Witness thwarts wine allegation – SBNP

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THE JACKSON TRIAL: [b]Witness thwarts wine allegation[/b] 3/30/05 By DAWN HOBBS NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER Flight attendant testifies it was her idea to serve the singer alcohol in soda can A flight attendant testified Tuesday that it was she — not Michael Jackson — who arranged for the entertainer to drink wine from a Diet Coke can. Her account undermined a key prosecution argument that Mr. Jackson hid the alcohol in the can so he could secretly give it to the boy who later accused him of molestation. “Is there anything peculiar about the means or method you serve Mr. Jackson alcohol?” Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss asked Cynthia Bell, who worked on a jet chartered by the pop star. “Mr. Jackson is a very private drinker,” Ms. Bell responded. “I initiated serving him wine in a Diet Coke can. . . . I serve other clients that way.” “Whose idea was this?” Mr. Auchincloss asked. “It was mine,” she said. Mr. Auchincloss continued: “Did Mr. Jackson ever tell you to serve him wine in a Diet Coke can?” “No, he did not,” she said. “Did you ever see him share his can of wine with anyone else?” the prosecutor asked. “No,” she replied. Under cross-examination by lead defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau, Ms. Bell described what she saw on the chartered flight from Miami to Santa Barbara in February 2003. She told jurors that the boy was rude and out of control and characterized Mr. Jackson as a quiet, gentle man. “(The boy) was unusually rude, discourteous,” Ms. Bell testified. “I remember him talking about how, ‘I got this watch from Michael and it’s real expensive.’ . . . He was obnoxious. “When I served him food, he said ‘This isn’t warm. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.’ It was embarrassing to have him on board, actually.” She then described Mr. Jackson as “soft-spoken.” “Typically, I’d have to kneel to gain eye contact with Mr. Jackson,” Ms. Bell testified. “He would touch my arm when we were communicating.” Ms. Bell was the prosecution’s 38th witness in the child molestation trial against the entertainer, now in its fifth week. Her testimony appeared to frustrate prosecutors and made jurors raise their eyebrows, especially when she revealed that the accuser’s older sister ordered wine on the flight from Miami. The sister had testified that the only time she drank alcohol was when Mr. Jackson gave it to her and her brothers at Neverland Valley Ranch and that she didn’t like it. The sister had also testified that she saw Mr. Jackson sharing his Diet Coke can with her brother, who appeared intoxicated. The boy himself testified that he drank a little on the flight, but was not drunk. But under cross-examination by Mr. Mesereau, Ms. Bell said she did not see Mr. Jackson give wine to the boy and denied that the youth was intoxicated. The boy has accused Mr. Jackson of plying him with alcohol and then molesting him at Neverland in the spring of 2003. Mr. Jackson, who appeared pleased with the flight attendant’s testimony, has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, administering alcohol to a minor to commit a felony and conspiracy. Earlier, Jamie Masada, owner of a Hollywood comedy club called the Laugh Factory, also took the stand as a prosecution witness. It was Mr. Masada who first arranged for the boy to meet Mr. Jackson. Asked if he had ever met the defendant, he answered “No,” turned to Mr. Jackson and said: “How are you?” In response, Mr. Jackson smiled and waved to him. Under questioning by Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen, Mr. Masada testified that he met the boy and his family in 1999 through a summer camp he offers for disadvantaged children. He said the boy was near death with cancer in June 2000. He told jurors about fundraisers he held for the family and said the boy’s father repeatedly asked him for money for food, gas and rent. He described how the sickly boy asked to meet his idol, Mr. Jackson, and said he made phone calls in an attempt to arrange that meeting. Mr. Jackson called the boy days later in his hospital room and eventually invited him to his ranch. Mr. Masada told jurors that the boy was harassed after a British documentary aired showing him holding hands with Mr. Jackson as the entertainer stated that he shares his bed with children. Mr. Masada testified that he took the boy and his mother to his longtime attorney William Dickerman to see if he could persuade television stations to stop showing the video, which aired on ABC, VH1 and MTV. He also took Mr. Dickerman, the boy and his mother to Larry Feldman, the same attorney who brokered the $20 million settlement between Mr. Jackson and the family of another boy who accused him of molestation. Mr. Dickerman and Mr. Feldman are expected to take the stand as prosecution witnesses. Mr. Zonen asked Mr. Masada to describe a phone call he received from the accuser’s mother while she was at the ranch a couple weeks after the documentary aired in February 2003. “She was upset,” Mr. Masada said. “She was crying. . . . She said they were holding her and her kids against their will. She said, ‘I need to get out of here.’ ” Prosecutors allege that Mr. Jackson and his associates held the mother and her children captive in hotels and at the ranch until they agreed to make a video that would rebut the British one. Last week, Louise Palanker, who had worked at the Laugh Factory and gave the accuser’s family $20,000 when the boy was battling cancer, testified that she also received a panicked call from the mother. But under cross-examination, Ms. Palanker and Mr. Masada both testified that they never called police about the family’s alleged captivity. When Mr. Zonen asked Mr. Masada to describe the mother’s response to an unnamed person who wanted to give the family a blank check to help them out, he said: “No, tell them all I need is a friend. I don’t need money. I need a prayer.” On cross-examination, Mr. Mesereau revealed that Mr. Masada told authorities in a December 2003 interview that the boy’s parents repeatedly asked him for money. Dawn Hobbs is also a news analyst with NBC and MSNBC. E-mail her at dhobbs@newspress.com. Source: http://news.newspress.com/topsports/033005jackson.htm

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