Conspiracy a tough sell in Jackson case – SB News-Press

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Conspiracy a tough sell in Jackson case 7/29/04 By DAWN HOBBS NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER Some legal experts questioned Wednesday whether a jury will buy the conspiracy described by prosecutors in the Michael Jackson case — that the making of a video to better his image led to abduction, imprisonment and extortion. The elaborate scheme allegedly carried out by Mr. Jackson and his associates may not be easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the experts said. Prosecutors revealed only snippets of their case Tuesday in a Santa Maria courtroom, saying that Mr. Jackson allegedly lured a boy to his Neverland Valley Ranch and then kept him and his family there against their will until they made a video that countered a BBC documentary in which the entertainer said he shares his bed with children. (Whisper note: It wasn’t a BBC documentary. It was produced by Granada) Mr. Jackson also tried to isolate the boy from his mother, hid the family in hotels and tried to move them out of the country, prosecutors allege. Defense lawyers scoff at the allegations, saying that allowing the family to stay at Neverland, giving them rides on private planes and treating them to nice hotels and gifts is generosity, not conspiracy. One legal expert said the jury is unlikely to believe the conspiracy theory unless the prosecution can first prove the boy was molested. “If there was sexual abuse, the jury is more likely to buy the prosecutor’s theory that Jackson premeditated the abduction and false imprisonment of the boy not only to clear himself, but to be available for sexual acts,” said Laurie Levenson, professor at Loyola School of Law. “But if there is not evidence of a sexual act, I think the jury is more than likely to view the Neverland visits and gratuities as acts of kindness or even crisis management.” In the BBC video “Living with Michael Jackson,” which aired Feb. 6, 2003, the entertainer is seen holding hands with the boy who would become his accuser. The prosecution contends Mr. Jackson threatened the safety of the boy and his family if they did not participate in a rebuttal video to put out the public relations firestorm created by the BBC video. Prosecutors said that beginning on the day the rebuttal “Take Two: The Interview They Wouldn’t Show You” aired, Feb. 20, 2003, and continuing through March 10, Mr. Jackson gave the boy alcohol and molested him four times. Originally, prosecutors alleged the molestation began Feb. 7, the day after the BBC video. “Either the witness recollection of events has changed, or something doesn’t make sense here,” Ms. Levenson said. “But it certainly hands the defense a good argument of why would Michael Jackson, who wants to avoid being prosecuted, then engage in illegal sexual acts with this boy after he thinks he’s under scrutiny? There may be a timeline problem here. There may be a witness problem. But at this point, of what is coming out in drips and drops, doesn’t add up as neatly as another theory might.” Although the scenario may be questionable, another expert points out the conspiracy charge is a prosecution tool that allows otherwise-inadmissable testimony to be brought before jurors. “The longer your alleged chain of events and the more you have to go to motivation to explain mental state, and the more people involved — in this case the boy’s family and the alleged co-conspirators — the harder it makes for a jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that this is what occurred,” said Robert Pugsley, professor at Southwestern University School of Law. “Although the enticement up there (to Neverland) will have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, using the conspiracy theory gives distinct advantages to the prosecution that could, in the end, help them meet the burden of proof,” Mr. Pugsley said. But there may be too much information missing at this point to make an accurate judgment about the prosecution’s conspiracy allegations. “We still may not know exactly what is alleged here,” Ms. Levenson said, referring to how the judge in this case has kept secret details of the allegations in the indictment and numerous other documents in the case. “It would sure be helpful to have a copy of the indictment, even with the names redacted, just so the public would have a clear understanding of what prosecutors allege. “What came out in court (Tuesday) from the prosecution does not add up — but it’s hard to say when these things are coming out in spurts and sputters. . . . You could give an innocent reason why Jackson wanted the boy to make the video — because he was being unfairly targeted — or you could have a nefarious reason. He’s either a good guy being unfairly besmirched in the media or a really bad guy who needed to make sure the boy was within his grasp and available for his deviant behavior.” The first public glimpse of the alleged crimes that led to the charges against Mr. Jackson of conspiring to commit abduction, false imprisonment and extortion came during the prosecution’s response to the defense argument Tuesday to throw out the indictment. Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss unveiled the conspiracy narrative after lead defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau asserted that Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon “bullied,” “intimidated” and “threatened” witnesses, presented inadmissible evidence and faulty jury instructions, and allowed “so-called” witnesses to opine about matters they know nothing about. “This was a two-fold response on the part of the prosecution,” Ms. Levenson said. “They were saying: ‘We didn’t do those terrible things, and, moreover, there’s evidence to support those overt acts. So let’s go to trial. We are not going to dignify these charges against us, and we have the evidence to support the indictment.’ ” Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville did not indicate Tuesday when he will issue a ruling on the request to set aside the 10-count indictment, all of which Mr. Jackson pleaded not guilty to in April. “It’s pretty rare that a 995 motion (request to set aside the indictment) is granted because the probable cause threshold is so low,” said Gerald Uelmen, professor at Santa Clara University of Law and member of the O.J. Simpson defense team. Prosecutors could seek another indictment or hold a preliminary hearing. But if Judge Melville decides the indictment should stand, the defense lawyers still have options that include challenging the judge’s decision with the State Court of Appeal and filing other motions to throw out the indictment based on inappropriate presentation of exculpatory evidence to grand jurors. :nav Source:

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