A TV weatherman who befriended the family of Michael Jackson's accuser testified today (March 17) in the singer's child molestation trial that he gave them gifts and helped raise money even though the
A TV weatherman who befriended the family of Michael Jackson's accuser testified today (March 17) in the singer's child molestation trial that he gave them gifts and helped raise money even though they never asked him for anything.
Fritz Coleman, the weather forecaster for KNBC in Los Angeles and a standup comedian, had been mentioned in opening statements by the defense, which suggested he was misled by the family into thinking they needed money for medical expenses when they actually had sufficient funds from the father's union insurance.
But Coleman was called to the stand by the prosecution, which has said the boy was introduced to Jackson through the owner of a Hollywood club who ran a comedy camp for underprivileged youth. Coleman offered something of a testimonial to the family, saying he was very taken with the children and willingly offered to help them.
Coleman said of the accuser, his brother and sister: "I found them personable and polite and charismatic." He said that he first encountered them in 1999 when he was teaching a class at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, where word spread that the family was impoverished and needed help.
Coleman said he and a friend, comedian Louise Palanker, bought hundreds of dollars worth of gifts and took them to the family's home at Christmas. "I got the feeling this might be the only Christmas they would have," he said, describing how he went to their one-room East Los Angeles apartment, where living spaces were separated by sheets.
Later, he said, he heard that the eldest son had cancer and went to visit him in the hospital. "He appeared very drawn and pale. This was in the darkest days of his diagnosis when they were not sure he was going to make it. It was very hard to watch," Coleman said. After that, he said, he participated in a fund-raiser and blood drive for the boy and made announcements on his TV broadcast urging people to come.
On cross-examination, Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked whether Coleman was aware that the family had collected more than $100,000 in a lawsuit against J.C. Penney. Coleman said he didn't know that. He said he also didn't know he had been mentioned by the mother in the J.C. Penney lawsuit.
Coleman also said he didn't know the mother had told Los Angeles police that he was going to help her in a domestic violence dispute with her husband. He said he knew that Palanker had given money to the family, but he was not allowed to say how much.
Under defense questioning, Coleman said he heard at the Laugh Factory that the boy's father had approached comedian George Lopez and "was fairly persistent about it. He was becoming a problem."
Mesereau asked Coleman how he knew that the family was needy and he said it was a requirement for families taking part in the Laugh Factory camp. "So your assumption was they must be poor or they wouldn't be here," said Mesereau. "Yes," said Coleman.
On his last visit to the ailing boy at the hospital, Coleman said, he saw a huge box of gifts from Jackson. "I remember [the boy] beaming that this was a gift from Michael," Coleman said.
Yesterday, prosecutors showed jurors a series of sexually explicit magazines, DVDs and videos seized from Jackson's home, but law enforcement witnesses acknowledged there was no evidence the singer had shown any of them to the boy he is accused of molesting.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the then-13-year-old boy at his Neverland ranch in early 2003 and conspiring to hold the family captive to get them to make a video rebutting a Feb. 6, 2003, TV documentary in which Jackson appeared with the boy and said he allowed children to sleep in his bed, a practice he described as non-sexual and innocent.
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