[b]Jackson Accuser’s Mother Pleads the Fifth[/b] By TIM MOLLOY, Associated Press Writer SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The mother of Michael Jackson’s accuser took the stand outside the jury’s presence Wednesday and immediately invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify about welfare payments she has received. Defense attorneys have raised questions about the woman’s credibility, accusing her of bilking celebrities and committing welfare fraud. District Attorney Thomas Sneddon said in opening statements that the woman would admit she took welfare payments to which she was not entitled. Judge Rodney S. Melville told jurors before the mother took the stand that the woman would testify, but that he would first hold a hearing out of their presence. The mother was then sworn in and told Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen that she would invoke her right to protect herself from self-incrimination. Wednesday’s hearing ended weeks of speculation about when prosecutors would call the woman to testify — and whether she would testify at all. Defense attorneys have tried to turn the focus of the case from Jackson to the boy’s mother, alleging that she orchestrated a scheme to have her son falsely accuse Jackson of molestation in order to get money from the singer. Zonen told the judge he understood the woman would answer all questions except those relating to her welfare application and her receipt of payments. Melville then had the woman assert her privilege and state in her own words what she would refuse to discuss. “Everything to do with the welfare application,” she said. Defense attorneys contend the woman should not be allowed to take the stand at all if she refuses to testify about the welfare payments. But the fact that the judge told jurors the woman would be next to take the stand — and identified her by name — suggests he has already decided to allow her testimony, said legal analyst Anne Bremner, a former prosecutor who is watching the trial. The alleged welfare fraud occurred in Los Angeles County, where the mother lived. Testifying that she took payments she wasn’t entitled to could open the possibility of a criminal investigation. But charges would not be filed until welfare officials completed an investigation, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Santa Barbara County prosecutors could ask their Los Angeles counterparts to grant her immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony in the Jackson case, Bremner said. Wednesday’s hearing came as the prosecution shifted from witnesses who alleged past improprieties by Jackson back to the current allegations that the singer molested a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, gave him alcohol, and conspired to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary. Earlier in the day, the stepfather of Jackson’s accuser denied under cross-examination that he once told police he did not believe the boy’s mother was in danger as she left the entertainer’s Neverland Ranch. The stepfather testified that the boy’s mother seemed distressed when she called from Neverland several times in February 2003, when the two were dating. He said that after one call, he told he told police the woman would be leaving Neverland and wanted to know if officers could intercept the car that was bringing her back to the Los Angeles area. Police told him they couldn’t do that, he said. Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. noted that a police report said he told an officer he did not believe the mother was in any danger. “I am denying saying that,” the stepfather testified. AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report. Source: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050413/ap_en_mu/michael_jackson_38

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