Latest Michael Jackson Press Releases
Friday, March 18, 2005
Former Maid And TV Personality Testify
Yesterday's day in court saw one of the many celebrities listed on the possible witness list testify, followed by a former maid of Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley ranch.
Fritz Coleman, who works as a weatherman for KNBC as well as being a stand-up comedian, discussed his interaction with the Arvizo family when he met them in 1999 through Jamie Masada's comedy camp for underprivelaged children, according to the Associated Press. He said he helped the Arvizo children form comedy routines as part of the camp and found them to be "personal and polite and charismatic."
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen, Coleman said that he and another comedian, Louise Palanker, decided to buy the family hundreds of dollars worth of Christmas gifts in 1999 and that they were "very thankful for the gifts." He went on, "I got the feeling this might be the only Christmas they would have, . it just seemed like the right thing to do and perhaps it saved Christmas for them."
During opening statements at the beginning of the trial, lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau suggested Coleman was one of the many celebrities scammed out of money by the Arvizo family, Prosecutors claimed they simply met through the comedy camp.
Coleman described how after meeting Gavin Arvizo at the comedy camp, he heard that he had cancer so visited him in the hospital. "He appeared very drawn and pale. This was in the darkest days of his diagnosis when they were not sure he was going to make it. It was very hard to watch," Coleman said. He also said he participated in a fundraiser that may have generated thousands of dollars as well as a blood drive for the Accuser and made announcements on his weather forecast urging people to come along.
Once Zonen had concluded his direct examination of the witness, Mesereau then started his cross-examination, however Zonen ended his questioning on a light note, "One last question," he asked the forecaster. "Are we expecting rain this weekend?" Coleman responded, "Well, I should be back there (in Los Angeles) trying to figure that out right Now."
Mesereau asked Coleman if he was aware that the Arvizo family had collected more than $100,000 in a lawsuit against store chain J.C. Penney, he claimed he didn't know, "My understanding was that the (Arvizo's) needed money," Coleman said. He also did not know he was mentioned by Janet Arvizo (the Accuser's Mother) in that settlement, or that she told Los Angeles police that he would help her in a domestic violence dispute with her husband.
During cross-examination Coleman admitted that David Arvizo, the Accuser's Father, approached comedian George Lopez while at the comedy camp wanting money, and that he "was fairly persistent about it. He was becoming a problem." Mesereau had Coleman acknowledge that he knew the family was needy, "So your assumption was they must be poor or they wouldn't be (at the camp)," said Mesereau. "Yes," said Coleman.
During his last visit to Gavin Arvizo in hospital Coleman remembered seeing a large box of gifts from Michael. "I remember (the Accuser) beaming that this was a gift from Michael," Coleman said.
The next witness to take the stand was Kiki Fournier, a former maid at Neverland who had worked there twelve years. Although she was a Prosecution witness testifying about Michael's relationships with children, she was reluctant to testify against him. She described for Prosecutors how children acted at Neverland. "They would get in candy-throwing fights in the theatre," she said, "Sometimes they would get pretty rowdy. ... He did let them have a free hand, so to say. They could get pretty rambunctious." She claimed Gavin Arvizo and her brother were among the wilder children who visited the ranch. "With the absence of an authority figure, these children became wild, and without their parents there this became like Pinocchio's Pleasure Island," she said.
As Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss questioned Fournier, he asked her if she had ever seen children intoxicated at the ranch, "I can't say for sure how many times but I've seen it a couple of times," she claimed. She described one evening she served dinner to Michael and four children, three of whom appeared intoxicated, and he was the only adult present. She did admit however that she never witnessed Michael providing the children with alcohol. It was soon after that dinner she stopped working at Neverland, although she never specified her reasons for leaving.
Fournier named nine specific children for Auchincloss as children that Michael really bonded with and sometimes spent the night in his room, who included Macauley Culkin and Frank Cascio (an un-indicted co-conspirator in the case.) Both are now adults.
When cross-examined by Mesereau, Fournier admitted that although she initially thought that Accuser was very polite, after a while he and his brother had wreaked havoc in the guest quarters where they stayed. The "mess" they left behind became more frequent in the weeks leading up to their leaving in March 2003 and she even summoned another maid to view their room, she testified. "They were always sloppy," she said. "But toward the end things were broken and it was a mess. ... There were things spilled, the refrigerator was a mess. It was like someone had gone in there like a tornado." Even before March 2003 they had "become demanding," she said. If the children didn't like something they were given for dinner they demanded something different, "There was no respect," she said.
Mesereau asked Fournier if it appeared that the children slept in their quarters in the last few weeks, she answered "I believe that it was he and his brother staying there," stating that the way the room was they had to be. The Prosecution claim acts of molestation took place in Michael's room during the last few weeks the family stayed at the ranch.
The former housekeeper described one incident involving the Accuser's younger brother Star that had bothered her. Describing the boys as "destructive" she claimed that the younger brother had once pulled a knife on her while in the kitchen according to the Santa Maria Times. "When (Star Arvizo) put the knife in my back, was he intoxicated, or was he just playing around?" the woman asked rhetorically. "I don't know."
As with last week, normal trial proceedings end early for the week and jurors have a day off as attorney address pending motions. Michael is also not required to attend today's routine hearing.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
More Detectives Take The Stand
In court yesterday jurors heard testimony from police officers involved in the investigation against Michael Jackson as they testified about evidence seized from Neverland Valley ranch on November 18th 2003.
Carrying on from Tuesday's testimony, the lead investigator in the case Sgt. Steve Robel described his initial interview with the Accuser Gavin Arvizo. "He was fine with talking to us," Robel said according to the Associated Press. " ... When I got into the molestation acts I noticed a change in (his) demeanour. He became very quiet, folded his arms and sank down into his chair. ... He even became choked up."
After Defence attorney Robert Sanger brought it to Robel's attention on Tuesday that the Accuser had originally said molestation occurred five times, he returned to similar questioning yesterday. Robel testified the Accuser told him "it happened between five and seven times but he could not articulate exactly" what had happened. Since the initial interview, Robel claims the Accuser could only provide detailed accounts of two incidents.
Sanger suggested to Robel that he and other investigators were so anxious to arrest Michael they did not carry out there investigation properly. Robel admitted an arrest warrant was issued two months prior to him learning about the rebuttal video and audiotapes where the Arvizo's are heard to be heaping praise on Michael as a father figure and financial saviour. Robel also acknowledged that he had not seen a collection of cards and letters from the Arvizo's to Michael referring to him as "daddy" and once again praising him. He also admitted that two months ago he had seen similar sentiments in letters sent to Louise Palanker by the family.
Another detective to take the stand was Paul Zelis, he testified about his role in the search of Neverland and what he had found, including adult materials. He admitted under cross-examination that the magazines had not been tested for fingerprints until after the grand jury proceedings in March and April 2004. The Accuser was said to have handled the magazine during his testimony in those proceedings therefore having his prints on them, but when asked by Sanger if this was the case, Zelis replied he did not know.
Lt. Victor Alvarez was another member of the search on Neverland, and District Attorney Tom Sneddon presented him with more adult magazines on a projector screen. As the jurors sat without any expression on their faces Alvarez asked if they could see the screen properly. "They probably don't want to," Sneddon remarked.
The jury were shown explicit adult material seized from the ranch, including magazines, DVD's and books, however Prosecutors did not directly make any link to the charges currently against him. The legally available material included "Barely Legal" and "Teenage" which feature woman of legal age who appear to look younger as well as "Penthouse". A videotape titled "Believe It Or Not" was also seized.
Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau has already said in his opening statement on March 1st that Michael owned adult material. "Mr Jackson will freely admit he read girlie magazines from time to time," he told jurors. "He denies showing them to children".
During cross-examination by Sanger, each police witness testified that the adult material seized was legal to possess and commercially available and that the Accuser had not remembered seeing any particular magazine or DVD. The officers even admitted that many of the items that were seized were not published or released until after the Arvizo family left Neverland for good. When Alvarez was unable to confirm the release date of a DVD because the print was too small to read, Michael then lent him his reading glasses so that he could.
Although not stated as explicit material, sheriff's Deputy Karen Shepherd testified that she found a book titled, "Camp Cove, Photos of Sydney Men," which is a commercially available artistic look at naked men and Sydney by Rod McRae according to Amazon.com, and another titled "Dress up: Playacts and Fantasies of Childhood," according to Reuters.
Before court recessed, Judge Melville said he plans to hold a hearing next week to discuss allowing evidence from the 1993 allegations into this current case. Melville gave the Defence until Friday to file final papers opposing the evidence. The Judge also said Prosecutors will "definitely have to call witnesses," and Mesereau suggested he would also call witnesses to the hearing.
Today is expected to see more police officers taking the stand to testify about their role in the searches conducted during the investigation.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Accuser Finishes His Testimony
Michael Jackson's Accuser Gavin Arvizo finished his testimony yesterday after finishing cross-examination by lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau and then redirect questioning by District Attorney Tom Sneddon.
When concluding his cross-examination of the witness, Mesereau asked the Accuser why, if his family were held captive at Neverland Valley ranch as they claim, when travelling to surrounding communities did he not try to get help. "Those first few escapes you talked about ... I liked being at Neverland. It was like Disneyland," the witness replied.
The Accuser claimed it was his Mother who had wanted to escape, according to the Associated Press. "Your mother was worried but she always came back?" Mesereau asked. "I guess so," the witness said. Mesereau said that in Febuary 2003 the Accuser went away from Neverland for trips to the dentist and Toys 'R' Us, the witness claimed his Mother remained left behind "where they could keep her," and that when the family did leave Neverland they had a close eye kept on them by Michael's employees, "They never wanted us to be in separate areas. They wanted us to be together," he said.
Mesereau asked the Accuser if he realised he could profit financially by filing a lawsuit before he turns 18, the witness claimed he did not know that.
Once Mesereau had finished his cross-examination, Sneddon asked the witness a few more questions to explain why the Accuser had told his teacher that nothing untoward happened with him and Michael, new evidence brought up in Monday's cross-examination. The witness claimed that the other children at school were making fun of him about his relationship with Michael saying, "All the kids would laugh at me and try to push me around and say, 'That's the kid that got raped by Michael Jackson,'" he said. "I told (the teacher) that it didn't happen," the witness said. "Why did you tell him that?" asked Sneddon. "All the kids were already making fun of me at the school and I didn't want anyone to think it had really happened," he answered.
Before he eventually left the stand after four days of testimony, Sneddon asked the witness what he now thought of Michael, "I don't really like him anymore," he said. "I don't really think he's deserving of the respect I was giving him as the coolest guy in the world." Sneddons redirect questioning finished relatively quickly as he further talked about the Accuser's bout with cancer before finishing.
The next witnesses for the Prosecution were law enforcement workers, including Sgt. Steve Robel, the lead investigator who first interviewed the Accuser and his family.
Under cross-examination by Defence attorney Robert Sanger, Robel confirmed that he had encouraged the family to go forward with their claims saying, "We're going to try our best to make this case work." Sanger quoted Robel during his first interview with the accusing family as saying, "One thing I want to emphasise is you guys are doing the right thing here. ... I don't care how much money they have. He's the one who's done wrong. ... We're going to try to bring him to justice." Sanger asked, "That's not the statement of someone with an open mind who's trying to find the truth, is it?" Robel responded, "That statement is to reassure them," he said, "because they were terrified when they came forward. It took us two weeks to get them to come in." Sanger then asked, "Isn't the technique you are taught to tell them (is) to be honest and not to tell them they're right, everyone else is wrong?" Robel said that was not the technique that he was taught. "And from the beginning you have made a concerted effort to make this case work?" asked Sanger. "Yup, I did," said Robel.
Robel admitted that the accusing family never told investigators about the rebuttal video and audiotapes that were recorded according to CNN, and they did not find out until the raids on November 18th 2003.
Sanger raised inconsistencies in Gavin Arvizo's testimony to Robel, stating that when discussing the rebuttal video the Accuser told Robel that 99.9 percent of what was said during the taping was not true, however the Accuser testified on Monday that most of it was true. The Accuser also claimed Michael Jackson has masturbated five times when initially telling Robel, which was changed to only twice during his testimony. "Your investigation disclosed on the (the family's) last days at Neverland there were not five occasions when the molestation could have occurred," Sanger said, stating that Michael could not be charged with those alleged incidents as he was not at Neverland on those dates. "No, that's not correct," said Robel, although he did concede that there were "two or three days" when Michael was not present.
The Accuser's dates of alleged molestation also changed numerous times when being interviewed by Robel, first claiming he was molested initially before child welfare workers interviewed him and his family, and then changed it to afterwards, to then changing it again to before and after. The Prosecution claim all alleged incidents took place after the interview with child welfare. Robel stated during many questions that he did not remember things and would have to go over recordings of interviews, he was asked to come back today.
Another witness to take the stand was Terry Flaa, who was a detective in the sheriff's department in 2003 but now works for the Santa Maria police. Flaa testified that the sheriff's department was contacted by the state Children and Family Services Division, who had received complaints about Michael's behaviour in the Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson by Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred and TV psychologist Carole Lieberman, neither of whom had any firsthand knowledge of abuse. Flaa said he looked into the complaints and concluded there was no evidence, he recommended the case be closed.
Flaa came to that conclusion after reviewing interviews with the Accuser and his family gave to child welfare workers as well as an interview he conducted with the Accuser's Father. However the case was re-opened after Larry Feldman (the Accuser's civil attorney who also represented Accuser in 1993) called Flaa's supervisor Lt. Jeff Klapakis with the allegations the Accuser made to psychologist Stan Katz.
As per usual, Michael was asked a daily question as he left the Santa Maria courthouse, this time he was asked how he was doing and how he was feeling after his back injury last week, "I'm feeling pretty good, but i'm in pain," he said.
Tuesday 15 March 2005
ACCUSER GRILLED ON THE STAND Admits telling teacher nothing happened
During intense cross-examination by lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau, the Accuser Gavin Arvizo admitted telling a former teacher that nothing untoward had happened between him and Michael Jackson, after the alleged abuse was meant to have taken place.
The witness was also questioned about contradictory statements he had previously made to sheriff's investigators, including a claim that molestation occurred before the taping of the February 20th 2003 rebuttal video which he now denies, as well as his behaviour problems at school and implications that he was caught at Neverland drinking, searching for pornography and masturbating while Michael Jackson was not there. Mesereau also implied a motive for the family making the allegations, saying that they were angry once Michael did not want them to be part of his family anymore.
At the end of the proceedings, Michael was asked if he was pleased with the cross-examination by reporters, "Mesereau did a great job" he answered. Gavin Arvizo's cross-examination is expected to continue today.
Monday, 14 March 2005
ACCUSER ADMITS: [MICHAEL] "...DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO ME."
After a week of (frankly) dubious testimony from the Prosecution's witnesses (see At a Glance) the already- laughable 'case' against Michael Jackson has endured another massive blow. Once again, it was a witness for the Prosecution that did it. And this time, it was the star witness himself - Michael's accuser, Gavin Arvizo.
Under cross-examination by lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, Arvizo was questioned about a conversation he had with Jeffrey Alpert, the dean at John Burroughs Middle School in Los Angeles.
According to Mesereau, Alpert told Arvizo, "Look at me, look at me. ... I can't help you unless you tell me the truth - did any of this happen?"
"I told Dean Alpert he didn't do anything to me," replied Arvizo, "I told him twice."
Furthermore, that conversation with Dean Alpert took place after the dates the alleged abuse happened, but before the family met with Stanley J. Katz.
Katz was the Beverly Hills psychologist of Jordan Chandler, the boy who accused Michael Jackson of molestation in 1993.
Tom Sneddon's Triad According to a February 2004 NBC Today Show report by Mike Taibbi, Katz is just one of three key figures in the prosecution's triad who also were involved in the allegations made against Michael more than ten years ago. (Tom Sneddon and Larry Feldman complete the trio.)
Taibbi postulated that "...the names common to both cases suggest an agenda, even a vendetta."
The most outstanding piece of news taken from that report (but largely overlooked by the world's press then and now) was a quote from Dr. Katz addressing the Accuser; "Look, if you go ahead with this... ...your family will get money if they win."
Friday, March 11, 2005
Michael Jackson Needs Hospital Treatment Before Court Appearance
Michael Jackson entered the courtroom over an hour late yesterday after visiting a hospital in the early hours of the morning concerning serious back trouble.
When everyone was due in the Santa Maria courthouse at 8:30 am and Michael did not show up, his lead attorney Thomas Mesereau explained to Judge Melville the reason, "Mr. Jackson is at Cottage Hospital in Santa Ynez with a serious back problem. He does plan to come in." The self-proclaimed no-nonsense Judge then angrily declared, "I'm issuing a warrant for his arrest. I'm forfeiting his bail. I will hold the order for one hour." He even refused to speak to the doctor who was treating Michael.
With everyone awaiting his arrival, his spokesperson Raymone Bain released a statement;
"Michael Jackson began having severe back pain at 5:15 am today. At this time, he called his attorneys and advisors to let them know he was unable to move. It was recommended that he go to the hospital nearest him to get a muscle relaxant. Defense Attorney Thomas Mesereau informed the judge as soon as he was aware of the circumstances.
"Mr. Jackson fully expected, and had every intention, of being in court on time. Mr. Jackson did not expect to be held at the hospital as long as he was.
"Had Mr. Jackson had the time to change clothes, he certainly would have. But it was very important for him to get to the courthouse as soon as possible.
"Mr. Jackson was looking forward to facing his accuser and is not, in any way, intimidated by his accuser. Mr. Jackson feels his attorneys have been doing an excellent job."
Michael then arrived little over the allotted time Melville had provided, wearing pyjama bottoms, slippers and a t-shirt under a suit coat. He was walking gingerly and looked quite uncomfortable and distressed while very slowly walking into the courthouse. Melville decided the sanctions he imposed earlier were no longer necessary now that Michael was in court and the arrest warrant was revoked.
Melville then addressed the jury about the delay, "Mr. Jackson had a medical problem and it was necessary for me to order his appearance," he said according to the Associated Press.
After the delay, proceedings began with a continuance of questioning of the Accuser Gavin Arvizo by Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon at around 10 am. The Accuser claimed that Michael once showed him explicit magazines that were found in a briefcase that belonged to one of his employees.
Concerning the alcohol charges, the boy alleged that Michael provided him with alcohol in his bedroom, office and wine cellar. He says that he was given different drinks such as vodka, rum, and "Jim Bean" bourbon. "Did you ever tell Mr. Jackson you only had one kidney," Sneddon asked. "Yes," the Accuser answered. "I told him it was bad for me to drink alcohol and he said it was OK, nothing was going to happen."
On the plane trip back from Miami following the Martin Bashir documentary, the Accuser claimed Michael gave him wine in a Diet Coke can, referring to it as "Jesus juice". "He told me if I had ever heard of Jesus juice. He told me, 'Like you know how Jesus drank wine? We call it Jesus juice,'" he said. "I drank a little bit of it and I told him it tasted ugly. . He said he knew I was stressed out from all the media stuff going on and the Jesus juice would relax me." He went on, "He told me not to tell anyone about the Jesus juice. He said that this is a symbol that we will be friends together." The witness claimed that he drank on every visit to Neverland Valley ranch during February and March 2003, although did not specify any intake during the alleged incidents of molestation.
Continuing on from what Sneddon described during opening statements and his brother talked about during his testimony, the Accuser told jurors about the alleged incident where Michael apparently entered his bedroom naked while the two boys were sitting on the bed. "He just ran up there and got something and then went downstairs," the Accuser said. This differs from his brother's testimony as Star Arvizo claimed Michael was aroused at the time and sat on the bed to tell the children it was natural, the Accuser never mentioned any of these points.
The witness then described two alleged incidents of molestation. "I was under his covers, and that's when he put his hands in my pants and started masturbating me," the Accuser said of the first incident, according to the Santa Maria Times. "I kind of felt weird and was embarrassed about it, and he said, 'It's OK' and that 'it was natural.'" A day later, the witness alleged, another incident took place, "We just came back from the arcade," the witness said. "We were on top of his covers and he did it again." He claims that Michael tried to have the Accuser touch him.
Sneddon did not make it clear to the jury whether the Accuser and his brother were going to describe separate incidents or the same ones, either way the boys gave differing testimony and never gave any specific dates.
The witness was cross-examined for the last twenty minutes of proceedings by Mesereau and some exchanges were quite heated. Mesereau got the Accuser to admit that he and his family met with civil attorneys William Dickerman and Larry Feldman (the man who brought the civil suit against Michael Jackson in '93) before he shared his allegations with Feldman recommended psychologist Stan Katz.
Mesereau also had time to address the charge of conspiracy; pointing out that the Accuser returned to Neverland several times after the time he claimed he "escaped" the ranch with help of an employee. Mesereau asked the witness to confirm that Michael let him stay at Neverland weeks at a time and was treated to chauffeured rides in limousines and a Rolls Royce. "I only rode in a Rolls Royce when I was escaping," the Accuser answered. "There were like three escapes, weren't there?" Mesereau asked.
As the questioning got heated it became argumentative between the witness and the attorney, Judge Melville had to admonish the two, "I'll instruct both the witness and the attorney not to argue with each other," he said.
Although a hearing is scheduled for today where attorneys will argue motions, the trial is not set to resume until next Monday, when Mesereau is expected to continue his cross-examination of Gavin Arvizo. Michael is not expected to appear today.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
The Accuser Takes The Stand
The now 15-year-old Accuser Gavin Arvizo took the stand for the first time yesterday to testify for the Prosecution.
His testimony came near the end of the day as his younger brother Star was still being cross-examined by lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau. As part of the cross-examination, Mesereau showed jurors (and the brother) a video from Michael Jackson's personal video archives, according to the Associated Press. In the video, the Accuser is seen to be cancer-stricken and balding as his brother pushes him in a wheelchair and Michael walked alongside them. They then walk to a tree and he places down a blanket for him and the boy to sit down and look over the lake at Neverland Valley ranch.
The video is accompanied by Michael's music, including I'll Be There and Smile, one juror was said to be bobbing his head to the music.
Mesereau asked the brother once the video was complete if he had ever seen it but he was not sure. "Michael was only there with Gavin a couple of times," he said. Since the boy was attempting to minimise the relationship his brother and Michael had, Mesereau asked more questions, "Did you ever hear Michael Jackson encouraging your brother to get better?" "He probably told him on the phone, I don't know," the boy answered.
Another video was shown to the Accuser's brother entitled "The Neverland Channel", and it contained the 14-year-old boy acting as a presenter of a show interviewing zookeepers and children that were at the ranch. Mesereau asked if he was exited to make the video, "No. ... I was very tired. I was kind of sleepy," he said. Mesereau asked again, "Were you excited to narrate a video like this at Neverland?" "No, I was sleepy," the boy repeated.
The boy was then shown the rebuttal video that was filmed in February 2003; his sister had already been shown the piece. Mesereau showed the brother a segment where his Mother heaps praise on Michael as a father figure who saved them from poverty, "You heard your mother make those comments?" asked Mesereau. "I wasn't listening," he answered. "I was falling off my chair. It was 4 in the morning. I was very sleepy."
At another point in the video his Mother is seen to be saying that Michael "claimed these three little munchkins (her children) as his kids," Mesereau then asked, "Did you think your mother was telling the truth?" "No," he said. "She was doing what (un-indicted co-conspirator) Dieter (Weisner) asked her to do." The family claim they were forced to take part in the video. "Were you in fear?" Mesereau asked, "I was just sleepy," the boy answered again.
Concerning the main charges of alleged molestation; Mesereau brought it to the brother's attention that he has testified witnessing two occasions where he had seen Michael abusing his brother from the doorway, however in a previous interview with sheriff's investigators he had told them he was curled up on a little couch pretending to be sleeping when he had witnessed the alleged abuse. When asked if his story had changed, the brother then said there were three incidents that he witnessed, which has never been previously alleged. "I was nervous while I was doing the interview," the boy said. "Because you were nervous you didn't get the facts right?" Mesereau asked, "Yes," the boy responded.
After cross-examination concluded, Gavin Arvizo then took the stand for the first time. He told District Attorney Tom Sneddon about attending a Los Angeles comedy camp that was run by Jamie Masada, who would later become a close friend of the accusing family. He said his favourite comedian was Jay Leno and George Lopez was his comedy coach at Masada's camp. Apparently it was his Mother who saw a flyer for the camp and thought he "was kind of funny," the Accuser said.
The Accuser also testified that his Father abused him, his siblings and his Mother. Sneddon asked him to describe for the jury what it was like to have cancer, "I felt like there was a knife in my stomach," he said.
As his brother had said before him, the Accuser told Sneddon that Michael and (un-indicted co-conspirator) Frank Tyson surfed the internet for pornographic websites during their first stay at Neverland, adding that the time spent was about 15-30 minutes. He corroborated his brother's story that when a woman with her top lifted was on screen, Michael said, "Got milk?" and also leaned over to his son Prince when he was sleeping and told him he was missing out.
He claimed that Michael coached him to say certain things for the Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson. He said that Michael "took me in the library and said, 'Hey, you want to be an actor, don't you?' And I said yes. He said, 'Hey, I'm going to put you in movies and this is your audition.' ... And he said, 'Tell them you call me daddy and daddy Michael.'"
Following continued questioning from Sneddon the boy stated, "He told me to say he helped me and that he pretty much cured me of cancer." When asked if that was true he said, "Not really. He was hardly there during my cancer," and that comedians like Lopez and Chris Tucker were there for him more often. "Did you admire Mr. Jackson?" Sneddon asked. "I thought he was the coolest guy in the world. He was my best friend ever," the boy said.
Court is due to resume today with Sneddon continuing his questioning of Gavin Arvizo, it's not likely that Mesereau will be able to start his cross-examination until the following proceeding.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Accuser's Brother Cross-Examined
The Prosecution finished their questioning of the Accuser's younger brother Star Arvizo yesterday; he was then given a hard line of questioning from lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau.
As District Attorney Tom Sneddon finished his questioning of the boy, the 14-year-old described an incident for the Prosecutor, "One time me and my brother and (another boy) were sitting on the bed and (Michael Jackson) told us not to tell anyone what happened, even if they put a gun to your head," he said. "He told us not to tell (my sister) anything, he was afraid she might tell our mom what we were doing," when asked what he was referring to by Sneddon, he said "drinking", according to Reuters.
During Monday's testimony, the boy identified a magazine titled "Barely Legal" as one of the pornographic materials that Michael had allegedly shown he and his brother as Sneddon projected the cover of the magazine onto a screen for jurors according to the Associated Press. As Mesereau questioned him, he showed the magazine to the boy and asked him to again confirm this was the magazine that Michael had allegedly shown him.
Once the boy confirmed this, Mesereau pointed out that the date on the magazine was August 2003; months after the accusing family had been at Neverland Valley ranch for the last time. After Mesereau pointed out the date, the brother said, "I never said it was exactly that one. That's not exactly the one he showed us."
The Accuser's brother admitted to lying under oath in a previous case. The boy testified that his parents never fought and that his Father never hit him. "When you were asked if your dad ever hit you, you said 'never,'" said Mesereau. "Were you telling the truth?" The boy answered "No." Mesereau asked him to explain to the members of the jury why he had previously lied under oath. "I don't remember. It was five years ago. I don't remember nothing," he responded.
"Did someone tell you to lie in the J.C. Penney case?" Mesereau asked, "I don't remember" the boy responded, a similar answer to what his older sister Davellin repeatedly provided when under cross-examination.
Mesereau also addressed the alleged acts of molestation that Star Arvizo claimed on Monday to have witnessed. Mesereau explained that when anyone is in the hallway leading to Michael's bedroom an alarm bell sounds. The boy said that the alarms did sound on those occasions even though he failed to mention that fact during Monday's testimony. "So the two times you claim you saw Michael Jackson touching your brother in bed, that alarm went off?" asked Mesereau. "Yes," the boy said. He claimed that both his brother and Michael did not hear the alarm on both occasions.
During Monday's testimony for the Prosecution, the brother claimed that he witnessed seeing Michael Jackson's hand under his brother's underwear, however Mesereau stated that in previous statements he claimed that he witnessed seeing Michael Jackson's hand on his brother's behind. "I never said he touched his butt," the boy answered. When Mesereau confronted the boy about his numerous inconsistencies he answered, "I don't know exactly what I said."
When addressing the issue of being held captive at Neverland, the boy stated, "They kept us away from the clocks," the boy said. "We didn't know the time or he date or nothing." Mesereau pointed out two large clocks on the lawn at Neverland, according to the Santa Maria Times which he claimed they could have seen as they were able to roam the estate. "They were wrong and we were kept away from them," the boy responded.
Mesereau continued his hard line of questioning stating many inconsistencies, including differences from what he has said on the stand to what he told a psychologist. He told the boy to admit that he had been caught breaking into Michael's wine cellar, bedroom and looking through his adult material. "You went snooping around the entire bedroom area when Mr. Jackson wasn't even there, didn't you?" Mesereau asked. The boy responded: "No."
Court finished early at 12pm, and is expected to resume today as it finished yesterday with Star Arvizo still being questioned by Mesereau. Michael's spokesperson, Raymone Bain, released a statement concerning how he was feeling in the past few days;
"Michael Jackson felt better today, at court's end, than he did on yesterday. The scurrilous and salacious accusations and details, all untrue, were hurtful and embarrassing to Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson has the utmost confidence that his defense team, led by Thomas Mesereau, Jr., will continue to evoke the truth. He feels that Mr. Mesereau is doing an excellent job."
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Accuser's Brother Testifies
After a weekend break, court resumed as normal yesterday as jurors heard more testimony from Davellin Arvizo, as well as a new witness taking the stand, the Accuser's younger brother Star.
Also, earlier in the day an audiotape was played of an interview with the accusing family that was recorded by Brad Miller, an investigator who worked for former lead Defence attorney Mark Geragos. Similar to the rebuttal video previously seen, the family heap praise upon Michael Jackson as a Father figure and a financial saviour. The tape was recorded February 16th 2003, according to the Associated Press.
During the sister's short-lived testimony Michael Jackson stood up and requested a toilet break, Judge Melville allowed the recess. Court resumed about five minutes later.
Once Star Arvizo took the stand, Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon questioned him. He told the Prosecutor that he and his brother Gavin slept in the guest room with their Father on the first night they spent at Neverland Valley ranch, however his sister testified they slept in Michael Jackson's room on that night.
The brother testified that Michael Jackson and his friend (and un-indicted co-conspirator) Frank Tyson showed he and his brother pornographic sites on the internet while his two children, Prince and Paris, were sleeping in the same room. "Michael told us not to tell no one what we did - not to tell our parents what we did," he said. At one point the brother claimed that as a picture of a woman showing her breasts was on a page Michael Jackson said, "Got milk?" Supposedly he was also heard whispering into his eldest son's ear while he was sleeping saying "You're missing some..." and used a slang expression for female anatomy.
Prosecutors showed jurors pictures of a brief case, which contained pornographic magazines. They were also shown a picture of the mannequin which Prosecutors claim Michael Jackson simulated sexual intercourse with.
The witness acknowledged that he was nervous as he fidgeted with his hands, and admitted to knowing security codes at Neverland. Michael Jackson apparently gave the alarm code to his own bedroom to him, he claimed, and a code for all the other locks was apparently obtained from a Neverland security guard.
He described to Prosecutor's the alleged incident they spoke of during the opening statements, "Me and my brother were watching a movie and Michael walked up naked," he said, "Me and my brother were grossed out. He sat on the bed and said it was natural," then left the room. Sneddon asked a few times whether or not he noticed anything unusual, after initially saying no, he then testified that Michael Jackson had an erection.
Concerning the accusation of giving minors alcohol, the witness described an incident aboard a plane where he says Michael Jackson gave him wine, "He leaned over and he handed it to me. I thought it was Diet Coke so I didn't want to be rude. It smelled like rubbing alcohol. I asked him what it was and he said it was wine." On the same flight he claimed he saw Michael Jackson licking his brother's head for about six seconds. The brother also talked about the trip to Miami just as his sister did, claiming he witnessed his brother drinking from a 7-up can, which had a red liquid. "He wasn't acting right," the brother said. "He was like saying weird stuff that didn't make sense."
A new accusation was heard when he claimed that Michael Jackson made them make prank phone calls at the ranch, "If the phone number didn't exist, he would have us take a drink of wine," he said. He claimed Michael Jackson was always present when he and his brother drank alcohol (which they say was referred to as "Jesus juice"), most of it happening in his office, bedroom or wine cellar at Neverland.
He expressed similar sentiments with his sister's testimony concerning the family being held captive and threatened. For the rebuttal video, he claimed un-indicted co-conspirator Dieter Weisner told him "always say good things about Michael Jackson," according to CNN. Weisner apparently relayed a threat from Tyson where he allegedly told the boy that he knew of "ways that my grandparents could disappear."
Then the main charges were discussed during questioning, the alleged molestation. The brother claimed he saw Michael Jackson molest Gavin Arvizo twice according to the Santa Maria Times. "I saw directly onto the bed," he testified, "I saw my brother was outside the covers. I saw Michael's left hand in my brother's underwears and I saw his right hand in his underwears," he said. Two days later, he claims he saw yet another act of molestation, "I went upstairs," he said. "The same thing was happening but my brother was on his back. My brother was asleep and Michael was masturbating while he had his left hand in my brother's underwears," the 14-year-old claimed. "I didn't know what to do," the boy said. "I just went back to the guestroom where my sister was sleeping."
The witness testified he told no one of the incidents until an interview with psychologist Stan Katz. Both the Accuser and his brother met with Katz in March 2003, who was asked to meet with them by the Mother's then attorney Larry Feldman. Both the attorney and the psychologist represented the Accuser in the 1993 case. Once both children told Katz of the incidents, he alerted the Police.
Michael Jackson was said to have been agitated during some of the testimony and was seen to be shaking his head at some of the answers given. He told reporters afterwards he could not comment as he was under the gag order. Court will resume today with Sneddon finishing his questioning of Star Arvizo, and then lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau's cross-examination of the witness.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Celebrities Defend Michael Jackson
Godfather of Soul James Brown has defended Michael Jackson while he is on trial.
The man who Michael idolises defended him during an interview with the Associated Press in which he said "Recognize that people do this ... They've been trying to do that to me all my life, trying to get something for nothing ... I think he's been set up like most entertainers. People think you have a lot of money."
Comedian and actor Jon Lovitz also defended his friend to a reporter for the Los Angeles CityBeat. The reporter states, "(Lovitz) can also amaze you with a candid, impassioned defense of his friend Michael Jackson."
Lovitz Father was a physician for the Jackson family which led to him being good friends with Michael.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Accuser's Sister Cross-Examined
Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau had his chance to cross-examine the Accuser's sister Davellin on Friday, but before he could the jury were shown the rebuttal video to the Living with Michael Jackson documentary made by the Accuser's family, which Davellin Arvizo claimed on Thursday they were forced to make.
"(Gavin Arvizo) was the one who asked him, 'Can I call you daddy?' and (Michael Jackson) said 'Of course,'" the Accuser's Mother Janet is heard saying on the tape, which was filmed on the 19th and 20th of February 2003. Gavin's younger brother Star was seen to share similar sentiments according to the Associated Press, "He actually seemed more fatherly than like our biological father." Davellin Arvizo also participated in the video, "He's a very caring, humble man. He took us under his wing when no one else would." The Accuser himself heaps praise upon Michael Jackson, "He was a loving, kind, humble man and all he wanted to do was good and happiness. I took to him pretty quick," he said.
In response to the negative media coverage following the Bashir documentary, Janet Arvizo is heard saying on the tape, "It breaks my heart because they're missing out on something very beautiful that they have tainted. It stemmed from jealousy, envy a lack of happiness in their own life," she said. She held her son's hand and instructed the cameraman to have a close-up of it, "You know how Bashir zoomed in, do that," she said, "Didn't you want a father to hold your hand, especially through the most troubling times," she said while describing Michael Jackson as her son's father figure. The rebuttal video was never used as part of the TV special Michael Jackson Take 2: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See as it was scheduled.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon finished his questioning from Thursday once the jury had seen the video, and he asked the sister how her brother's behaviour had changed following the events she described a day earlier. "He didn't want to be hugged, he didn't want to be kissed," she replied, "It just hurts because I'm his older sister," she went on to say, according to AFP, apparently on the verge of tears. She was then asked by Sneddon if she had ever seen Michael Jackson touch her brother inappropriately, "Michael Jackson was constantly hugging (Gavin) and kissing him on the cheek or on the head," she responded.
During Mesereau's cross-examination, he brought up the delicate issue of the sister's claims her Father had molested her when she was very young. "When you were interviewed by police you never told them your father molested you," she said, "They weren't asking me about that and I was very young". She went on to say she only found out about the abuse she suffered when her Mother shouted it out at her Father during an argument. A police report was made against her Father later in life in which she accused him of molesting, falsely imprisoning her and making terrorist threats, she admitted.
When being questioned by Mesereau, the sister claimed that no one in her family ever saw the Bashir documentary, even though the jury saw her Mother reference it numerous times during the rebuttal video. Mesereau then asked her about her Mother's comments about their financial situation made during the video, "She was just trying to make it more dramatic. There was a script", she said. "So are you saying everything you said on the tape was memorized?" Mesereau asked, "Not everything," she responded. She also claimed it was her Father and not her Mother who had tried to get money from people by using her brother's cancer illness.
Mesereau brought attention to the family's interview with social services in which they heaped praise upon Michael Jackson very much like they did in the rebuttal video. "So you'd lie about certain things and tell the truth about certain things, depending on what you are asked, right?" She admitted, "Yeah".
Then attention came to her testimony provided to Prosecutors a day earlier where she claimed she had witnessed Michael Jackson pouring wine into cups for her brothers while in a wine cellar. Mesereau told her that when telling sheriff's investigators about the alleged incident, she told them she had assumed it was wine and never mentioned anything about seeing the wine being poured. "I was young back then," she said. "I didn't know I had to say every little detail for it to be right."
Mesereau asked her if she was told by anyone to say she was young a lot during questioning after noting the amount of times she said it. "No" was her reply. "Did you ever use that stock phrase when answering any of the Prosecution's questions?" he asked. "Nobody told me what to say. What I say is for me," she said.
As per usual with court proceedings this week, a selected reporter asked Michael Jackson a question, asked how the past week had went he responded, "It went very good. Very good."
Friday, March 04, 2005
Accuser's Sister Testifies
In court yesterday, the jury heard testimony from Davellin Arvizo, the sister of Michael Jackson's Accuser.
Before she testified however, Al Lafferty, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputy, finished his testimony from Wednesday. He clarified photographs and video footage he took during a search at Neverland Valley ranch, and the jury were shown footage that was taken from that search.
The footage was said to have shown Michael Jackson's bedroom suite, which featured pictures of Marilyn Munroe and Shirley Temple as well as a glittering bedspread according to Reuters. Other rooms that were filmed contained mannequins from Star Wars, Superman and Batman.
Once Davellin Arvizo took the stand, she was questioned by District Attorney Tom Sneddon and she testified that Michael flew the Accuser's family to Miami on the night Living with Michael Jackson aired in the U.S. using Chris Tucker's private jet. "He (Michael) was kind of, like, upset about it. He didn't want us to see it," she told the jury.
She claims once they arrived in Miami, they met up with Michael in his hotel suite, and that he and the Accuser spent several minutes behind closed doors. "He was just very hyper, very talkative, running around, very playful, more talkative, more jumpy," the 18-year-old said of her brother's strange behaviour following this meeting.
On the flight back from Miami, she claims she seen Michael Jackson and the Accuser sharing a soda can, however she did not know what was in the can. Her brother was given a watch and a sparkly jacket as gifts, which Prosecutors claim, were bribes. Once back at Neverland she claims un-indicted co-conspirator Dieter Weisner told her family to take part of a rebuttal to the Bashir documentary, and provided them with a list of nice things to say about Michael Jackson. She claims they were instructed to "say nice things about Mr. Jackson and not talk about what goes on at the ranch."
"Me and my brother are very, very close," the Accuser's sister said. "During all this he didn't want to talk to me. He didn't want to be near me," she said. Although she admits she never witnessed any molestation that has been accused.
However, she described an alleged incident in which she went into a wine cellar where the entrance was hidden behind a jukebox. "When I walked into the wine cellar I saw Michael Jackson pouring wine into cups," she said according to the Associated Press. She claims her brothers Gavin and Star were drinking from the cups, as was another boy, and that she had a drink too.
The sister claimed that her family wanted to leave Neverland as Michael Jackson's associated were making them feel uncomfortable, "We just really wanted to get out of there," she said. "The whole situation, the whole secrecy, the whole thing. I didn't understand why it was like this. I was just scared." She said the family did leave the ranch but were under observation at a Calabasas hotel by two other un-indicted co-conspirators, Frank Tyson and Vinnie Amen, according to the Santa Maria Times.
"Vinnie and Frank said not to leave," she testified. "We couldn't leave the room, so we didn't even bother to ask (to go out) because we knew the answer would be 'no.'" She claimed that Tyson told the family it was for their own good, "There was one time when Frank told us there was death threats on us," she said.
Michael Jackson apparently showed no reaction during Davellin Arvizo's testimony, where she apparently did not make eye contact with him, and when asked he stated that seeing her testimony was "interesting, frustrating". She spent over four hours on the stand, however is yet to be cross-examined by lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau, this will happen on Friday.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Former Public Relations Witness Questioned
A woman who was employed for a six-day spell in the aftermath of Living with Michael Jackson in February 2003 testified yesterday about her experiences during that time.
Ann Gabriel (also known as Ann-Marie Kite) took the stand as a Prosecution witness. Before she did however, the trial was delayed half an hour as Judge Melville discussed with attorneys for both the Prosecution and the Defence a statement made at the end of the Tuesday's proceedings when Gabriel initially took the stand. Gabriel stated she was hired by a former lawyer employed by Michael Jackson on February 9th and fired on the 15th, the outcome of the meeting had the Judge explain to jurors the question of whether a lawyer hired to work for Michael Jackson should be interpreted to reflect "only what she thought she was doing" and not whether she actually was hired to work for Michael Jackson.
Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss was the first to question Gabriel. Auchincloss asked various questions about how Michael Jackson was portrayed in the media from a public relations point of view, she mentioned that The Smoking Gun posted documents on their website connected to the '93 case against Michael Jackson, "In combination with the Bashir documentary I felt it was beyond a disaster," Gabriel said, according to the Associated Press. This was the first time since the trial has begun that jurors heard mention of the case in 1993. Gabriel also asked on a scale of 1-10, what the damage level was, "25" was her response.
After an objection by lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau, Judge Melville told jurors that they were only to consider the testimony as it related to explaining Gabriel's motivations and not for the "truth of the matter."
Gabriel recalled one incident, as she testified that un-indicted co-conspirator Marc Schaffel called her on February 13th 2003 in a panic that the Accuser's family had left Neverland ranch, she then received a call later saying, "The situation had been contained". She went on, "The way that he answered by saying the situation had been contained made me very uncomfortable". She said she was fired after she questioned Michael Jackson's attorney David Le Grand (who hired her) saying, "Don't make me believe these people were hunted down like dogs and brought back to the ranch." He then told her the situation was under control. Le Grand told her "they no longer had to worry about (the Accuser's Mother) because they had her on tape and they were going to make her look like a crack whore," Gabriel testified.
During cross-examination, Mesereau questioned Gabriel's credibility as a public relations expert and asked questions that made Gabriel admit she had in fact been romantically involved with Le Grand prior to her being hired and that she only represented one other client, a Las Vegas magician who does infomercials. "You really weren't very experienced in the area of celebrity crisis management," Mesereau said. She also admitted she had never met with Michael Jackson or spoke with him, even though he signed her paycheques, according to CNN.
Mesereau questioned Gabriel as in what she believed were the motives of the people working around Michael Jackson at that time, especially the un-indicted co-conspirators named in the case. "You told the police that you thought Michael Jackson was being slammed by the team?" Mesereau asked, "Yes", she replied. "And your opinion was this team was not out to help Michael Jackson?" asked Mesereau, "That was my opinion" Gabriel answered.
Gabriel claimed she tried to the job she was brought into do, but some of the team didn't even pay attention, "Michael was going to get skewered on national TV and there was no plan of action to protect his interests from scurrilous allegations," she said. Gabriel claimed she was more interested in Michael Jackson's public relations interests than un-indicted co-conspirators Ronald Konitzer (whom she claimed embezzled $980,000 from Michael Jackson), Dieter Weisner and whom she called a key figure, Marc Schaffel. Then Gabriel also named former spokesman for Michael Jackson Stuart Backerman, according to the news-press.
Mesereau then surprisingly started asking questions about the Sony/ATV catalogue of which Michael Jackson owns half. The catalogue (often referred to as 'the Betales catalogue') was brought into questioning as it was perhaps a possible agenda for those around Michael Jackson at that time, "You said that Mr. Konitzer was hired to isolate Michael Jackson and let him create his downfall so that Sony could get the catalogue back, isn't that correct?" asked Mesereau. "Not in those words", Gabriel said. "I knew that Mr. Jackson had spoken out vigorously against record labels and still had a contract with Sony," she said. Mesereau asked if she had told Police "Sony was waiting for the opportunity to get the Sony catalogue back." "That's correct", she responded.
After Mesereau asked Gabriel over 100 questions, and she repeatedly confirmed that Michael Jackson knew nothing of what his employees were doing, Judge Melville cut in, "I want you to look at the jury and realize that they've tired of listening to this," he said, asking Mesereau to move on. "Yes sir," Mesereau responded, after a few more questions the cross-examination was finished, according to the Santa Maria Times.
The day ended with Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputy Albert Lafferty on the stand. He had little time to identify photos he had taken of Neverland. He will continue his testimony today.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Martin Bashir Turns Out To Be Difficult Witness
Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau continued his opening statement yesterday, and once it was concluded he faced a tough cross-examination of British journalist Martin Bashir.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon simply asked Bashir questions to authenticate his documentary Living with Michael Jackson, according to the Santa Maria Times, as it features the Accuser Gavin Arvizo. During Mesereau's cross-examination, Bashir refused to answer about 30 different questions as his attorney Theodore Boutrous objected on numerous occasions citing California's Shield Law and the First Amendment as protection for his client. The Shield Law protects journalists and reporters from being forced to testify about their work.
After questioning Bashir and not being able to get many answers due to him being a Prosecution witness and numerous objections, Mesereau was granted the right by Judge Melville to recall him as a Defence witness at a later date.
The documentary Living with Michael Jackson was shown to the jurors by Prosecutors in its entirety. Jurors were said to have been smiling when Michael Jackson's songs were played, when he sang "Smile", laughed when he said humorous things and frowned when he talked of his troubled childhood. Michael Jackson himself bopped his head to his music as it played, apparently covered his face with a tissue during the scenes that featured him and the Accuser, and dabbed his eyes as he watched himself talk about how children are his reason for living.
During the continuance of his opening statement from Monday, Mesereau again promised to prove Michael Jackson's innocence. "Ladies and gentlemen, it's going to be a long trial and you are going to hear lots of evidence," Mesereau said, according to Reuters. "We are extremely confident that when you do, you are going to find Michael Jackson absolutely not guilty of any of this." In response to Sneddon's opening statement, Mesereau pointed out that "a lot of the dates you heard the prosecutor identify," as times of alleged abuse happening at Neverland ranch, Michael Jackson "wasn't even near the place," he said.
He also told jurors there is no DNA evidence that proves any of the charges. "The ... children's DNA was never found in Michael Jackson's bedroom after searching and testing," he said according to the AFP, despite two raids by Police. "The DNA isn't there because the molestation claims are fiction".
Mesereau told the jurors that the Accuser and his brother ran wild at Neverland ranch, stole alcohol and pornographic magazines, all while their Mother hatched a plan. The Accuser and his brother were said to have remembered codes for the amusement rides and Michael Jackson's bedroom and on one occasion they went to the top of the Ferris wheel and threw things at people and zoo animals below. In response to the Prosecution's alcohol accusations, Mesereau said the children "were caught intoxicated, they were caught with bottles. Mr. Jackson was nowhere around." The Mother's attorney Larry Feldman told talk show host Larry King over a lunch "she wants money" Mesereau explained.
Mesereau indicated on several occasions during his opening statement that Michael Jackson would testify at the trial, "Michael Jackson will tell you one time at Neverland he got a very bad feeling about these people," he said as he recounted an incident during which Janet Arvizo had her children hold hands with Michael Jackson and urged them to kneel and pray "with our daddy, Michael." This was when, according to Mesereau, Michael Jackson thought, "I've got to get away. I love helping these children, but I've got to get away." Once Michael Jackson became distant, that's when the problems began, "when (the Mother) realised Mr. Jackson wasn't going to be there to take care of her family for the rest of her life," is when she concocted the abuse allegations Mesereau said.
Another hint that Michael Jackson may testify was when Mesereau responded to Prosecution allegations about pornographic adult material, "Mr Jackson will freely admit he read girlie magazines from time to time," he told jurors. "He denies showing them to children". On Monday Tom Sneddon claimed that a pornographic magazine seized from Neverland ranch had the fingerprints of both Michael Jackson and his Accuser, according to the Associated Press, Mesereau countered this by saying on one occasion Michael Jackson caught his Accuser with the magazine and took it off him, locking it away in a briefcase.
Yesterday ended with Ann Gabriel on the stand, she testified Michael Jackson's attorney following the airing of the documentary for the purpose of damage control brought her in.
On leaving the courthouse, reporters asked Michael how he was feeling; "good" but "angry" was his response. He thanked the reporters and walked away.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Opening Statements Heard In Trial
Michael Jackson arrived at court with his Mother Katherine and his brother Jermaine yesterday to hear the opening statements in the case against him.
Before the opening statements were given to the twelve seated jurors, Judge Melville read out the names of the five alleged co-conspirators who Prosecutors claim were integral in imprisoning the Accuser's family, according top the Associated Press. As expected, Frank Cascio (also known as Frank Tyson) Ronald Konitzer, Dieter Weisner, Marc Schaffel and Vincent Amen were the men named. Melville also spent 25 minutes reading out the full indictment against Michael Jackson, however reminded jurors just because he has been indicted does not make him guilty and that he has pleaded not guilty.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon decided to make the opening statement on behalf of the Prosecution, before he did so he asked permission from the Judge to use the real names of the Accuser's family as to not confuse the jury with constant references to differing "Doe" names. Permission was granted, and the Accuser was thereon referred to as Gavin Arvizo.
During his statement, (which lasted three hours) Sneddon told the jury that Michael Jackson is not the man he appears on video, and painted him as child molester and his Neverland ranch was created to lure children, "The private world of Michael Jackson reveals that, instead of reading them Peter Pan, (he) is showing them sexually explicit magazines. Instead of cookies and milk, you can substitute wine, vodka and bourbon" Sneddon said. "It's not children's books, but visits to Internet porn sites ... magazines like Hustler, Playboy, Barely Legal," he continued, according to the AFP. As normal with opening statements, Sneddon outlined his case, and stated the Accuser was willing to testify, "(Gavin Arvizo) will describe to you his sexual experiences with Michael Jackson. He will do it here in open court and he will do it with the whole world watching". He also alleges that Michael Jackson manipulated the Accuser and "traded on the boys' obvious and expressed admiration" of him.
Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau was able to counter Sneddon's statement, but did not have time to finish his opening statement yesterday and will continue today. However, there was enough time to outline some of the case for the Defence, and Mesereau told the jury that Michael Jackson "took time away from his career to help this family, not knowing that the trap was being set," he continued, "Mr. Jackson wanted to help (the Accuser) in ways that he thought might work," Mesereau said. "He was told he was on his last legs." Mesereau claimed his opening statement was a contract, and he promised to prove to the jury the accusations are false and that the Accuser's Mother Janet Arvizo has a history of making similar claims to get a financial payout by using her children, including two claims of false imprisonment against other people and three claims of sexual assault, and that the list "goes on and on". He also fought back at the Prosecution's claim about Neverland ranch, saying it is not a "haven for criminal activity, a lure for molestation," but a Disneyland-like place for unprivileged children to have fun.
It would appear that a lot of the Prosecution's case surrounds around Martin Bashir's Living with Michael Jackson documentary, and the incidents that happened in the aftermath. Sneddon said that once the documentary aired and the bad publicity followed, Michael Jackson's "world was rocked", and that one of the alleged co-conspirators, Marc Schaffel, described the airing as a "train wreck". Sneddon claimed that the Accuser was told what to say by Michael before appearing in the Bashir documentary and that he intended to use the Accuser as part of the rebuttal documentary Michael Jackson, Take 2: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See.
The family are said to have made a rebuttal video on February 19-20th 2003. This was around the same time child welfare services interviewed them after complaints were made following the documentary airing a few weeks prior. Sneddon admitted that the family told social workers nothing ever happened, but claimed the alleged molestation took place after these dates.
Some jury members seemed uncomfortable as Sneddon described alleged incidents. One being that Michael Jackson told the Accuser that masturbation was normal and proceeded to masturbate himself while having his other hand down the Accuser's underwear, the Accuser's brother Star Arvizo was said to have sneaked into the bedroom unnoticed and witnessed this while being "frozen by what he saw" claimed Sneddon. Another time being a time when the Accuser alleges that Michael Jackson tried to move his hand onto his genitals, but he resisted. Sneddon also claimed Michael Jackson walked into a room where the Accuser and his brother were sitting, stark naked with an erection and told them "it's natural , you should do it" as well as once simulating sex with a mannequin in front of them.
The Prosecution's theory on Michael Jackson's motive became known when Tom Sneddon claimed he was trying to revive his career with the Bashir documentary as he is "heavily in debt", once the Judge sustained an objection from the Defence, Sneddon snapped "your honour, that's the motive". Sneddon was said to be testy later on when the Defence objected to his references of battered woman's syndrome.
The alleged co-conspirators are said to have threatened the family following the documentary, "this is not the time to be out there alone. This is not the time to turn your back on Michael," were the words of Frank Tyson, according to Sneddon. Tyson apparently claimed that "Michael could make the family disappear" and that he could have the Mother killed. The family were also allegedly moved out of their apartment and told they were being moved to Arizona when the plan was to move them to Brazil, Sneddon said.
Another issue in the case for the Prosecution is the issue of pornography. Sneddon claimed that on the very first day of the Accuser visiting Neverland ranch, he slept in Michael Jackson's bedroom and was shown explicit websites on that visit by Michael Jackson and Frank Tyson, Michael Jackson's eldest son Prince Michael was said to be in the room also. A search conducted on the ranch turned up explicit DVD's and magazines, as well as a 1960's-era nudist periodicals, with pictures of naked children. Some of the magazines had Michael Jackson's fingerprints, others had the Accuser and his brother's and one had both Michael Jackson and the Accuser's prints. Letters from the Accuser addressed to "Michael" or "Michael Daddy" were also seized, according to Sneddon.
The District Attorney also discussed another of the indictment charges, plying a minor with alcohol. Sneddon claims that Michael Jackson gave his Accuser wine in soda cans and referred to it as "Jesus juice" to make manipulation easier.
In preparation for the Defence's response, Sneddon told jurors that he expected the Defence to attack Janet Arvizo's credibility. He admitted she had lied under oath previously, in one case stating that her husband never hit her when she was in an abusive marriage and that she collected welfare benefit when she was not entitled. "She will tell you she does not want one penny from the defendant in this case," Sneddon said, according to the Santa Maria Times "She will tell you she does not want the devil's money."
Tom Mesereau did have a prepared statement but decided to throw it away once hearing Sneddon's statement, according to the news-press. "I'm here to tell you these charges are fictitious, they are bogus and they never happened," he told the jury. Mesereau said the Mother had unsuccessfully attempted to get money from actor Jim Carrey, boxer Mike Tyson and comedian Adam Sandler citing her ill son's condition, even though Gavin's Father David Arvizo's insurance paid for medical treatment, which raised a few eyebrows amongst jurors. "The best known celebrity and the most vulnerable celebrity became the mark," once these other attempts failed, he told the jurors. "The mother, with her children as tools, was trying to find a celebrity to latch onto," Mesereau said. "Unfortunately for Michael Jackson, he fell for it. That's where it all begins."
The jurors then heard that Jay Leno was another celebrity called by the Accuser, but Leno ended the conversation once becoming suspicious that his Mother in the background was coaching him, he later called the Police about the attempt. Comedian George Lopez was another asked for support, once he refused, he was accused of stealing $300 from Gavin Arvizo's wallet, according to Mesereau. An objection was sustained after Tom Sneddon complained that the Judge hadn't ruled whether or not this information was admissible.
The Mother is said to have been given two $10,000 cheques by philanthropist Louise Palanker for her son's care, but since the family were already insured the money was said to have been spent on electrical appliances such as TV's, CD's and home entertainment systems. Actress Vernee Watson denied the Mother's request fro money and a place to live.
Mesereau also discussed a newly added witness with the jurors, according to The Smoking Gun. She was a paralegal who worked for the attorney who represented Janet Arvizo in a case against JC Penney in 1999 where the family won a $152,500 settlement after claims of brutality and a charge of sexual assault (that was added on a year later) against the mall security guards. The new witness claims that the Mother fabricated the stories about this case, and that she was afraid to come forward before because the Mother claimed she had links to the Mexican mafia.
The timeline of events were puzzling to Mesereau as he questioned why after the Bashir documentary aired, the media backlash that followed and then the rebuttal video, why this would be a time to molest the Accuser, as this is what the Prosecution claims. "Can you imagine a more absurd time for it to ever happen?" Mesereau said. He also dispelled theories of the family being held hostage claiming that he can prove that the family lived the good life at Michael Jackson's expense during the time they claim to have been held captive.
The trial is set to resume on Tuesday with Tom Mesereau finishing his opening statement and then witnesses for the Prosecution will be taking the stand. Martin Bashir is expected to be the first witness, followed by former Michael Jackson employee Ann Gabriel, sheriff's deputy Al Lafferty, police department videographer Chris O'Leary, the Accuser's sister and two flight attendants who will testify about serving Michael Jackson wine in Coke cans, Lauren Wallace and Cindy Bell.