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Friday May 13 2005

Jurors heard testimony from one of Michael Jackson's former attorneys yesterday as well as well as a man who was friends with Jason Francia, (who accused Michael of molesting him) the Judge also ordered former lead Defence attorney Mark Geragos to testify in court today.

Carlos Velasco attended the same high school as Francia and took the stand to tell the jury that he never once mentioned anything about being abused.

Next on the stand was David LeGrand (pictured left), an attorney who was hired by un-indicted alleged co-conspirator Ronald Konitzer to deal with the fallout concerning the documentary Living with Michael Jackson and even sued Grenada, the company who produced the programme.

When asked during cross-examination if Michael was worried that the documentary would be negative the witness responded, "Mr. Jackson didn't use the word positive. He expected accuracy, sincerity."

LeGrand testified that he became suspicious of Konitzer and fellow un-indicted co-conspirator Dieter Weisner when he realised that they had the ability to divert Michael's assets and noticed they had taken $965,000 from him.

Judge Rodney Melville ruled outside of the presence of jurors that Mark Geragos must testify today despite appeals from his associate Shepard Kopp.

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Thursday May 12 2005

In what turned out to be a good day for the Defence yesterday, Macauley Culkin took the stand to defend his friend and Judge Rodney Melville allowed a two-hour rebuttal video to be screened.

Culkin was testifying due to previous testimony from former employees of Neverland Valley ranch who testified for the Prosecution that they saw Michael Jackson inappropriately touch him as a child. Godfather to two of Michael Jackson's children, the witness took the stand to refute the claims.

Culkin denied ever being molested by Michael and described the charges against him as "absolutely ridiculous." He also explained to jurors how he was not even asked by Prosecutors if the allegations they were making were true, and that he found out through CNN talking about it.

The witness explained the friendship he has with Michael, "We're a part of a unique group of people. ... He'd been through that before, so he understood what it was like to be put in that position I was in, to be thrust into it," Culkin said. "Anyone who was a child performer," he said, "we keep an eye out for each other." Culkin then laughingly added, "it was not like a child actors' self-help group."

As he did with Wade Robson, Prosecutor Ron Zonen tried to imply Culkin may have been molested while he was sleeping. "I find that unlikely," Culkin said. "I think I'd realise that something like that was happening to me." The witness also told how his parents never had a problem with the sleeping arrangements and were fully aware of it.

Zonen tried to counter Culkin's description of Michael as "childlike" by bringing up the adult material he owns and asked if that was childlike, "When I was 12 or 13 years old I had a couple of Playboys under my bed," the witness replied, he added, "I don't think there's anything wrong with having those things."

Once Culkin had finished his confident testimony, James Van Norman - a former bodyguard of Michael - testified about the troubles of trying to protect his ex-employer when they were on the road, particularly after the 1993 allegations. The Judge then ruled the Defence could play a videotape of footage recorded by Michael's videographer while Martin Bashir was filming him for the Living with Michael Jackson documentary. The footage was presented to show how the Bashir documentary took things out of context.

In the footage, Bashir can be seen praising Michael, contradicting the tone of his very own documentary. Michael also explains his "childlike" behaviour in the footage, "Why is it weird to want to be humble and innocent," he says. "Not childish, but childlike? I see God in that." He also addressed the issue of what his character is portrayed as in the media, "I'm not a nut," he said. "I'm very smart. You can't come this far and be a nut."

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Wednesday May 11 2005

Neverland Valley ranch property manager Joe Marcus continued his testimony from Monday in what was only a half day in court yesterday, and refuted claims made by Prosecutors that the Arvizo family were held against their will.

Marcus told jurors how it was he who ordered that the Arvizo boys were not allowed to leave the ranch, the reason being they were stealing Neverland vehicles and he didn't want them to go out on the public roads. He also said that he allowed an employee to drive the family home, and that they never "escaped" as the Prosecution claim.

The witness also said the family never objected to the trip to Brazil. Janet Arvizo claimed during her testimony the family were being forced to travel to South America by Michael's employees. Marcus stated the only question the family ever asked was to find out where to get passport photos.

During cross-examination the witness admitted he lied during the November 18th 2003 search on Neverland when he was interviewed by District Attorney Tom Sneddon. Stating he was "overwhelmed" Marcus admitted that he lied when denying any knowlegde of children staying in Michael's bedroom, but he pointed the finger at the DA, "In the beginning (of that interview) I also asked for an attorney to be present and was denied that by Mr. Tom Sneddon," he said.

According to reports Macauley Culkin is expected to testify today refuting Prosecution claims he was inappropriately touched as a child by Michael. Before he does however, Marcus is expected to finish his testimony and Michael's former bodyguard James Van Norman is also expected to take the stand at some point.

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Tuesday May 10 2005

As the Defence started its first full week of presenting their case, current and ex-employees of Neverland Valley ranch took the stand yesterday to defend Michael Jackson and testify about the Arvizo family.

Francine Contreras took the stand first to refute claims made by Prosecution witness Adrian McManus. Contreras worked with McManus from 1991-1993 at Neverland, and testified that she saw a display of Michael's items that were stolen by McManus during that time period.

Former housekeeping supervisor of Neverland, Gayle Goforth, was next to testify. She told jurors how the Accuser's Mother Janet Arvizo had begged for a job at Neverland and was turned down in 2001.

Violet Silva, Neverland security chief since 1997 and employee since 1991, then took the stand. She testified about a directive that was posted at Neverland stating the Arvizo children were not allowed to leave the property, and how it was because of their lack of supervision as well as their bad behaviour that led to it, and not as part of a conspiracy as Prosecutors claim. Silva described the two Arvizo boys as "reckless" and described how they would take Neverland vehicles.

The final witness of the day was Neverland property manager Joe Marcus, who refuted claims made by Janet Arvizo that her family was held captive. Marcus claimed they could have left at any time, called 911 at any time and that they always seemed "excited to be there."

Michael was not feeling well yesterday, according to his spokesperson Raymone Bain, who said his back problems were troubling him again.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005
Mothers And Sisters Testify

The Mothers and sisters of the two men who testified in court on Thursday took the stand yesterday.

Prosecutors allege that Wade Robson and Brett Barnes were victims of molestation by Michael Jackson in the early 90's, allegations the two men have denied under oath. The Defence called their Mothers and sisters to corroborate their claims, first to testify was Robson's Mother Joy.

During direct questioning by lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau, Robson complimented Michael, who she claims is a close family friend. "I've known Michael for a long time. I've spent many hours talking to him about everything. I feel like he's a member of my family. I trust him. I trust him with my children." When asked by the attorney what she meant when she stated she loved Michael the witness responded, "He's a very special person ... He's not the boy next door. He's Michael Jackson. He's very unique. He has a very pure personality. To know him is to love him and to trust him."

Speaking of the first occasion her son and daughter slept over in Michael's bedroom Robson stated she was asked by Wade (then 7) and Chantal (Then 10) if they could sleep over with him, "My husband and I sort of looked at Michael and said, 'if that's OK with you.'"

Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon asked Robson during cross-examination about the sleeping arrangements, "You weren't concerned about it at all?" Sneddon asked. "No," she replied. "Someone you just met?" Sneddon continued. "I think there was a certain trust that developed," the witness said. "Nothing ever crossed my mind that something was wrong." Sneddon also asked questions that suggested Robson associated herself with Michael to help her son's career as an up and coming dancer. "Did you in your mind think that by having a connection and a friendship with Mr. Jackson that that could help promote your son's career?" Sneddon asked. "You're trying to make me say that that was the basis for our friendship and that's not true," she said.

The witness claimed that when she referred to child friends of Michael as "special friends" in a previous deposition that she meant nothing sinister by it. "He has a very pure love of children," she said. Robson also testified that she refused to let her son be interviewed by police officers on his own when allegations were made against Michael in 1993 according to the Santa Maria Times. Sneddon asked why she trusted Michael but not law enforcement, "I don't know them," she said. "I know Michael Jackson."

Sneddon asked the witness if she had ever met Jordan Chandler (the '93 Accuser who reached a financial settlement) and his Mother June, Robson stated she spoke with them on a few occasions while they were at Neverland Valley ranch. "My impression of (June Chandler) is she wanted to be mistress of Neverland. She would order the staff around like she owned it. My impression of (her) is she was a gold-digger," said Robson. She also stated she felt Chandler tried to use Michael. Sneddon asked if Robson was jealous of Chandler "because she replaced" her. "Absolutely not," said the witness. "I had no wish to be (her)." Sneddon continued, "I asked if you were jealous of her position," he said acerbically according to the Associated Press. "What position would that be?" Robson asked. "Being close to Michael Jackson," said Sneddon. "I don't know that she was close to Michael Jackson," the witness answered. "My personal knowledge of that weekend was Michael Jackson trying to elude (her) for that weekend."

Once Robson finished her testimony, her daughter (and Wade's sister) then took the stand. "Did you ever see Michael Jackson molest your brother Wade?" asked Mesereau. "No," said Chantal Robson, now 26. During cross-examination, Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss asked the witness if she felt it was appropriate for a 10-year-old girl to sleep in the same bed as a man over 30 years of age, "I think it's appropriate for a 10-year-old girl to sleep in a bed with a friend," she replied. Robson earlier stated she stayed in Michael's bedroom on four occasions with her brother. The witness testified that although Michael was affectionate with her and her brother, it was never sexual, "Always just a friendly kiss on the cheek," she said. Robson, as well her Mother, acknowledged that Michael helped their family immigrate to the United States.

Marie Barnes was next on the stand, her son Brett denied ever being molested by Michael on Thursday. She testified that Michael contacted her family after receiving a fan letter from her son, and she allowed him to tour with Michael as a learning experience. "Did you ever suspect Mr. Jackson of inappropriately touching your son?" asked Mesereau. "Never," she said. Speaking of her son's sleepovers in Michael's bed Barnes said, "I trusted him implicitly." She added, "He's a very nice person. You just know when you can trust someone."

Barnes' daughter Karlee (also sister of Brett) was next to take the stand. The witness enthusiastically denied anything happened between her brother and Michael, and stated she admired him as a friend and an entertainer. When asked what she thought of the Arvizo family, she stated, "I think they're liars."

Court has now recessed for the weekend with Monday's proceedings expected to see more testimony from the siblings as well as testimony from Macauley Culkin expected early next week sometime.

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Friday, May 06, 2005
Attorneys Start Case Of Defence For Michael Jackson

Immediately following Judge Rodney Melville's decision to refuse a Defence request for an acquittal yesterday, a case in the defence of Michael Jackson commenced with two witnesses taking the stand.

Defence attorney Robert Sanger and Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon argued over the Defence motion for a judgement to have Michael acquitted of all charges because they believe the Prosecution were not able to prove their case before the Judge made his decision. Once the request was denied, the Defence called celebrity choreographer Wade Robson to the stand. Robson, now 22, is one of the children that the Prosecution claim was molested as a child while staying at Neverland Valley ranch over a decade ago.

"Mr. Robson, did Michael Jackson ever molest you at any time?" asked lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau. "Absolutely not," Robson said. "Did he ever touch you in a sexual way?" asked the attorney. "No, not ever," said the witness. "Did Michael Jackson ever touch your body inappropriately at any time?" asked Mesereau. "No," said Robson. When asked about claims that Prosecution witness, former maid Blanca Francia, made about him showering with Michael, Robson denied anything like that ever occurred.

The witness claimed that he had slept in the same bed as Michael on about 20 different occasions, according to the Associated Press. When asked what happened when he stayed with Michael, Robson said they played video games and watched movies. "We have pillow fights every now and again," he said. On cross-examination, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen speculated that molestation could have occurred without Robson's knowledge, "What you're really telling us is that nothing happened while you were awake." Robson retorted, "I'm telling you nothing happened," said the witness. "I think something like that would wake me up."

Zonen showed two books to the witness, one of which displayed pictures of children nude. Asked if he would be concerned about a man who owned such a book sharing a bed with a young boy, Robson responded, "No," he continued, "To me it's not a pornographic book. It's just a book." The Prosecutor shen showed Robson a book that contained images depicting men in sexual acts, "Would you be concerned with a man who possesses that book crawling into bed with a 10-year-old boy?" he asked. After a pause, the witness quietly answered, "Yes." However Robson said he would no longer be concerned about the book if he knew about the collection of heterosexual magazines such as Playboy and Hustler when asked by Mesereau during re-direct questioning. Mesereau also pointed out a woman in the courtroom as Robson's fiancée and the witness confirmed he was heterosexual.

The next witness to take the stand for the Defence was Brett Barnes, who had also shared a bed with Michael as a child. The witness, now 23, claimed he did so about 10 times and denied ever being inappropriately touched by Michael. "If he had I wouldn't be here right now," Barnes said. He added, "I wouldn't stand for it." The witness stated that the different occasions were from the ago of 9 to 19, and he even stayed at Neverland the night before according to the Santa Maria Times. When asked, the witness displayed his unhappiness at the fact Prosecutors had made these claims at all, "I'm very mad about that," Barnes said. "They're pulling my name through the dirt, and I'm really, really not happy about it."

Duriong cross-examination, Zonen asked, "Why don't you still sleep with Michael Jackson?" Barnes replied, "He's got kids now." Zonen also asked the witness if he remembered any occasions where Michael kissed him on the cheek or forehead, "I can't really remember these things," he replied.

The Defence case is to continue today, with the Mothers and siblings of Robson and Barnes expected to take the stand. Macauley Culkin is also expected in the near future.

Official News from MJNI

Thursday, May 05, 2005
Prosecution Rest Their Case

Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon announced that the Prosecution had rested their case against Michael Jackson yesterday after two months of witnesses, evidence and judgements.

The Defence immediately filed a motion for a judgement of acquittal on the grounds that The Prosecution did not prove their case, according to the Associated Press.

The final witness called by Prosecutors, Rudy Provencio, admitted during cross-examination that he had hand-written changes to an interview he previously had with law enforcement officials before he took the stand to testify. The witness claimed he heard conversations that would lead to a conspiracy. He also claimed that un-indicted alleged co-conspirators Vinnie Amen and Marc Schaffel mentioned to him that the Arvizo family had "escaped" Neverland Valley ranch according to the Santa Maria Times. Provencio admitted he didn't contact the police, but did make mention of the conversations in his notebook.

The acquittal motion will be heard first thing in court today. If the request is not granted, the Defence are expected to call their first witnesses, which include Wade Robson and Macauley Culkin.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Financial Records Brought Into Evidence

As the Prosecution neared the end of their nine-week case yesterday, they called a financial expert, a police officer and a former worker of Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Entertainment company to the stand.

First witness was John Duross O'Bryan, a forensic accountant, who claimed that Michael was in financial trouble, a claim his attorneys deny but a motive to keep the Arvizo family hostage according to Prosecutors. They contend that Michael was in dire need for money following the public relations disaster of Living with Michael Jackson that he and others went to extreme lengths to make sure the family took part in a rebuttal video. Although the interview with the Arvizo's was filmed, it was never aired with the other footage.

O'Bryan had analysed Michael's financial records from 1999-2003 before taking the stand according to the Santa Maria Times. "Mr. Jackson's financial condition had been deteriorating up to and leading into February 2003," the witness said. "The evidence shows that he's spending about $20 million to $30 million (per year) more than he's making." O'Bryan acknowledged most of Michael's wealth derived from three assets, Mijac publishing, (his own music catalogue) ATV/Sony publishing (also known as the Beatles catalogue) and Neverland Valley ranch.

Lead Defence attorney Thomas Mesereau concentrated on the value of the music catalogues during cross-examination. Mesereau stated that Michael had never filed for bankruptcy and is not broke, and although O'Bryan admitted he had not appraised the music catalogues the witness was still confident in his estimation that Michael is in financial peril. Mesereau implied that the witness' estimation of Michael Jackson's stake in the ATV/Sony catalogue fell short when he claimed it was around $200 million when asked whether or not it was worth more than $500 million. The attorney also pointed out that Michael had numerous lucrative offers to tour and perform between 1999 and 2003 and could have taken them to ease his debt if he needed to, "If it was that easy to do, why wasn't it done?" O'Bryan asked. "Maybe it wasn't as serious as you've identified," Mesereau retorted.

Addressing the rebuttal video, Mesereau pointed out that the FOX network had paid $7 million for the footage, asked it that sum would make a dent into Michael's alleged debts O'Bryan answered, "No." "It wouldn't be worth committing a crime in that situation over $7 million, would it?" asked Mesereau. The witness did not answer after Judge Rodney Melville sustained an objection by Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss.

Sgt. Steve Robel, who has already previously testified during the Prosecution's case, took the stand again to refute testimony made by Debbie Rowe last week. According to Robel, in an interview with Rowe in early 2004, "She referred to Michael as a sociopath and his children being possessions," contradicting her testimony last week in which she heaped praise on Michael as a great Father and friend. During cross-examination, Mesereau pointed out Rowe's comments could have come out of anger concerning the on-going custody battle for her children. The attorney asked Robel if Rowe ever said, "(Expletive) his Defence. At this point I want the kids," in the interview. Robel acknowledged she had indeed said that as well.

Court ended with Rudy Provencio, a former general manager of Neverland Valley Entertainment and old friend of un-indicted alleged co-conspirator Marc Schaffel, taking the stand. Neverland Valley Entertainment was set up to market Michael's What More Can I Give charity single project. Provencio's testimony is expected to resume today.

Once Provencio has left the stand, the Prosecution is expected to rest their case, leaving the Defence to commence their case. According to NBC, three of the Defence's intended initial witnesses are Brett Barnes, Wade Robson and Macauley Culkin, three of the five children the Prosecution claim Michael abused over a decade ago.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Phone Records Entered Into Evidence

Testimony about phone records dated from February 2003 through until the following month was given to the jury yesterday.

Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola showed the jurors charts of calls, mostly between Frank Cascio (Frank Tyson), Vincent Amen, Marc Schaffel (all named as unindicted co-conspirators), the Accuser's Mother and a number of Michael Jackson's employees according to the Associated Press. Despite an objection from Defence Attorney Robert Sanger that the relevance was not being shown to the jurors, Judge Rodney Melville allowed the testimony about the records by sheriff's Detective Robert Bonner to continue.

Bonner stated that the calls would last between as little as a minute to as much as 90 minutes. Tyson appeared more than most as he once called Schaffel 38 times and Amen 19 times in the one day.

Under cross-examination, however, Sanger asked "In all these phone records you had were you ever able to determine if Michael Jackson was on a single call?" Bonner's reply was "No". The jurors were not told how the phone records help support the Prosecution's case. Bonner acknowledged that there were many people at Schaffel's office and that one-minute phone calls made to the Miami hotel or an attorneys office were unlikely to get past the receptionist.

Also on the stand yesterday was bank manager Beverly Wagner who testified that Marc Schaffel cashed two cheques for a total of $1,500,000 from an account that only he and Michael were the signatories on. Like the phone records, the jurors were not told how this helps support the case. The witness testified she did not know what the money was for, but that it was taken from an account where only Schaffel or Michael could sign for any transaction.

Asked how he was feeling at the end of court, Michael replied, "a little better today".

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