Accuser's older sister describes 'weird' feelings about Jackson ranch
SANTA MARIA, California (Court TV) -- The older sister of a 13-year-old boy who accused pop superstar Michael Jackson of molesting him testified Thursday that she saw Jackson whisper in her brother's ear, give him a watch and share a can of Diet Coke that prosecutors say contained wine.
The prosecution's fourth witness, now an 18-year-old college student, also testified at length about efforts by men on Jackson's payroll to keep her family contained at Jackson's Neverland Ranch and hotels in Miami and California.
The alleged detentions are part of the prosecution's allegation that Jackson and five unindicted co-conspirators worked frantically to keep the family from the media until after they were videotaped saying only nice things about Jackson.
The witness, who is identified in court papers as "Judy Doe," said Jackson had her, her two brothers and her mother whisked to a Miami resort hotel on actor Chris Tucker's private jet so that they would not view producer Martin Bashir's documentary "Living with Michael Jackson."
A media frenzy followed the airing of the film in Europe because of Jackson's comments that the boy slept in his bedroom and that Jackson often slept in the same bed as children not related to him and saw nothing wrong with it.
After the film aired in the U.S. on February 9, 2003, the family stayed in Miami and at the Neverland Ranch while Jackson's media team made arrangements for a "rebuttal" video that featured the witness' 13-year-old brother denying that anything improper ever occurred between him and Jackson.
According to prosecutors, the alleged molestation actually occurred after the rebuttal video was shot. Prosecutors have not said so yet, but the implication was that Jackson may have felt he was free to act as he pleased because he already had the boy on tape saying their relationship was like a father and son.
"Judy Doe" told jurors that she saw a change in her brother after the rebuttal video was shot. Once outgoing and loving toward her, he was now distant and did not want to talk much, she said.
"It just felt like he didn't want to be near me," said the witness, whose name is being withheld by Court TV to protect the accuser's privacy. "Me being his older sister, I just knew something [was wrong]. I don't know, it just felt weird."
The witness described a sort of all-boys club that existed at the Neverland Ranch, Jackson's 2,800-acre estate in the Santa Barbara County countryside.
While the accuser and a younger brother had the run of Jackson's palatial home, she often had to spend her time at the ranch entertaining herself. She would drive golf carts to Jackson's on-site theater, arcade and zoo, but spent little time at the main house.
"It felt uncomfortable, just like they didn't want me there," the witness said.
Jurors heard Thursday about three incidents that prosecutor Tom Sneddon spoke about during his opening statement Monday.
"Judy" recalled that, on the flight back to the Neverland Ranch after the Bashir documentary aired, the accuser sat next to Jackson on the private jet. "He had a Diet Coke can. Mr. Jackson passed it to him," she said. "They were sipping it back and forth. They were whispering back and forth. Mr. Jackson took off his watch and gave it to him. He whispered in his ear and [my brother] put it on."
The accuser is expected to testify later that he and Jackson were drinking wine out of the Diet Coke can and that Jackson whispered that he should not tell anyone. Jackson also claimed the watch was worth $75,000 but the boy could keep it, the accuser is expected to say when he takes the stand.
"Judy" also testified that the only time she was in Jackson's bedroom, he was lying on the bed with her two preteen brothers and half-full liquor bottles were all over the room. Another time, she entered a secret basement below Jackson's arcade ? a jukebox concealed a staircase leading down to a wine cellar ? and found her brothers, Jackson and another boy sipping what she believed was wine.
The defense has yet to cross-examine the witness. During his opening statement Monday, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. noted that charges against Jackson of "administering an intoxicating agent" are inextricably linked to the molestation charges. In other words, if the jurors find that no molestation occurred, the fact that Jackson may have been drinking alcohol with minors would be legally insignificant.
Sneddon called the boy's sister to testify both to describe her observations of Jackson's interaction with her brother and also to develop the prosecution's conspiracy case. The witness testified that her family knew they were not free to leave, and that her mother was becoming alarmed about how Jackson's employees were treating the family.
"She seemed kind of worried. She didn't really understand the whole situation going on," the witness, whose voice sounded more like a child's than that of a young woman of 18 years. "She was kind of scared. Of course, [my brother] didn't want to leave. My mom wanted to get us out of there."
As Jackson and his lawyers arrived for court Thursday, fans standing outside the heavily guarded court complex shouted, "Let's go, defense, let's go!" as if they were watching a football game.
Mesereau is expected to press the sister on cross-examination about opportunities her mother had to leave Neverland Ranch and the luxury hotels Jackson paid for. The defense contends the family was after a financial cut of Jackson's rebuttal video and that the accuser's mother was upset that the Bashir video aired worldwide without reaping any financial benefit for the family.
The abuse allegations, the defense asserts, are false and financially motivated.
When the court day began, jurors viewed a police video shot during a November 18, 2003, search warrant execution at Jackson's cluttered home. All over the house were toys, mannequins, dolls and photos of celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger noted on cross-examination of a police officer that the video did not contain any images of Jackson's library and a small classroom for his home-schooled children, Prince Michael, Prince Michael II and Paris.
The sister is scheduled to be back on the witness stand when the trial resumes Friday.