Jackson accuser's mom testifies for hours

Published April 14, 2005 12:54PM (EDT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) -- During more than four hours of jumbled and tearful testimony, the mother of Michael Jackson's teenage accuser said she originally trusted the singer to protect her family from unidentified "killers," but later decided Jackson was the one to fear.

The woman took the witness stand Wednesday after Judge Rodney S. Melville allowed her to testify despite her refusal to discuss alleged welfare fraud -- an issue on which the defense had hoped to attack her credibility. She invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid questions about it.

Looking directly at the jury, the woman once punctuated her words by snapping her fingers and later affected the German accent of a Jackson associate. At other times she glanced at Jackson, who sat motionless at the defense table.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient, plying the boy with alcohol, and holding his family captive in February and March 2003 to get them to help rebut a damaging documentary.

The boy's mother said following the broadcast of the documentary showing Jackson and her children, the pop star convinced her in a "lovey-dovey speech" that her children were in danger, that there were "killers" after them, and that he was the only one who could protect them.

"I thought, 'What a nice guy,'" she said.

She said Jackson spoke to her family "in a very male voice" in a Miami hotel room, and told them "that he loves us, that he cares about us, we're family. ... That we were in the back of the line, now we're in the front of the line, that he's going to protect us from those killers."

Later she said of Jackson and his associates: "And you know what? They ended up being the killers."

She also testified that she saw Jackson lick her son's head during a February 2003 flight from Miami to California on a private jet. Asked about the event, she turned to jurors and pleaded, "Please don't judge me."

"Everyone was asleep. I had not slept for so long," she said. "I got up. I figured this was my chance to figure out what was going on back there. And that's when I saw Michael licking (the boy's) head."

She sobbed, pounded her chest and said, "I thought I was seeing things. I thought it was me."

Jurors were in a jovial mood as they returned from a break after the testimony. Several were smiling or laughing, and an alternate stuck his tongue out at a juror as he passed her on the way to his seat. There was no way of knowing the nature of their jokes.

During more than four hours of testimony, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. did not make a single objection. Prosecutor Ron Zonen, however, instructed the witness several times to answer his questions briefly instead of offering lengthy, sometimes off-topic answers.

The woman was to return to the stand Thursday.

Before court recessed Wednesday, Zonen played tape-recorded phone conversations between the woman and a man identified as Jackson aide Frank Tyson, whom prosecutors have named as an unindicted coconspirator.

"Let us take care of you. Let us protect you," Tyson is heard saying. "Trust me. ... Now is not the time to be out there alone."

On the tape, Tyson's gentle, high-pitched voice is startlingly reminiscent of the speaking voice Jackson sometimes uses.

"I thought he was a good guy," the woman said of Tyson, "and he ended up being the worst of all of them."

She said she eventually returned to Jackson's Neverland ranch, gave an interview to a private investigator and appeared on a rebuttal video in which she lavishly praised Jackson.

In the February 2003 documentary, Jackson had said he let children sleep in his bed but characterized it as innocent.

Defense attorneys have raised questions about the woman's credibility by accusing her in opening statements of bilking other celebrities and committing welfare fraud. District Attorney Thomas Sneddon said in his opening statement the woman would admit she took welfare payments to which she wasn't entitled.

The judge read a statement to jurors saying the woman had taken the Fifth outside of their presence and that attorneys did not realize she would do so when they delivered their opening statements.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger vehemently objected to the testimony, saying Jackson had a Constitutional right to have his attorneys cross-examine the woman on every issue. The judge rejected a defense request for a mistrial or to require her to take the Fifth in front of jurors.

By Tim Molloy

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