'Neverland Five' to lift the lid on Jackson's lifestyle

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The Independent US

A bitter feud between Michael Jackson and five of his former members of staff is poised to erupt again as the entertainer's child molestation case enters a potentially explosive new phase.

A bitter feud between Michael Jackson and five of his former members of staff is poised to erupt again as the entertainer's child molestation case enters a potentially explosive new phase.

Judge Rodney Melville is due to rule tomorrow on whether evidence from earlier cases can be heard in the present case, as the prosecution attempts to paint a portrait of Jackson's lifestyle.

Such a move would involve the group of ex-employees dubbed the "Neverland Five".

Four of them were ordered to testify against Jackson 12 years ago, but that trial collapsed when the family of a boy making sex offence claims struck a $20m deal with the pop star.

By 1994, the five - three security guards, a maid and an office manager - had all left their jobs. They claimed they were driven out because they knew too much, and filed a wrongful-termination suit, which was defeated. The case bankrupted them.

A New York newspaper columnist last week claimed that the five had told her they had seen Jackson "taking so many little boys into his private chambers for overnight stays they lost count. And boys at Neverland became demanding or withdrawn and nearly mute."

The article, which appeared in the New York Post, also alleges that the five were subjected to a "daily campaign of intimidation" by a unit of Jackson's security team before they were due to testify in the first trial.

The former employees are also said to have had guns pointed at them and been offered bribes by members of the security team. Female staff, it is claimed, were subjected to prolonged verbal sexual harassment.

The decision on whether or not allegations about Jackson's past behaviour can be brought before the current jury comes after a difficult few days in court for the singer.

Prosecutors claim he took a boy recovering from cancer into his idyllic playground home, offered him shelter, but then sexually molested him. And, on Friday, they sought to prove he was showing the boy pornography as a prelude to the abuse.

Images from hard-core pornographic magazines were projected on to a large screen at the trial in Santa Maria, California, on Friday.

The prosecution also brought in fingerprint experts to show that Jackson, his now 15-year-old accuser and the boy's younger brother had all been touching the magazines.

Jackson, 46, is also charged with giving the boy alcohol and with holding him and his family hostage two years ago.

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