occurred.

“Did you ever hear anyone scream ‘Help! We’re being held against our will,’ words to that effect?” Mesereau asked.

The witness agreed that no one made such pleas for assistance. She insisted, however, that the family asked to be taken home numerous times but were refused.

“I know that’s your position, but the reality is that when you wanted to leave, they took you home, correct?” Mesereau said.

“Yes, with a hassle,” she said. “We had to ask over and over.”

Mesereau will continue to cross-examine the witness when the trial resumes Monday. “James Doe,” the accuser’s young brother, is expected to be the state’s fifth witness.

 

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