Posted on Mon, Feb. 28, 2005 [b]Opening arguments clash over motivations of Jackson, boy’s mother[/b] BY MICHAEL MARTINEZ Chicago Tribune SANTA MARIA, Calif. – (KRT) – Opening arguments in the trial of Michael Jackson painted the pop icon alternately as a scheming pedophile who sexually touched a 13-year-old boy afflicted with cancer and as the victim of that boy and his mother who were targeting him as an easy mark for his money. Jurors on Monday heard two starkly different portraits of Jackson, whose singing and dancing since age 5 are legendary in American popular music, and lawyers clashed over whether Jackson’s 2,800-acre ranch in Santa Barbara County, Calif., was a humanitarian refuge for needy children or a depraved environment where well-mannered kids were abused and became obnoxious and rude. … But defense attorney Thomas Mesereau told the jury that Jackson was a target in a false, vengeful accusation by the cancer-stricken boy and his mother. The attorney said both the boy and his mother have a history of approaching celebrities and asking them to donate money or sponsor the boy’s dream of becoming a performer – attempts that were unsuccessful with Jay Leno, Jim Carrey and Mike Tyson. Charged with child molestation, giving alcohol to a minor and conspiracy, Jackson, 46, sat largely motionless during opening statements by Sneddon and Mesereau, who will continue his opening statement Tuesday. In setting out a complicated, sometimes convoluted series of events, Sneddon said Jackson began molesting the boy after a British television interview was broadcast in February 2003 that featured the boy talking about how he had slept in Jackson’s bed while Jackson slept on the bedroom floor. In the interview, Jackson defended the practice as an innocent expression of affection and insisted no sexual contact ever occurred. … Mesereau called the allegations “bogus” and said the boy’s mother, who had a history of making sexual assault claims and lying on welfare applications, was influencing her sons to make the charges. “The most vulnerable celebrity became the mark, Michael Jackson,” Mesereau said. With the judge’s approval, Sneddon used the names of the boy, his two siblings and their mother in court Monday. The Chicago Tribune generally does not publish the names of minors involved in criminal cases or alleged victims of sex crimes. Sneddon, who kept a low profile during jury selection, heightened the showdown between him and Jackson by choosing to deliver the opening statement himself. Analysts had earlier predicted Santa Barbara County’s top prosecutor would continue a background role in the trial. Jackson has accused Sneddon of waging a personal vendetta since 1993, when Sneddon investigated Jackson for an earlier child molestation allegation that didn’t lead to criminal charges. In an opening statement that lasted almost three hours, Sneddon described a complicated series of events leading up to the alleged molestation. … Mesereau offered a different version of events and questioned why Jackson would molest a boy at a time when many media outlets were searching for him or the boy to interview in the wake of the British program. “Can you imagine a more absurd time?” Mesereau told the jury. “The media were everywhere.” Mesereau said the mother had enrolled the boy and two other children in dancing school with the hope of them becoming performers some day. The attorney said the mother approached several performers and comics about her son’s cancer and sometimes successfully raised money – even though all the boy’s medical bills were being paid by insurance belonging to her then-husband, now her ex-husband, a grocery worker who is a Teamster. “There is a pattern by (the mother) and her children of ensnaring people for money,” Mesereau said. On one occasion, according to the lawyer, the boy called Jay Leno about his plight, but Leno became suspicious when he heard the boy’s mother in the background telling her son to say “I love you” and “I watch you late at night.” Leno then called police, Mesereau said. The attorney scoffed at prosecutors’ claims that the family was held against their will at Neverland Ranch. The boy’s mother stayed in a guest cottage at the ranch that was so well furnished that Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando often asked for that specific cottage whenever they visited, Mesereau said. The defense attorney then read a long list of items that the boy’s mother purchased at Jackson’s expense: thong underwear, bras and trips to a salon that included pedicures, manicures, leg wax and lip wax. In all, Jackson picked up bills totaling $3,312.05, Mesereau said. He added that the family and the mother’s fiance at the time – a captain in the Army who is now her husband – wanted to profit from the publicity surrounding the British program. When Jackson thwarted them, the family trumped up the charges, Mesereau said. “Nobody calls the police. Nobody calls the U.S. Army, claiming they were falsely imprisoned and saying they were forced to say complimentary things about Michael Jackson – because there wasn’t a need to,” Mesereau said. Source: http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/tallahassee/news/nation/11017496.htm

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