Prosecution ends with damning portrayal of Jackson

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The Independent US

The prosecution in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial delivered a withering portrait of the entertainer in its closing statement yesterday, accusing him of abusing his celebrity to prey on vulnerable young boys and meticulously grooming them for sexual initiation in his bed.

The prosecution in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial delivered a withering portrait of the entertainer in its closing statement yesterday, accusing him of abusing his celebrity to prey on vulnerable young boys and meticulously grooming them for sexual initiation in his bed.

In more than two hours of closing remarks to the jury, Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney Ron Zonen characterised Mr Jackson's Neverland Ranch as an elaborate palace of temptations and Mr Jackson's bedroom as a "world of the forbidden" where prepubescent boys "learned about human sexuality with someone who was only too willing to be their teacher".

In contrast to his boss, district attorney Tom Sneddon, whose delivery in court has often been rambling and hard to follow over the past three months, Mr Zonen argued his case ferociously and precisely. He asked the jury to put themselves in the shoes of Gavin Arviso, Mr Jackson's 15-year-old accuser, and imagine how hard it must have been for him to come forward publicly.

He dismissed the defence's assertion that Arviso and his family invented the molestation story for material gain as "unmitigated rubbish". "[Testifying in court] has got to be a difficult moment and yet we are supposed to believe that what he said was all made up because there is some expectation that in the future he will become a wealthy person," he said.

Mr Zonen used a projector to show the jury blown-up graphic photographs from a book on male sexuality - "a publication you are not going to find on anyone's coffee table" - and asked them whether it was appropriate for a man who owned such a book to get into bed with a 13-year-old boy and describe it as innocent fun.

The prosecution also adopted a head-on approach with Mr Jackson's lawyers, who have been generally credited with an admirable performance in court. Mr Zonen said Tom Mesereau, the lead defence lawyer, had made promises in his opening statement he had not subsequently fulfilled - notably his assertion that several celebrities had been approached by the Arviso family and shaken down for money.

He also accused Mr Mesereau of launching an unwarranted character assassination against Janet Arviso, the boy's mother. Mr Zonen acknowledged she was a problematic witness.

Mr Mesereau said: "There is no way you can find the Arvisos are trustworthy beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr Jackson must be acquitted under our legal system."

The jury is expected to retire as early as today to consider its verdict. Mr Jackson faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted on all counts.

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