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Thursday, March 31, 2005
Psychologist Admits Civil Lawsuit Was Going To Be Filed Civil attorneys have fee-sharing arrangement

The jury saw numerous witnesses in court yesterday as the Accuser's psychologist and first civil attorney took the stand once flight attendant Cynthia Ann Bell finished her testimony from Tuesday.

Bell continued to testify about the flight from Miami to Santa Barbara on March 7th 2003 (where Star Arvizo claims Michael Jackson "licked" his brother's head and gave the children alcohol) and talked about a watch that Michael had bought Gavin Arvizo, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors contend that the gift was a bribe, however Bell claims that she saw nothing inappropriate occur on the flight, and that she was keeping a close eye. "He was saying things like, `Look at what Michael got me,' and, `These are very expensive watches,'" Bell said. "He did say, `Michael bought this watch for me and he'll buy me anything.'"

The witness had already testified on Tuesday that the Accuser was obnoxious and demanding, and that she never saw any children intoxicated. Bell also claimed it was her idea to put wine in Coke cans so that Michael could drink to ease his fear of flying without his children knowing.

Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss questioned the witness further about the contact between Michael and his Accuser on that flight. Auchincloss asked if she had seen Michael Jackson "cuddling" Gavin Arvizo, to which the reply was no, but that he had his arm around him as they listened to music. "What do you define as cuddling?" Auchincloss asked Bell, "I'd have to show you," she replied, eliciting laughter from the entire courtroom. "Your honour, may I approach the witness?" the Prosecutor quipped.

Once Bell had left the stand, psychologist Stan Katz was next to testify. Katz is the man who alerted authorities once the Accuser and his brother gave his story during the course of two interviews. He was also the psychologist of the Accuser in 1993. Because of patient confidentiality laws, and a ruling by Judge Melville, Katz was prohibited from discussing the Accuser's credibility and whether or not he believed molestation actually occurred.

Katz testified that it is extremely rare for adolescent children to make up claims of abuse, stating children who appear to tell the truth sometimes embellish and exaggerate their stories whereas "children who make false allegations are usually consistent, almost scripted." He testified that he interviewed the three Arvizo children as well the Mother at the request of the family's second civil attorney Larry Feldman. Feldman is also the civil attorney who reached a cash settlement for Jordan Chandler in 1993.

The witness testified that in May 2003 Feldman was considering civil action on behalf of the Accuser against Michael, "It was my belief that (Feldman) was thinking about filing a lawsuit," Katz said. He also stated that he informed the Accuser of the possibility of a lawsuit during their interview when discussing the consequences of reporting the allegations.

Katz interviewed the family in May and June 2003 according to the Santa Maria Times. On June 12th 2003, he reported what was said during the interviews to the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services. The next day Detective Paul Zelis of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department interviewed him.

After Katz had left the stand, civil attorney William Dickerman took the stand. He was the first of two civil attorneys the Arvizo family went to see, and comedy club owner Jamie Masada referred them to him in February 2003 to see what could be done about the Accuser's appearance in the Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson. Dickerman testified that he wrote letters to Mark Geragos, who was Michael's attorney at the time. The letters were said to be about the Arvizo family allegedly being subjected to surveillance and harassment by Michael's employees.

During cross-examination he admitted that in his letters there was no mention of molestation, providing alcohol to children or false imprisonment. He also admitted that when he referred the case to Feldman he made a fee-sharing arrangement that would earn him part of any reward obtained in a civil lawsuit.

There is no court today due to a state holiday, but proceedings will resume as normal tomorrow, when a sheriff's investigator is expected to take the stand to testify about the search on Neverland Valley ranch. Prosecutors are expected to start questioning witnesses on Monday concerning the alleged prior acts evidence that was recently admitted by the Judge.

Official News from MJNI

Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Comedy Club Owner And Flight Attendant Testify Jamie Masada and Cynthia Ann Bell take the stand

The man who claims to have introduced Gavin Arvizo to Michael Jackson (although he admits he never met him) took the stand in court yesterday.

Outside of testimony, a ruling concerning psychologist Stan Katz, the man who the Accuser first told of the alleged abuse, was made by Judge Melville. Katz is due to testify soon, however Melville ruled that he cannot testify about the Accuser's credibility or whether or not he feels molestation actually occurred.

Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory comedy club, is a friend of the Arvizo family and introduced many celebrities to the Accuser during his illness. He testified during direct questioning by Prosecutor Ron Zonen that he felt the Arvizo family were being held against their will at Neverland Valley ranch after a conversation with Janet Arvizo, "She was kind of in a state of crying, like 'Oh my God, they are holding me here,"' said Masada, "She said, they're holding me with my kids against my will. I need to get out of here."

The witness also corroborated Louise Palanker's testimony from last week when she said the Accuser would not corroborate his Father's claims that comedian George Lopez stole $300 out of his wallet. Masada claimed he wrote the Father a cheque for $350 when he was first told.

During cross-examination, Masada talked back to lead Defence attorney Tom Mesereau, repeating what Palanker had told him about her experience in court last week, "She said that you have made this court like O.J.'s court or Robert Blake's court, and you lied and changed the words around," he said. Masada snapped on another occasion when Mesereau read out a previous statement he made to sheriff's investigators where he made reference to the Arvizo parents asking for money. Masada insisted he was only talking about the Father, "Don't put words in my mouth," he said angrily. "Let me tell the truth."

Although previously Masada had staked claim to being the man who introduced the Accuser to Michael, he wasn't so adamant during his testimony. The witness testified that he had made a few phone calls after the Accuser expressed an interest in meeting Michael, even to producer Quincy Jones, "I don't know if the message got to him or the fact that he called the next day was by the will of God," he said.

Masada admitted to never have met Michael, "This is the first time I've seen him," he said, turning to him and asking, "How are you?" Michael waved. When leaving the courthouse, reporters asked Michael about the sometimes light-hearted nature of the proceedings, "You can use a little comic relief sometimes," he said according to the Associated Press.

The day's testimony ended with flight attendant Cynthia Ann Bell taking the stand. She served Michael as well as the Arvizo family on a trip from Miami to Santa Barbara. When Prosecutors questioned her about being ordered to serve wine in Coke cans she refuted the claim, saying it was her idea. "Michael Jackson is a very private drinker," she said. He is also a nervous flier according to Bell, and he once had a plane land due to turbulence, the wine was to ease his anxiety.

Bell recounted that she saw the Accuser sitting next to Michael on the flight, but never saw him share his drink with anyone, and even his children Prince and Paris were always beside their Father or on his lap. The witness stated that she found the Accuser to be "loud" and "obnoxious" during the flight, stating he made demands, "Serve me my food, this isn't warm," he apparently said. "The individual was very rude..." Bell said. "He was just unintelligent. It was embarrassing to have him aboard, actually."

These claims are not unique, as former Neverland maid Kiki Fournier testified to witnessing a similar attitude from the Accuser. Fournier testified on March 17th that if the Accuser and his brother didn't like something they were given for dinner they demanded something different, "There was no respect," she said.

"You told the grand jury (Gavin Arvizo is) a weird kid?" Mesereau asked Bell. "Yes, I did," she replied. Bell testified that she knowingly served alcohol to Davellin Arvizo (who was then 16) after asking her for identification according to the Santa Maria Times.

On her way out of the courthouse Bell took the time to shake hands with Michael, she will continue her testimony today.

Official News from MJNI

Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Former Attorney Dies Johnnie Cochran passes away

Former attorney and friend of Michael Jackson, Johnnie Cochran, died yesterday.

He was 67-years-old and had an inoperable brain tumour. Cochran is most famously known for his Defence of O.J. Simpson in 1994, and was well-known for his civil-rights cases. He was Michael's lead Defence attorney in the 1993 case.

In response to his unfortunate death, Michael released this statement;

"I am saddened to hear of the death of my friend, Johnnie Cochran. I would like to send my condolences to his family. Johnnie Cochran was a true gentleman who embodied class, brilliance, honesty and integrity. His fight for justice transcended color, age or economic status. So many have been touched by his life of service as well as his infectious smile and personality. Johnnie Cochran was a great humanitarian. I loved him, and I will miss him. I am proud to have called him my friend."

Official News from MJNI

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Judge Allows Past Allegations To Be Heard

Judge Rodney Melville ruled in favour of the Prosecution in court yesterday by allowing them to present testimony concerning alleged past improper acts on the part of Michael Jackson.

Attorneys for both sides had an hour and a half each to present their case and arguments to the Judge before he made his decision. The jury and Michael entered the courtroom later.

The Prosecution are now allowed to present evidence concerning five boys, which include Jordy Chandler, (who is not willing to testify and rumoured to have fled the country) he was the Accuser in 1993 who reached a cash settlement, it is said that third party witnesses (including his Mother June Chandler, who he hasn't seen in over a decade) will take the stand to testify concerning his case. Jason Francia is an accuser who is willing to testify however his credibility will be brought into question as his Mother Blanca Francia (who was a former maid at Neverland Valley ranch) also received a cash settlement in 1994.

The Judge ruled that Prosecutors can refer to the cash settlements, but they cannot discuss the amounts paid, according to the Santa Maria Times.

The other evidence that Melville allowed concerned Macauley Culkin, (Home Alone star and a friend of Michael's who has always said nothing ever happened) Wade Robson (choreographer to Britney Spears and star of the Wade Robson Project, has also stated nothing inappropriate happened) and Brett Barnes, another who stated nothing untoward happened between he and Michael and even appeared on television defending his friend in 1993. The Judge did not allow evidence to be presented about Jimmy Safechuck and Jonathan Spence, who also state that nothing had happened according to the Defence.

In arguing his case, District Attorney Tom Sneddon stated, "All of these children are basically within the ages of 10 and 13". The Prosecutor claimed the third party witnesses will testify to a pattern of "grooming" by Michael, according to the Associated Press, stating that he hugged, kissed and inappropriately touched the boys. "The conduct is very similar, if not identical in many of the prior incidents," Sneddon said.

Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau argued against the Prosecution's request, stating that the third party witnesses were after Michael's money, according to ABC News. Mesereau was talking about former Neverland employees who unsuccessfully sued Michael in the past and had to pay him $1 million in damages, stating they had "axes to grind" and argued, "Why allow them to bring in disgruntled employees who lost their lawsuit?" Mesereau went on, "You have what in effect is a very problematic case..." he added, "It's filled with credibility issues." The attorney warned the Judge that a decision to allow any evidence would seriously extend the trial, as the Defence was prepared to take each allegation head on with a "mini-trial". "You can't stop the defence from putting on a full-blown defence and I mean just that," he said.

Once the Judge's ruling came and the jury and Michael entered the courtroom, comedian George Lopez took the stand. He testified that he severed ties with the Arvizo family because he believed that Gavin Arvizo's Father was an extortionist and had claimed Lopez stole $300 from his son. Lopez said the only person he was a friend with in the family was the Accuser.

Official News from MJNI

Monday, March 28, 2005
Michael Jackson Gives Hour-Long Interview

Michael Jackson gave an exclusive interview to long-time family friend Reverend Jesse Jackson (pictured left) yesterday morning as he called into his Keep Hope Alive radio show.

Michael discussed his early days with the Jackson 5, his rise to solo stardom and the court case he's going through.

When asked what his lowest point was, Michael replied saying his current situation, "just the pain of what I'm going through, where I'm being accused of something, where I know in my heart and in my experiences in life I'm totally innocent, and it's very painful. But this has been kind of, ah, a pattern among Black luminaries in this country," he said.

Michael also discussed a conspiracy happening concerning his ownership of the Sony/ATV catalogue (more commonly known as 'The Beatles catalogue') but could not comment too much because of the gag-order imposed on him.

The interview ended with Michael talking about his love for Africa and his plans for the future.

To read the full transcript (with thanks to MJJForum) click here.

Official News from MJNI

Saturday, March 26, 2005
More Fingerprint Evidence

The Prosecution presented more forensic evidence to jurors yesterday as fingerprints on adult material were again the focus of attention.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department fingerprint expert Robert Spinner testified that fingerprints from Michael Jackson as well as his Accuser Gavin Arvizo were found on the explicit pornographic magazine Hustler Barely Legal Hardcore. The magazine is said to have three prints of the Accuser and one of Michael's.

The Defence claim that Michael never showed children any adult material and contend that Gavin Arvizo handled the magazine during grand jury proceedings, which was before forensic testing took place. They also stressed that all of the material seized from Neverland Valley ranch is legally and commercially available.

The witness also testified that two fingerprints of the Accuser were found on another magazine and on an adult video calendar according to the Associated Press. Two of Star Arvizo's prints were also found on more material.

When leaving court, one reporter asked Michael how he was planning to spend the Easter weekend, "Just to relax with my children," he replied.

Official News from MJNI

Friday, March 25, 2005
Fingerprints Analysed

Yesterday was a slow day in court as far as reporting goes.

Jurors listened to expert testimony on forensics, as well as testimony from Lisa Hemman, a technician. Hemman testified she found the Accuser's brother Star Arvizo's fingerprints on adult material seized from Neverland.

The Defence have challenged the prints found, as forensic testing was not done until long after the items were seized and possibly handled by the witnesses during grand jury proceedings.

Prosecutors announced they will call comedian George Lopez to the stand on Monday, according to the Associated Press. They are also attempting to have Christopher Carter released from a Las Vegas prison to provide testimony that he saw Gavin Arvizo intoxicated.

At the end of the day Michael Jackson turned to reporters asking how he felt, "Still very much in pain ... my back and my side," he responded. Michael then turned toward cameras and said, "I'd like to say hello to the people of Santa Maria, my friends and neighbors."

Official News from MJNI

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Computer Images Deemed Inadmissible

Prosecutors attempted to admit over 1,700 images found on four different computer hard drives that were seized at Neverland Valley ranch into evidence, but their request was turned down by Judge Rodney Melville.

Before the Judge ruled, Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss made his claim, "It's a circumstantial link that provides powerful corroboration for our victim in this case," he said. Prosecutors wanted to corroborate the Arvizo children's story that Michael Jackson had shown them explicit material through the internet.

"How could they have been shown the materials?" Melville asked Auchincloss according to the news-press. "We're not saying they were shown this material. . More importantly, it shows knowledge and shows (Michael Jackson's) ability of how to use a computer, which everyone doesn't know how, and that he knows how to access these sites."

"The issue of who accessed the material is totally unresolved," argued Defence attorney Robert Sanger. The attorney said that the images could have come in unsolicited emails before landing in the computer's "cache" file.

Melville decided to rule in favour of the Defence and not admit the images into evidence stating that it was unclear if anyone actually viewed or downloaded the images.

As testimony resumed, Sheriff's Detective Craig Bonner took the stand. He testified about materials seized from a briefcase found at the ranch, including titles such as "Barely Legal," "Playboy" and "Finally Legal" according to the Santa Maria Times. During under cross-examination lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau asked Bonner if any DNA belonging to the Accuser Gavin Arvizo or his brother Star was found on the briefcase or it's contents. "No DNA at all, including theirs," Bonner responded.

Once Bonner had left the stand, Dr. Antonio Cantu took the stand. He is a U.S. Secret Service agent and forensics expert. He discussed methods of recovering fingerprints.

An unfortunate incident happened near the end of proceedings yesterday as Defence attorney Brian Oxman started having breathing problems and collapsed. Michael quickly jumped from his seat to help his attorney and wiped sweat from his forehead, took off his jacket and loosened his tie. Mesereau and a sheriff's deputy then also assisted. Oxman was taken to Marian Medical Center where he was diagnosed with right lung pneumonia. "He is in stable condition and resting comfortably," Kathleen Hernandez (a hospital spokesperson) said.

Once Oxman collapsed Judge Melville dismissed the jurors for the day. Today's proceedings are set to see Dr. Antonio Cantu resume his testimony.

Official News from MJNI

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Comedian Takes The Stand

After taking the stand late on in Monday's proceedings, comedian Louise Palanker testified yesterday about her relationship with the Arvizo family.

Palanker met the Arvizo's through a comedy camp in 2000, according to the Santa Maria Times. She also took part in fundraisers for Gavin Arvizo during his cancer and provided two $10,000 cheques for each of his parents.

During questioning, Palanker testified about a phone call she received from Janet Arvizo, which led her to believe the family were being held against their will. She claimed she received the phone call in February or March 2003, and the Mother told her "Don't call me back here . They're listening to everything I say. These people are evil." "I said, `Are the children in school?' She said, `No.' That's when she started crying," Palanker said. She then testified that "This was fear-based agitation ..." she said. "This was an extremely disturbing phone call." She went on, "I felt that they were being held against their will". She was apparently so disturbed she called a lawyer, although admitted she never notified police.

This corroborates some of the conspiracy that Michael Jackson has been charged with, however Palanker didn't appear to mention him by name. Although the Defence claim Janet Arvizo is a "professional plaintiff" and a con artist, Palanker testified that she felt the Father was the money hungry parent. "It would be along the lines of, 'We're really strapped and we're not going to be able to make rent,'" she said of David Arvizo's requests.

Palanker said that the two $10,000 cheques she gave the parents were with no strings attached, although she assumed they were for Gavin Arvizo's treatment as his bedroom was refurbished. Although the job was completed, the contractor was never paid. "I never asked for any kind of accountability," she said. "I just gave them money . It was fairly spontaneous," she said according to the Associated Press. "I just decided on my own to do it." It is believed the family instead spent the money on a large flat screen television and DVD player for the room.

During cross-examination, Palanker testified about an awkward situation in which Gavin Arvizo persisted in pressuring her for a computer. However, she said she never knew the Accuser to lie. "He's been honest in the face of others wishing him not to be," she said describing an incident where he never corroborated his Father's story that comedian George Lopez stole $300 from his wallet.

Yesterday was a half day and it is unsure whether or not Palanker will continue testimony today.

Official News from MJNI

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Michael Jackson Suffers From More Back Problems

Michael Jackson arrived a few minutes late to court once again yesterday as his back problems worsened. He walked slowly into the courtroom being assisted by a bodyguard and his brother Jackie with every step he took.

As attorneys and the doctor who was treating him conferred with Judge Rodney Melville in chambers, Michael was said to have been in serious discomfort and pain while weeping at the Defence table, according to the Associated Press.

Raymone Bain, spokesperson for Michael released the following statement concerning his condition;

"In response to numerous media inquiries, Mr. Michael Jackson continues to suffer from excruciating back pain. He has not felt much relief in his back since visiting the Emergency unit at the Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital on Thursday, March 10, 2005.

"Again this morning, Mr. Jackson's back spasms were becoming intolerable. He was taken again to the Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital on his way to court by his Chief of Security, Kerry Anderson. The on-site attending Emergency physician, Dr. Bert Weiner, who treated Mr. Jackson during his March 10, 2005 visit, also attended to him this morning.

"Dr. Weiner indicates that tests were taken of Mr. Jackson's back, and also indicated that he accompanied Mr. Jackson to court because he could best explain the nature of the problem that Mr. Jackson is experiencing. Due to patient confidentiality, Dr. Weiner will not be releasing any information regarding Mr. Jackson's test results.

"There is no "quick fix" for back pain, but it is Mr. Jackson's hope that he will begin experiencing some relief soon."

Once discussions in the chambers concluded, court proceedings (although late) resumed as normal. The Judge gave no explanation to jurors for the delay. Testimony began with Sgt. Conn Abel testifying about phone-bugging equipment he seized at Neverland Valley ranch, which the Prosecution claim could be part of the conspiracy charge and the Defence claim was security equipment acquired by a private investigator, according to the Santa Maria Times. An expert witness for the Prosecution, Anthony J. Urquiza - a child psychologist - then took the stand. He described to jurors what he called "child sexual assault accommodation syndrome," where abused children become secretive, delay in reporting abuse and feel helpless.

"To be sexually abused and have this issue of whether you are homosexual or not is added into this very difficult time," Urquiza said of abused boys who feel it's harder than girls to come forward. He said sometimes abused children become fond of their abusers, "The need they have for affection and someone who cares about them helps to sustain the relationship." Urquiza described how the children, once abused, undergo a behaviour change; they start "acting out, becoming defiant, name-calling."

Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau wasted no time with his questioning of the witness during cross-examination as he basically outlined what he thinks happened to the jury, "Let me ask a hypothetical question," Mesereau said. "You've got a Mother and three children. There is not a Father figure present. There has been a traumatic divorce of recent vintage. For whatever reason, the Mother and her children pick someone and adopt that person as their Father figure ... and suddenly there is a split. The Mother, the children see that the person they've adopted as a father figure is bailing out. You can imagine ... a situation like that where the Mother induces the children to make false claims of sexual abuse." Urquiza replied that his research tells him that only 2-6 percent of children making allegations turn out to be lying.

Once Urquiza's testimony had finished, Prosecutors called Lauren Wallace, a flight attendant, to the stand. She testified that she served Michael wine in Diet Coke cans. She also said she hid alcohol for him in the lavatory "out of children's reach" and that she never attended a flight where Gavin Arvizo and his family were present.

During cross-examination by Mesereau, Wallace testified that she never witnessed any children drunk on flights according to Reuters. She added that Michael was always discreet about the fact he drank.

Comedian Louise Palanker was on the stand as court proceedings ended, she is expected to resume testimony today.

When leaving the courtroom, a reporter asked Michael if he were on medication, he responded, "Yes, by way of the doctor." He added, "I'm very much hurt. I'm in pain. I'm in pain."

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