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Jackson Case: Prosecutors rest their case

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Editor's Note: As part of CNN.com's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from CourtTVNews.com. This story was first published in 2005.

(Court TV) -- Prosecutors rested their case against Michael Jackson on Wednesday after calling their final witness, a man who worked alongside Jackson aides and took copious notes about life inside Neverland Ranch, but had no evidence directly tying the singer to conspiracy or sexual molestation charges.

It was an inauspicious finale to a 45-day-long case, marked by lurid testimony about Jackson's alleged sexual escapades with boys, but handicapped by the lack of a smoking gun that would put Jackson at the center of an alleged elaborate plan to imprison a 13-year-old boy and his family.

The 85th and final prosecution witness, Rudy Provencio, a former aide to a former aide of Michael Jackson, was a bizarre footnote to the so-called celebrity trial of the century.

The dapper self-described music-placement contractor was alternately giddy and haughty on the stand, correcting prosecutor Ronald Zonen's knowledge of his world: "They're called 'liner notes,'" he interjected when Zonen asked him about the "credits" found on the back of albums.

Provencio said he earned $225,000 a year as general manager and filing clerk for Neverland Valley Entertainment, or NVE, a business that Jackson and alleged co-conspirator Marc Schaffel started in preparation for a charity CD project entitled "What More Can I Give?"

Provencio said his most important role in the business was "to facilitate any dream or project that Michael had."

During his time in Jackson's inner circle, Provencio said he learned that the King of Pop had two voices.

"There's the voice you hear on TV, and the upset voice," Provencio said. "One is a deeper voice."

Provencio said he also witnessed the media firestorm after journalist Martin Bashir's tell-all TV documentary "Living with Michael Jackson," in which the pop singer admitted sharing his bed with young boys and held hands with his accuser.

"The phone went ballistic," Provencio said, saying the calls from European and American news outlets needed "an octopus" who could "pick up the phone every two seconds."

In addition to conspiracy charges, Jackson is accused with sexually molesting the boy shortly after the documentary aired, in February and March of 2003.

Prosecutors contend that NVE president Schaffel and four other unindicted co-conspirators and Jackson aides  Ronald Konitzer, Dieter Wiesner, Vinnie Amen and Frank Tyson  rallied under Jackson's command to hold the boy and his family prisoners at Neverland in order to protect Jackson's image.

Provencio said he secretly listened and took notes during two "urgent" conference calls Schaffel initiated with Wiesner and Jackson.

The main issue, Provencio said, was what to do about the boy and his family.

"They could ruin your career. They could blackmail you," Provencio said the men told Jackson.

Jackson agreed that a rebuttal video to the Bashir documentary had to be made and suggested filming the accuser's family as part of the rebuttal.

'Fishy' remarks

Provencio told jurors that although he was only on the sidelines of the alleged conspiracy at Neverland, he knew something "fishy" was going on.

Two off-the-cuff remarks about "killers" and "escaped" children caught his attention, and he noted them in his personal journals.

Shortly after the Bashir documentary aired, Provencio said, Schaffel made a flippant remark about "the killers that were after [the family]."

Alarmed, Provencio called Jackson aide Vinnie Amen and asked, "Who are the killers?"

"He said, 'Oh, there are no killers,'" Provencio recounted, adding that the only threats Amen told him about were the children who "called the boy a f----t at school."

Provencio's notes about "killers" seemed to support the testimony from the accuser's mother, who said that Jackson aides coerced her into participating in the rebuttal video by telling her that killers would harm her family if she did not comply with their demands.

But on cross-examination, Provencio admitted that the timing his journal entries was not always consistent. For instance, a date of Feb. 1, 2003, jotted at the top of a journal page about the "killers" and the notation "Mom is flipping out about something" appeared before the Bashir documentary aired.

He also conceded that some of his notes, in particular those containing the "killers" reference, were found just a few weeks ago, tucked away in a box.

"Sir, you went back and wrote these notes because you wanted to be involved in this case?" defense attorney Thomas Mesereau asked.

"No!" Provencio replied. "And ruin my career?"

Provencio also noted in his journals that in early March 2003, after the family made their final retreat from Neverland, he had a conversation with both Schaffel and Amen in which both men remarked that the family had "just escaped."

"I was relieved," Provencio said, "because that meant that portion of this train wreck was over."

The use of the word "escape," prosecutors say, demonstrates the aides' malicious intent to hold the family captive. Jackson maintains that he was unaware of the alleged plot. His defense has said that the accuser's mother was repeatedly ferried to beauty salons and shopping trips during the time she claims to have been held captive.

"Did you watch [the family] escape?" Mesereau asked Provencio.

Provencio confirmed he had not.

"Did you know that [the mother] got a body wax that day?" Mesereau snorted.

The question sent Provencio into a chair-rocking belly laugh, drowning out the prosecutor's barely audible objection.

The defense expects to call its first witness Thursday morning. Jackson faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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