Jan. 10, 2005 -- Prosecutors in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson want jurors to hear testimony about seven other boys who allegedly have been linked to him sexually in press reports or public or private accusations, ABC News has learned.
Jackson, 46, is facing trial for allegedly molesting a now-15-year-old boy who spent time at his Neverland ranch and is believed to be a cancer survivor who appeared in the 2003 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. On Wednesday, Santa Barbara County prosecutors will try to convince Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville to allow testimony of Jackson's alleged past sexual offenses -- including the 1993 scandal in which a then-12-year-old boy made similar accusations against him -- into his upcoming child molestation trial.
Jackson has never been formally charged for any of the alleged past offenses. But prosecutors argue that the testimony shows a pattern of behavior and should be admitted under a 1995 California law that allows relevant previous acts to be considered in sex crimes cases, even if a defendant has never been prosecuted for the alleged actions.
1993 Accuser Could Be Pivotal
Jackson's defense team insists all the allegations -- past and present -- are false and that the testimony should not be allowed because it unfairly inflames the jury and violates the pop star's right to a fair trial. His defense team has suggested the alleged victim's family is trying to get a monetary settlement. Some experts believe the prosecution needs the past allegations to help its case.
"The prosecution is taking this weak current case and trying to bolster it with prior bad acts," said ABC News legal consultant Dana Cole.
Perhaps the most important of the seven witnesses is his accuser from the 1993 scandal. Jackson has always denied any wrongdoing in the case, and prosecutors did not pursue charges against him after they said the alleged victim refused to testify. The boy and his family received a reported $20 million settlement from Jackson.
The alleged victim, now in his 20s, has told prosecutors he does not want to testify, sources told ABC News. However, ABC News has learned that his 1993 sworn affidavit, his civil records and his mother have been subpoenaed. She has told prosecutors she is willing to testify about what allegedly happened to her son, sources told ABC News.
Prosecutors also want jurors to hear about a number of other boys, including: A famous child actor who denies anything sexual happened between him and Jackson; a son of a former Jackson employee; a friend of the Jackson family; a boy -- now a young adult -- who wrote a fan letter to Jackson in the early 1990s and became friends with him; a boy who met Jackson during the filming of a commercial; and an Australian who now works in Hollywood.
Could the Prosecution's Strategy Backfire?
Prosecutors are also attempting to add a Jackson family member to their potential witness list, sources told ABC News. Authorities last week appeared unannounced at the home of the boy, who is now a young adult, and asked him if he had been molested by Jackson. He repeatedly told investigators that nothing illicit has ever happened between him and Jackson, sources told ABC News.
Some legal experts believe Jackson's defense could succeed even if Melville allows the jury to hear about the seven boys. The prosecution's strategy could backfire, according to Cole, if some of the boys testify on Jackson's behalf instead. Sources tell ABC News that at least three of the boys have told the defense they would be willing to testify in support of Jackson.
"The defense expects many of them to get up on the stand to say they're appalled that they're on the [witness] list," Cole said.
Defense attorneys have requested that the arguments over the admission of the testimony about Jackson's alleged prior acts be held in the judge's chambers because the allegations are so inflammatory. Jury selection is set to begin Jan. 31.
Reported by ABC News' Jim Avila on Good Morning America.