Fair-weather friend

The accuser in the Michael Jackson trial testifies that the pop star dropped him after initially showing concern about the boy's cancer.

By Dan Glaister
Published March 10, 2005 2:25PM (EST)

The 15-year-old boy who accuses Michael Jackson of child molestation Wednesday confronted the pop star across the courtroom as he took to the witness stand. In emotionally charged scenes the teenager and the entertainer sat barely 15 feet apart but studiously avoided eye contact in the hushed court.

Speaking in a quiet, occasionally hesitant voice, the boy told how 46-year-old Jackson had initially invited him to his home when he was receiving cancer treatment but subsequently seemed to drop him. But that changed, said the boy, when Martin Bashir was making his documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson." "Before that I hadn't talked to Michael in a very long time," the boy told the court.

After being introduced to Bashir at the singer's Neverland ranch, Jackson took the boy to another room. The boy said: "He was telling me, 'Hey, you want to be an actor, right? I'm going to put you in movies and this is your audition. I want you to go in there and tell them how I helped you, that you call me Daddy Michael.' He told me that he wanted me to say that he helped me and that he pretty much cured my cancer."

Was that true? he was asked by district attorney Tom Sneddon, prosecuting. "Not really," the boy replied, "because for the majority of my cancer he wasn't really there."

Asked by Sneddon what his attitude was to Jackson at the time of the filming of the Bashir documentary, the boy replied: "I thought he was the coolest guy in the world, like my best friend ever."

The boy said that Jackson had not told him that the video was for public broadcast. Instead the interview, in which the boy and Jackson hold hands and talk of their practice of sharing a bedroom, provided the climax of the Bashir documentary that provoked controversy over the singer's attitudes toward children. Those revelations in part led to the current charges.

The courtroom meeting between the boy and Jackson, who is being tried on various charges, including two counts of sexually molesting the boy, is the centerpiece of a trial expected to last several months. The boy appeared nervous and spoke quietly into the microphone. It was a dramatic contrast to the image of a 13-year-old cancer sufferer shown to the jury earlier in the day.

But growing in confidence, the boy described how on his first visit to the ranch, Jackson had suggested to him that he and his younger brother sleep in the entertainer's bedroom. "He told us to ask our parents ... at dinner. My parents said yeah." The boy also agreed with previous testimony from his brother that the singer and an assistant showed them pornographic Internet sites on that first night in Neverland.

The boy said that after a few meetings, when he was in the midst of cancer treatment, Jackson appeared to drop him. "Michael stopped talking to me in the middle of my cancer," he told the court. "I don't know what happened."

On one occasion he bumped into Jackson at Neverland when the singer had said that he wasn't there. "He acted as if, 'Oh crap, he saw me.'"

Before the boy's appearance the defense continued to explore discrepancies in testimony by his younger brother, who was 11 at the time of the alleged offenses. The defense played a home movie made by the two brothers for Neverland's television channel and a DVD showing the entertainer and his alleged victim walking through the Neverland ranch.

The boy is almost bald in the DVD, has difficulty walking and appears emaciated. At the time, he was receiving chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer.

In earlier cross-examination, Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, continued drawing the jury's attention to inconsistencies in the younger brother's testimony. When asked by the defense, the boy was unable to explain why he had told the grand jury he knew where the key to Jackson's wine cellar was. In testimony on Tuesday he had told the court he did not know where the key was.

The defense contends the two boys were "running wild" through the main house, breaking into the wine cellar and drinking alcohol. The prosecution argues that Jackson administered alcohol to the boys to help commit a crime.

Mesereau also pressed the boy on his different accounts of the molestation given to police, the grand jury and the court. Asked to explain the discrepancies, the boy said: "I was nervous when I was doing the interview."

"Because you were nervous you didn't get the facts right?" asked Mesereau.

"Yes," the boy replied.

The singer faces charges of child molestation, administering alcohol to a child and multiple counts of conspiracy involving extortion, kidnapping and false imprisonment. If found guilty he could face up to 20 years in prison. The trial continues.

Dan Glaister

MORE FROM Dan Glaister

Related Topics ------------------------------------------