[b]Geragos: ‘He was a ripe target'[/b] 5/14/05 By DAWN HOBBS NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER Lawyer says he protected Jackson from exploitation In a day of high courtroom drama, Michael Jackson’s former criminal lawyer, Mark Geragos, testified Friday that he had attempted to protect the entertainer from a predatory family — not facilitate what the prosecution alleges was a conspiracy. The attorney appeared under defense subpoena and a judge’s threat to order him arrested if he did not show up at the Santa Maria courtroom. The noted defense lawyer told jurors that immediately after meeting the mother of the boy who would later accuse the entertainer of molestation, he became suspicious of her and hired a private eye to investigate the woman’s background. He also instructed the investigator to surveil the family — an activity the prosecution alleges was part of an elaborate conspiracy to abduct, falsely imprison and extort the boy and his family. “Did you ever conspire to commit any crime?” lead defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau asked. “Absolutely not,” Mr. Geragos said. “I was just trying to prevent a crime from being committed against my client.” “What crime is that?” Mr. Mesereau continued. “I thought that they were going to shake him down,” Mr. Geragos said. The defense called Mr. Geragos to rebut the prosecution’s conspiracy allegations. Mr. Geragos said he met the mother at Neverland Valley Ranch on Feb. 7, 2003, the day after a British documentary aired and created a public relations firestorm — including cries for social service and criminal investigations of the entertainer. The documentary showed Mr. Jackson holding hands with the woman’s son as the entertainer states he innocently shares his bed with children. Mr. Geragos said he was hired to determine whether any investigations of Mr. Jackson had commenced. While at Neverland, he heard the boy had been instructed to refer to Mr. Jackson as “Daddy.” “It gave me reason to pause,” Mr. Geragos testified. “In response to that, I decided to run a database search . . . I was concerned at that point, given the situation, that someone might use the situation to manipulate my client. It was not unknown to me that my client was a frequent target of litigation. . . . He was a ripe target.” He said he became gravely concerned when his search unearthed a lawsuit the mother filed against J.C. Penney Co. She received a $150,000 settlement. Mr. Geragos testified that he instructed private investigator Bradley Miller to get a tape-recorded statement from the family and to surveil them in case they tried to sell their story to tabloids or file suit against the entertainer. Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen’s cross-examination of Mr. Geragos was so aggressive that Judge Rodney Melville called for a timeout. The high-stakes legal wrangling peaked when Mr. Geragos said Mr. Jackson had waived attorney-client privilege only for the period up to the entertainer’s arrest in November 2003. The judge then stopped the testimony and sent the jury out of the room. Judge Melville said he thought there had been a total waiver of privilege and accused Mr. Mesereau of misrepresentation. After the defense lawyer apologized, the judge said he would rule on the issue on Monday. Mr. Geragos’ investigation of the accuser’s family began Feb. 7 and ended in mid-March 2003, the time when the prosecution alleges Mr. Jackson and his associates were holding the family against their will until they agreed to participate in a video to counter the documentary. The boy claims that Mr. Jackson molested him after that. Mr. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, administering alcohol to a minor to commit a felony, and conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that Jackson associates moved the family out of their East Los Angeles apartment and put their belongings in storage because they were preparing to whisk them to Brazil. But Mr. Geragos testified that the mother asked his private investigator to help her store the items because she was moving in with her boyfriend. He said at that time he knew nothing about the planned Brazil trip. On cross-examination, Mr. Zonen asked Mr. Geragos whether he had seen the documentary that contains “an admission to sleeping with boys.” “What do you mean, sleeping with boys?” Mr. Geragos asked. “That he sleeps with boys,” Mr. Zonen said. “You mean that boys stay in his room?” Mr. Geragos asked. “I mean that he sleeps with boys,” Mr. Zonen said. “Are you saying it’s sexual?” Mr. Geragos asked. The heated exchange continued until the judge told Mr. Zonen to take a timeout. When questioning resumed, the prosecutor asked whether Mr. Geragos advised his client not to sleep with boys. Mr. Geragos responded he did not: “I saw someone who was childlike in his love for kids. I saw nothing criminal. Nothing nefarious.” When asked what Mr. Jackson told him later about it, Mr. Geragos said, “He has consistently said he didn’t do anything — nothing untoward, nothing sexual and if someone spends the night in his room, it was just an act of unconditional love. “The problem, Mr. Zonen, is when people say ‘sleeping with someone in his room’ and then there’s this jump to it being something awful and really, really bad.” Mr. Geragos is scheduled to return to the stand on May 20. Source: http://news.newspress.com/topsports/051405jackson.htm

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