Jackson Defense Grills Lead Investigator

The lead investigator in the Michael Jackson child molestation case said he urged the accuser and his family to go forward with his claims against the singer by promising them, "We're going to try our

The lead investigator in the Michael Jackson child molestation case said he urged the accuser and his family to go forward with his claims against the singer by promising them, "We're going to try our best to make this case work."

Defense attorney Robert Sanger confronted Sgt. Steve Robel yesterday (March 15) with those and other statements from recorded interviews, suggesting they indicated investigators were biased against Jackson from the beginning.

He quoted Robel as saying, "One thing I want to emphasize is you guys are doing the right thing here ... I don't care how much money they have. He's the one who's done wrong ... We're going to try to bring him to justice."

Sanger asked: "That's not the statement of someone with an open mind who's trying to find the truth, is it?" Robel said that during his training he was taught to make such a statement to alleged victims.

"That statement is to reassure them," he said, "because they were terrified when they came forward. It took us two weeks to get them to come in."

Sanger asked: "Isn't the technique you are taught to tell them [is] to be honest and not to tell them they're right, everyone else is wrong?" The witness, due back on the stand today, answered that was not the technique he was taught.

Robel's testimony came after the singer's accuser wrapped up his testimony by saying he told a school administrator that Jackson had not molested him because he wanted to avoid teasing from classmates.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. revealed Monday in the cross-examination of the boy, now 15, that he had once denied being molested in a talk with Jeffrey Alpert, a dean at John Burroughs Middle School in Los Angeles.

The boy testified Tuesday that he got in fights with other students when he returned from Jackson's Neverland Ranch in March 2003 because they would mock him. "All the kids would laugh at me and try to push me around and say, 'That's the kid that got raped by Michael Jackson,'" said the boy, who alleges Jackson molested him at least twice at Neverland.

He said fighting got him summoned to the office of a school dean, and that was when "I told him that it didn't happen."

"Why did you tell him that?" District Attorney Tom Sneddon asked. "All the kids were already making fun of me in school and I didn't want them to think it happened," the boy said.

The conversation was prompted by the Feb. 6, 2003, TV documentary that showed Jackson with the boy and in which Jackson acknowledged sharing his bed with children, although he characterized it as innocent and non-sexual.

Mesereau concluded his questioning of the boy yesterday by asking if he realized he could profit by filing a lawsuit against Jackson before he turns 18. The boy said he did not know that.

Prosecutors claim Jackson conspired to hold the boy, his mother, sister and brother captive to get them to record a video rebutting the TV documentary. The family heaped praise on Jackson in the rebuttal video.

Sneddon's redirect questioning was relatively brief. He had the boy talk again about his bout with cancer, how he had become close to God and what he thinks of Jackson now.

"I don't really like him anymore," the boy said. "I don't really think he's deserving of the respect I was giving him as the coolest guy in the world."

Later, Sanger elicited several inconsistencies in the accuser's statements -- including the number of alleged molestations. The boy initially alleged Jackson had masturbated him five times.

"Your investigation disclosed on the [the family's] last days at Neverland there were not five occasions when the molestation could have occurred," Sanger asserted.

"No, that's not correct," said Robel, conceding there were "two or three days" when Jackson was not present. He also acknowledged that in the boy's first interview, he gave different versions of when he was first molested.

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