Witness's reversal aids Jackson case

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The Independent US

A witness in the child molestation trial of Michael Jackson may have damaged the prosecution yesterday when he denied ever having seen the pop star licking the head of another boy before later reversing himself on the stand.

A witness in the child molestation trial of Michael Jackson may have damaged the prosecution yesterday when he denied ever having seen the pop star licking the head of another boy before later reversing himself on the stand.

The confusion came as the focus of the trial briefly switched to the other boy - not directly involved in the case - who in the 1990s received a private multi-million-dollar settlement from Mr Jackson in return for refusing to help investigators probe claims that he too had been molested by him.

"I don't recall ever seeing any head-licking," testified Bob Jones, a former publicist for Mr Jackson. His statement seemed directly to contradict his own account of a long airplane flight in the 1990s described in a book he is writing about the pop star.

The defence lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, pointed out that Mr Jones had a co-writer for the book and that the witness probably had not written the passage about head-licking. Later, however, prosecutors confronted the witness with an e-mail he had written again describing the licking. "If that was in my email, I am taking responsibility for my e-mail," Mr Jones finally conceded.

Any suggestion of witnesses being confused or even fabricating their versions of events for the sake of celebrity or financial gain could spell trouble for the prosecution, which is trying to prove that Mr Jackson, 46, molested a former 13-year-old cancer sufferer, plied him with alcohol and kept him and his family virtually hostages in early 2003 to force them to rebut a damaging TV documentary about him.

There have been earlier examples during the trial of witnesses either reversing original versions of their memories of events or undermining their own accounts. A former house manager for the star had told prosecutors that he remembered bringing only wine to his boss and several under-age boys but then admitted on the stand that he may have delivered fizzy drinks also.

Flight attendants had also been expected to testify bringing wine in soda cans to Mr Jackson and boys on various flights. In the event they recalled bringing the wine only to Mr Jackson.

Also in the Santa Maria court meanwhile was the mother of the boy who received the private settlement. She testified that while she allowed her son to stay at the singer's Neverland Ranch three times, when she was asked once if he could sleep with him in his bedroom she refused.

However, the pressure became too great, she said, on a later occasion when she and her son accompanied Mr Jackson on a visit to Las Vegas. Again the requests came for her son to stay in Mr Jackson's suite in the Mirage Hotel and even to sleep with him in his bed.

When she tried to resist, she was confronted by a distraught Mr Jackson, she told jurors. "He was sobbing and crying, shaking and trembling," the boy's mother recounted. "He said, 'You don't trust me? We're a family. [The boy] is having fun. Why can't he sleep in my bed? There's nothing wrong. There's nothing going on.'" Eventually she relented and the boy slept with the star for two nights.

The judge allowed testimony about the second boy, even though his case was settled out of court. The mother of the second boy, who has reportedly been estranged from her son since the mid 1990s, was one of nine witnesses prosecutors have been permitted to call in their efforts to prove that Jackson has a history of inappropriate behaviour toward young boys.

Jackson, who has pleaded innocent, faces more than two decades in prison if convicted on all 10 counts. The case continues.

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