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The Michael Jackson Trial

Witnesses deny Jackson molested them

Judge rejects defense request to dismiss case

The first witness called by Michael Jackson's defense is shown on the stand in this courtroom sketch.
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Witnesses deny they were molested by Michael Jackson.

Prosecution rests in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial.

Profiles of two lead attorneys in Michael Jackson trial
Michael Jackson
Crime, Law and Justice

SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- The leadoff witnesses for Michael Jackson's defense Thursday denied the pop star molested them as boys, even though they spent several nights in Jackson's bedroom at Neverland Ranch.

"Did Michael Jackson ever molest you?" defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked the first witness, now 22.

"Absolutely not," the witness replied.

"Did he ever touch you in a sexual way?" Mesereau asked.

"Never, no," he said.

A second witness, now 23, also told jurors that Jackson did nothing improper during his sleepovers at Neverland -- and if he had, "I wouldn't be here right now."

The two witnesses were among five boys prosecutors allege Jackson had sexually molested in the 1990s, before the allegations that brought him to trial emerged. None of those cases resulted in criminal charges, and three of the five -- including actor Macaulay Culkin -- are scheduled to testify in the early stages of Jackson's defense.

On cross-examination, the first witness -- now a choreographer with ties to the film industry -- said Jackson had been instrumental in his career.

Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen showed the man a series of books taken from Neverland during the Jackson probe. The books included one with nude photographs of preteen boys; another with men engaging in masturbation and sodomy; and others that included photos of women in sexually explicit poses.

"A person who possesses this book," Zonen said, holding up the book with pictures of preteen boys, "Would it bother you if that person was crawling into bed with a 12-year-old boy?"

"Yes, I guess so," the witness said.

Jackson's lawyers began presenting witnesses after Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville denied their request for a bench verdict of acquittal. Defense lawyer Robert Sanger called prosecutors' two-month case "inherently improbable and not credible."

"One has to wonder -- would this case have gone anywhere like this if Michael Jackson were not the defendant?" he said.

The first witness told jurors he met Jackson after imitating him in a dance contest and visited Neverland several times in the following years. He said he stayed in Jackson's room on his first visit to Neverland, when he was 7, along with his sister. He said they played video games and watched movies with the singer that night, and stayed in Jackson's room more than 15 to 20 times on subsequent visits.

He said Jackson never showered with him, as a former Neverland maid testified last week, and that the entertainer always wore swim trunks when they were together in his hot tub.

Both defense witnesses said they still consider Jackson a friend and that they are staying at Neverland during the trial.

The second witness said he had stayed with Jackson in his room at Neverland "countless" times after he met the singer at a concert in 1991 -- and continued doing so until he was 19. The witness said he occasionally traveled with Jackson, sleeping in the singer's bed with him after his performances.

On cross-examination, he answered many questions by saying he could not recall.

"When I was young, I didn't think about this stuff," he said, by way of explanation.

Asked if women or girlfriends ever traveled with Jackson, he said, "Not that I recall."

He said he and Jackson wore pajamas, or pajama bottoms with T-shirts, when they slept in the bed together. But Zonen displayed a Polaroid photo in which the boy identified himself, in Jackson's bed, with the entertainer standing in his underwear next to it.

Melville allowed prosecutors to present testimony about the previous allegations as part of their effort to show that the pop star had a history of grooming boys for sexual abuse.

Jackson has admitted reaching financial settlements with two boys who accused him of molesting them, and one of those boys testified against him in April. Other witnesses testified that they saw Jackson engage in improper conduct with other boys.

Culkin, who has publicly denied any improper conduct on Jackson's part, is expected to testify next week. Relatives of the two others will testify in the early stages of the defense as well.

Prosecutor, defense spar over witnesses

During Thursday's defense motion to dismiss the case, Sanger said several prosecution witnesses, including the accuser and his mother, had given "clearly false" testimony. The state's witnesses "had a tendency to self-destruct," he said.

He accused the final prosecution witness, music producer Rudy Provencio, of falsifying notes of conversations that linked Jackson to a plot to intimidate and control the accuser's family. And he called "inherently preposterous" prosecutors' arguments that Jackson molested his accuser after the airing of a controversial documentary.

"It's inherently improbable that anybody -- anybody -- would choose the moment to say, 'Why don't I molest this child,'" Sanger said.

But District Attorney Tom Sneddon told Melville that the trial should proceed and go to a jury. He said the 2003 documentary "Living with Michael Jackson" was "a death threat to his career," because Jackson was already millions in debt. And he said the testimony of several witnesses, including Provencio, linked Jackson to the conspiracy counts. (Losing Beatles catalog?)

"It does not require him to be the puppet master; it just requires intent," Sneddon said.

Prosecutors rested their 10-week case against the pop star Wednesday after testimony from a witness who described how the singer's entourage made up stories about killers trailing the family of his accuser. (Wednesday's testimony)

That appeared to bolster earlier testimony by the accuser's mother, whose credibility was fiercely attacked by Jackson's lawyers. But it did little to connect Jackson to the conspiracy that prosecutors say resulted in the virtual imprisonment of the boy's family during ABC's broadcast of the documentary in February 2003.

A grand jury indicted the 46-year-old pop star last year on charges of molesting a boy, then 13, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive in 2003.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

CNN's Dree De Clamecy and Stella Chan contributed to this report.

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