Jackson prosecution witness jailed in robbery spree
Charges may deal blow to state's case against pop star
SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- In a twist likely to further complicate the prosecution's efforts to convict Michael Jackson, a former bodyguard expected to be a key witness against the pop star is sitting in a Las Vegas jail, facing a slew of felony charges stemming from four armed robberies.
A spokeswoman for the Clark County, Nevada, district attorney's office confirmed that Christopher Eric Carter, 25, was indicted Wednesday on 15 counts, including first-degree kidnapping, burglary, robbery, coercion and possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.
At the Jackson child molestation trial, meanwhile, the judge Wednesday refused to allow prosecutors to introduce as evidence electronic erotic material found on computer hard drives seized at the singer's home. (Full story)
According to the indictment against Carter, the ex-bodyguard had been convicted in 2000 in Maryland on drug and escape charges, two years before he went to work for Jackson.
The victims in the kidnapping counts were targets of the robberies and were patrons inside businesses who were held against their will, according to the indictment.
The serious felony charges are likely to damage the credibility of Carter, who has testified he witnessed Jackson and his teenage accuser drinking alcohol together during an airplane flight.
The first armed robbery Carter is accused of committing in Las Vegas was on October 29, 2003 -- about two months after he left Jackson's employ and before he testified before the Santa Barbara County grand jury that indicted the pop star in April 2004.
According to court documents, Carter was arrested February 19 after his fingerprints matched those left on a freezer by a man who robbed a Jack In The Box restaurant on February 2, wearing a mask made from a white T-shirt with holes cut out for the eyes.
FBI agents found the mask while searching Carter's garbage. The robbery netted just $239, according to police.
Carter was being held on $265,000 bond, according to court documents. He is to appear in court Monday to face charges.
According to his testimony before the grand jury that indicted Jackson, Carter worked as a security guard for Jackson from August 2002 to August 2003, during the time when the accuser says Jackson molested him at Neverland ranch. He said it was his decision to leave Jackson's employ and that he then moved to Las Vegas.
Carter told grand jurors he saw both Jackson and the boy drinking alcohol from soda cans while on a flight from Miami to California in February 2003. He also said he saw the boy "stumbling" drunk one afternoon at the ranch, and the boy indicated to him that Jackson condoned his drinking.
Carter also said that after the trip from Miami, the accuser's mother asked him to take her off the ranch in the middle of the night, without her children. She was upset and prayed throughout the drive to Los Angeles, he said.
The prosecution contends that the accuser and his family were held against their will at Neverland by Jackson's associates after the Miami trip and that the mother was fearful for their safety.
According to transcripts of the grand jury, Carter also said Jackson had the ability to monitor phone conversations at Neverland and once showed him a tape he had made of a phone conversation he had recorded.
At Jackson's trial on Wednesday, the presiding judge refused to allow prosecutors to introduce as evidence electronic erotic material found on computer hard drives seized at the singer's home.
The ruling, which covers hundreds of erotic images, including images of teenagers, was a victory for the Jackson defense. (Full story)
CNN's Stan Wilson contributed to this report.