The 89th Academy Awards

Witness: Jackson Accuser's Mom Rejected Money

The mother of Michael Jackson's accuser refused an offer of money after the broadcast of a documentary featuring the pop star and her son, a witness said yesterday (March 29), as prosecutors sought to

The mother of Michael Jackson's accuser refused an offer of money after the broadcast of a documentary featuring the pop star and her son, a witness said yesterday (March 29), as prosecutors sought to counter claims that her greed was behind the sex-abuse charges.

Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory on Hollywood's Sunset Strip, also recalled a frantic telephone call from the mother after "Living With Michael Jackson" was aired, in which she told him she and her family were being held against their will at the pop star's Neverland Valley Ranch.

"She was kind of in a state of crying, like 'Oh my God, they're holding me here,"' Masada told the jury. "She said, they're holding me with my kids against my will. I need to get out of here."

Masada is a key figure in the molestation case against Jackson. He first met Jackson's accuser at a 1999 comedy camp at his club, and two became close when the boy was hospitalized for what doctors thought was terminal cancer.

The Iranian-born Masada said that after the boy asked him to set up a meeting with his "idol" Jackson, he tried to put the two in contact. The effort apparently paid off with a phone call by the singer inviting the family to Neverland.

But after the broadcast of the documentary in February 2003, which showed Jackson and the boy holding hands, schoolmates began taunting him, Masada said.

Masada introduced the mother to his attorney in a bid to stop further broadcasts of the documentary. During that time, Masada said, he told the mother that he knew someone who wanted to give her substantial amounts of money -- although the mysterious benefactor was not identified in court.

Over defense objections, Masada said the mother rejected the offer by saying: "All I need is friends, all I need is prayer. Prayer is all I need. I don't need money."

That testimony was sought by prosecutors to counter a central defense theory -- that the mother was a grifter who saw celebrities as easy marks and cooked up the sex-abuse accusations in a bid to wring money from Jackson.

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the woman's son, then 13, at Neverland and plying the boy with alcohol in order to abuse him. He is also accused of child abduction, extortion and false imprisonment. The self-proclaimed "King of Pop," who has pleaded innocent, faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

Masada sprinkled his testimony with humorous asides, and, when asked if he had ever met Jackson, responded: "No, it's the first time I've seen him." Turning to the famous defendant across the courtroom, he said: "How are you?"

Jackson responded with a cheerful wave. Outside court, Jackson told reporters: "We can use a little comic relief sometimes."

Masada was followed on the witness stand by flight attendant Cynthia Bell, who served the singer, his children and the accuser's family on a flight from Miami to Santa Barbara in February 2003, following the documentary's broadcast.

Though called as a prosecution witness, Bell's testimony appeared to contradict claims of several witnesses that Jackson served the boy alcohol and licked his head during the flight.

Bell acknowledged that she served Jackson white wine in a Diet Coke can, but said the idea was hers. Jackson was a nervous flyer, she said, who drank wine to calm his nerves but did not want to be seen drinking in front of children.

She said that the accuser screamed at her that his food was not warm and that he was "altogether loud, obnoxious," in contrast to Jackson and his children, who behaved courteously.

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