Jan. 19, 2005 — -- The judge in the molestation case against Michael Jackson has allowed Jackson to break a court-imposed gag order and respond to the exclusive report by ABC News' "Primetime Live" on the grand jury testimony given by his accuser.
Jackson, 46, is scheduled to face trial Jan. 31 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.
The accuser's grand jury testimony had been sealed but "Primetime Live" co-anchor Cynthia Mc Fadden reviewed the more than 1,900 pages of the transcript. ABC News has learned that Judge Rodney Melville has allowed Jackson to respond to "Primetime Live's" report and other leaks in the case.
Jackson, sources told ABC News, has recorded an interview with reporter and talk show host Geraldo Rivera. Jackson made a personal statement and then Rivera asked him about topics other than the case. The interview, sources said, will be broadcast sometime before the start of jury selection.
Melville made his decision after meeting with prosecutors and defense attorneys. Prosecutors, sources told ABC News, were not happy about the judge's decision because they believe Jackson's public statement could poison the jury pool.
After "Primetime Live's" report, Jackson's lead attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., released a statement complaining about the "leak" of the testimony.
"This case will be won in the courtroom and not through 'leaks' in the media. When he has his day in court, Michael Jackson will be acquitted and vindicated," Mesereau said.
The boy, 14 at the time of his testimony, told members of the grand jury that Jackson masturbated him and gave him alcohol. Among other things, the boy said:
"He [Jackson] told me that he wanted to teach me [to masturbate] … so we were laying in the bed, and then he started rubbing me … he put his hand down my pants and he started rubbing me … my private area … he was masturbating me."
Last April, after hearing from the accuser and other witnesses, including the boy's sister, mother and younger brother, the grand jury returned an indictment against Jackson. During a grand jury proceeding, witnesses are not cross-examined by the defense and the defense has no opportunity to call its own witnesses or challenge the testimony.
Meanwhile, a recent brief order from Melville indicates that prosecutors are asking that testimony from child witnesses be conducted in secret. The judge's order makes mention of "plaintiff's motion for order directing that the testimony of child witnesses be closed to the public" in ruling that the motion be sealed until a Jan. 28 hearing. Melville indicated he would consider both the motion and requests to unseal it in some redacted form.
Reported by ABC News' Jim Avila on "Good Morning America."