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The Jacko Trial Day #8

Santa MARIA, Calif. – A 15-year-old boy who claims singer Michael Jackson molested him in 2003 testified Wednesday that Jackson seemed interested in him primarily when he was cancer-stricken and wanted him to appear on video with the international pop star.

Jackson renewed his interest in the boy almost two years later when filmmaker Martin Bashir was taping interviews at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for his documentary, “Living With Michael Jackson,” according to the testimony of the teenager, who is identified in court papers as “John Doe.”

By then, the boy’s cancer was in remission and his hair had grown back. Prosecutors contend Jackson revived his relationship with the boy in an effort to rebuild his image and climb out of debt.

“Michael told me he wanted me to go up to the ranch … Before that I hadn’t talked to him in a very, very long time,” the boy said, recalling a phone call to his East Los Angeles home. “He took me into the library and said, ‘You want to be an actor, right? … I’m going to put you in movies. Here’s your audition, OK?” The accuser testified that Jackson told him to refer to him as “Michael Daddy” when the cameras were rolling, and to say that Jackson had helped him and was responsible for curing the boy’s cancer.

“Was that true?” asked Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon.

“Not really,” the accuser answered. “For the majority of my cancer he really wasn’t there.”

The implication of the testimony was that Jackson was only interested in John Doe when he was believed to have terminal cancer and again when Jackson needed him to appear on the Bashir documentary. As it turned out, the boy’s appearance holding hands with Jackson backfired on the singer and caused an uproar in the media when it was aired in Great Britain on Feb. 3, 2003, and rebroadcast in the U.S. a week later.

When the accuser takes the stand again Thursday, jurors are expected to hear his claims that Jackson and members of his public relations team pressured the boy and his family to appear in another video praising Jackson as a father figure after the Bashir documentary.

The accuser has said that Jackson molested him in the singer’s bed after the taping of the so-called “rebuttal video,” but jurors have yet to hear that.

The boy, who is expected on the witness stand for three or more days, wore a French blue button-down shirt and black slacks when he was took the stand at about 1:30 p.m. He appeared to have matured greatly since taping the rebuttal video on Feb. 19, 2003, just before the alleged molestation.

Earlier Tuesday, jurors saw the 2003 videotape for the second time, when defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. played it during his cross-examination of “James Doe,” the accuser’s younger brother.

Mesereau appeared to be playing the tape again for two reasons: to get James Doe to admit that he, his mother and siblings were lying throughout; and, also to have jurors reach the conclusion that the mountain of praise they heaped on Jackson was heartfelt.

“He makes me feel like I’m his son, me and my brother,” James Doe said on the tape, referring to the defendant. “He lets us call him ‘father.'”

Stopping the tape briefly, Mesereau asked the 14-year-old, “Were you lying?”

“Yes, on there,” James Doe said, explaining that he was just saying what one of Jackson’s people told him to say.

The taping is a key component of the prosecution’s conspiracy case against Jackson. After the Bashir documentary aired, Jackson and his media men – a group of five unindicted co-conspirators – pressured the accuser and his family to make the comments on tape, prosecutors say.

Although the family spoke about Jackson in glowing terms, the interviews were not broadcast as part of the rebuttal documentary aired by the Fox network. The defense contends that the accuser’s mother would not agree to let the producers use the family’s comments without being paid a large sum first.

When Jackson’s team refused, the accuser’s mother had the boy make false allegations, Mesereau argued in his opening statement Feb. 28.

Mesereau pointed out numerous inconsistencies in James Doe’s testimony and statements he made to police and the grand jury that indicted Jackson.

He faces charges of molestation, conspiracy and giving the accuser alcohol in furtherance of the alleged molestation.

James claims he lied on the tape because he was tired and was being told what to say. The defense claims he was lying at his mother’s request to cash in somehow on the rebuttal documentary.

In either case, the defense apparently wants the jury to hear lies from James, his brother, a sister and their mother to further its theory that they were honest only when it served them.

During one moment of levity in Mesereau’s cross-examination, James volunteered that there were 17 steps leading up to Jackson’s bedroom, where he claims he saw Jackson fondle his brother on two occasions in 2003.

“Did you count them?” Mesereau asked, suggesting that someone close to the prosecution must have told him there were 17 steps.

“Yeah,” James said.

“What was the purpose for counting them?” Mesereau asked.

“I don’t know. I always count stairs when I’m in a house,” James responded.

“So you’re a compulsive stair-counter,” Mesereau said.

Jurors roared with laughter. Later, Mesereau accused James of making it up.

Although the appearance of the accuser sent reporters scrambling for cellphones Wednesday, jurors have just begun to get to know him. The bulk of their court day was spent watching the tape made as part of the rebuttal video and two others.

On the first tape, the Jackson 5’s ’70s-era hit “I’ll Be There” was the theme music for a five-minute recording of Jackson and his accuser during the summer of 2000, when John Doe was undergoing chemotherapy for the cancer that attacked his left kidney, spleen and other internal organs.

The video opens with James Doe pushing his brother in a wheelchair around Neverland Ranch. Jackson walks alongside carrying an umbrella to shield him from the sun. At one point, Jackson walks across a bridge with his arm around the accuser. Later, Jackson spreads out a blanket that he and the accuser lay on in the shade of a tree by a pond.


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