Mother of alleged victim in Jackson molestation case to testify; singer cheered outside court

Friday, September 17th 2004, 10:29 am
By: News On 6

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) _ Michael Jackson was met with cheers Friday as he came to court to watch the mother of the boy who accused him of molestation undergo questioning by defense lawyers.

Jackson and members of his family, all dressed in white, enthusiastically waved to fans pressed against a chain link fence surrounding the Santa Barbara County courthouse. One held a banner with a picture of the pop star and others hoisted signs saying ``We Love You Michael.''

One woman supporting the prosecution held a sign that said, ``We Support the Victim.''

At the hearing, which began Thursday, the defense is attempting to persuade the judge to disallow as evidence some items taken in a search of Jackson's Neverland Ranch and from the office of a private investigator.

The accuser's mother was to testify Friday about whether she knew private investigator Bradley Miller worked for former Jackson lawyer Mark Geragos.

The singer's attorneys are trying to show that she and prosecutors should have known Geragos had hired Miller, and that items taken from Miller's office could not be admitted at the trial because of the attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.

The woman's testimony would be the first time since the case began that she was face to face with the pop star she once trusted to host her children on overnight visits to Neverland. In a grand jury hearing earlier this year, she called him ``the devil.''

Jackson's defense attorneys played video recordings Thursday of the Neverland search, arguing that law enforcement officers overstepped their bounds by taking items not covered in a search warrant as they gathered evidence.

The video included the sounds of carnival music blasting from Neverland's speakers as stone-faced investigators fanned out across the property. They entered a video library that takes up an entire room, and a museum filled with costumed mannequins, one dressed as Marilyn Monroe.

At one point the camera lingered on a picture of ``Home Alone'' star Macaulay Culkin, the actor who also appeared in the video for Jackson's hit ``Black or White.''

Defense attorney Robert Sanger questioned Santa Barbara County sheriff's Sgt. Ross Ruth, one of the investigators seen on the recording, about his reasons for entering an office that one ranch employee had identified as Jackson's.

At a previous hearing, witnesses testified that the search warrant for Neverland specified a security office, but made no mention of Jackson's private office. Prosecutors contended that they thought the building housing Jackson's office was also a security building and therefore could be searched.

Ruth testified he did not believe the employee, a woman who wore a maid's uniform, because she had been giving evasive answers.

At one point on the video the woman repeatedly flicked a light switch, but no lights appeared to go on or off. Ruth said he suspected she might be sending a warning or activating cameras, but Judge Rodney S. Melville struck that testimony, saying it was speculative.

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.

Also Thursday, Jackson's attorneys filed a response to media attorney Theodore Boutrous' appeal to unseal many of the records in the case. Boutrous represents news organizations including The Associated Press.

In their response, Jackson's lawyers said it is important to keep the information secret to ensure Jackson receives a fair trial.

``Here the defendant Michael Jackson's liberty is at stake. He is surrounded by wild rumors and salacious allegations. Because he is a celebrity the press and entertainment media hang on every allegation and turn it into a lucrative entertainment venture,'' according to the motion filed by the defense.