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The Michael Jackson Trial

Investigator: Jackson case remains open


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Michael Jackson arrives at the Santa Maria, California, courthouse Wednesday morning.
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Witness discrepancies in the child molestation trial of Michael Jackson.

Defense looks for inconsistencies in accuser's testimony.

Jackson's accuser says he told school official nothing happened.
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SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- The lead investigator in the Michael Jackson child molestation case testified Wednesday that the police probe remains active.

"We're currently continuing to investigate this case," Santa Barbara County deputy sheriff Sgt. Steve Robel said during testimony in Jackson's trial. "We're also having other people come forward."

Robel did not provide details. His comments came in response to a suggestion by defense attorney Robert Sanger that investigators prematurely searched Jackson's Neverland Ranch when they should have first gathered more information.

Also Wednesday, the defense continued to attack the prosecution's timeline for when Jackson's teenage accuser says he was molested by the pop star, introducing excerpts from police interviews in which the boy said the incidents took place before the time frame set out in Jackson's indictment.

On the witness stand, the boy, now 15, said Jackson twice masturbated him to ejaculation while they were alone together in his bedroom at Jackson's ranch two years ago, when he was 13.

While the boy did not give a specific date for those incidents, he said they occurred after family members made a video rebutting a controversial ABC television documentary about Jackson but before the boy left the ranch for good.

According to Jackson's indictment -- which places the molestation accusations in the same three-week time frame as the boy's testimony -- the rebuttal video was completed on February 20, 2003, and the boy's departure from the ranch was on March 12, 2003.

But the defense Wednesday brought out a transcript of an interview conducted with the boy in January 2004. When asked whether the molestation began before the making of the rebuttal tape, the boy said, "I think so."

During that same interview, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon asked the boy whether he thought Jackson and his associates had his family make the video so that no one would believe him if he ever spoke up about molestation.

"Yeah," the boy replied, according to the transcript presented in court Wednesday.

Robel testified that authorities had obtained a search warrant and an arrest warrant for Jackson before investigators went to Neverland on November 18, 2003, to search the property. Jackson was arrested two days later.

Robel said investigators decided to draw up a search warrant and serve it when they did because of concerns that "evidence would be destroyed or not be there."

He testified that items found in Jackson's home matched items mentioned in police interviews with his accuser and members of his family, including a life-sized mannequin of a young black girl; a jukebox in the ranch's arcade that concealed an entrance to a wine cellar; and a briefcase containing sexually explicit material.

Robel also said that during his initial interview with Jackson's teenage accuser, the boy's demeanor underwent "a major change," and he became "very quiet" when he was asked to detail sexual allegations involving Jackson.

"He folded his arms, and he sank down in his chair," Robel said, adding that it took him 10 minutes to reassure the boy that he was doing the right thing by coming forward.

Under questioning by Sneddon, Robel also said the boy told him that he believed there could have been five to seven incidents of molestation, although he only remembered two in detail.

Tuesday, the defense -- trying to characterize inconsistencies in the boy's version of events -- introduced an excerpt from a police interview in which the boy said Jackson had masturbated him until ejaculation five times. During his trial testimony, he said he only remembered two such incidents, although he did say that he felt like there were more.

Sneddon's line of questioning on the issue appeared to be an attempt to explain the discrepancy to the jury.

Jackson is charged with four counts of performing a lewd act on a child -- the two incidents the boy remembers and two others that his younger brother says he witnessed while the accuser was asleep.

On Tuesday, Robel also testified that during two sets of interviews with police in the summer of 2003, neither the accuser nor his brother or sister mentioned that they had made video and audio tapes lauding Jackson and denying the child molestation allegations. He said the boy's mother "may have mentioned" the videotape in her interviews.

Robel said he did not become aware of the existence of the tapes until five months into his investigation, when investigators searched Neverland.

Sneddon sought to counter that testimony by having Robel review a report from another investigator, Detective Paul Zelis, which said that the children had in fact talked about making the rebuttal tape.

Zelis followed Robel to the witness stand.

Jackson arrived at the courthouse Wednesday morning accompanied by his parents. Wearing a royal blue blazer, black pants and a blue shirt, Jackson twice paused to wave and give a thumbs-up sign to supporters who were screaming "Michael is innocent" and "Fight, Michael! Fight!"

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to an April 2004 indictment by a state grand jury which includes 10 felony counts for incidents that allegedly occurred in February and March 2003.

The incidents named in the indictment include four counts of committing a lewd act on a child; one count of conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion; one count of attempting to commit a lewd act on a child; and four counts of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony.

During Tuesday's testimony, Jackson's accuser said he twice denied to a dean at his middle school that anything sexual had happened between him and Jackson because he was embarrassed and "the kids were making fun of me." (Full story)


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