SANTA MARIA, Calif., April 15, 2005 — -- The testimony of the mother of Michael Jackson's current accuser in his molestation trial was the most highly anticipated of any witness besides the accuser himself.
Jackson is on trial for allegedly molesting a now-15-year-old boy who spent time at his Neverland ranch and appeared with him in the British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson." He has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges that include felony conspiracy with 28 overt acts involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. When this alleged victim's mother first took the stand Wednesday, she became the third mother to tell the jury about Jackson's close friendships with boys.
Jackson reached settlements with boys who accused him of molestation in 1990 and 1993 for a reported $2 million and more than $20 million respectively. He was never criminally charged for those allegations and has always denied any wrongdoing. Santa Barbara County, Calif., prosecutors decided not to pursue criminal charges against Jackson in the 1993 case when they said the alleged victim refused to testify.
The mothers of these past accusers were able to testify at Jackson's molestation trial because Judge Rodney Melville ruled that prosecutors could present testimony about prior similar allegations against Jackson. A 1996 California law allows prosecutors to show evidence of previous patterns of alleged bad behavior in sex crime cases.
The mothers of Jackson's three accusers have had dramatically different lives and met Jackson through equally disparate circumstances. On the stand they gave accounts of varying paths to Neverland, but each said she came away from his home with similar results.
She came to the United States from El Salvador in 1975, when she was 21, and still has a heavy Spanish accent. Now a caregiver for the elderly, in 1986 she began working for Jackson, cleaning his mansion and hideout condo in Los Angeles. "I took care of Mr. Jackson's room and personal stuff," she said.
She worked six days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., sometimes more. "Christmastime, and whatever time he needed me." She brought her son to work with her at Jackson's request. It was on several of these occasions that she said she saw inappropriate behavior by Jackson, well before she ever saw Jackson showering with a young boy at Neverland, but not before seeing other things. "I saw little things before that with other kids."
When her son was 7, she said she took him off Jackson's lap against the boy's protestations that Jackson was reading him a story. On another occasion, when he was 8, she testified that she found her son in a sleeping bag with Jackson. At first, she said, she told her son in Spanish to come out of the sleeping bag. When he didn't respond, she said it in English hoping Jackson would understand. However, Jackson and her son didn't move and so she served them snacks where they were.
She testified that later when they were walking to the bus stop, her son told her that he could pay their fare. She asked to see the money he spoke of and her son told her, "No, 'cause Michael told me it was for me and not to tell you." She was surprised to see two $100 bills, she testified.