Leno Was Suspicious Of Jackson Accuser

"The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno testified today (May 24) that the boy who is now accusing Michael Jackson of molestation was "overly effusive" and sounded suspicious in phone calls to him but never a

"The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno testified today (May 24) that the boy who is now accusing Michael Jackson of molestation was "overly effusive" and sounded suspicious in phone calls to him but never asked for money.

Jackson's defense called Leno, who regularly skewers the pop star in his "Tonight Show" monologues, to support its claim that the boy's family schemed to get money from celebrities and Jackson became one of their targets.

The boy's calls to Leno occurred during a period when the boy had cancer and Hollywood comics had taken an interest in helping the family. Leno testified that he makes 15 to 20 calls a week to children who are ill, and he began receiving voice mail messages from Jackson's future accuser around 2000.

Leno said the boy would say he was his hero. Leno testified he thought it was strange that a young boy would be such a fan of a comedian who is in his 50s. "I'm not Bat Man. It seemed a little unusual," Leno said.

The comic said he believed that at one point he called the boy's hospital room and talked to the boy, his brother and his mother. He said his recollection was confirmed by a conversation with comedian Louise Palanker, a friend who had become acquainted with the boy.

"I was told by Louise that they were really happy to hear from me," Leno said. Leno said the boy seemed "a little scripted" in phone calls after the call to the hospital. He also said he once heard a voice in the background but said he wasn't sure if it was the boy's mother, a nurse or someone else.

Defense attorneys have suggested that Leno heard the mother in the background coaching her son, but Leno didn't identify the voice. He did say the boy never asked him for money. "I wasn't asked for any money nor did I send any," he said.

The comic said the calls ended when he asked Palanker to intercede. The defense has said that Leno became so suspicious that he called Santa Barbara police to say he believed the family was looking for a "mark," but Leno said it was police who contacted him.

It was unclear why police contacted Leno. But the comic said he probably did tell police that it sounded like the family was seeking money. "It sounded suspicious when a young person got overly effusive," Leno said. "It just didn't click with me."

Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked Leno if he ever receives false pleas for help and Leno said he does. "Sometimes you get a call like, 'I'm a farmer, our tractor's broken, our crops aren't doing well,' and the return address is Brooklyn, New York," Leno said.

Leno dedicated much of his "Tonight Show" monologue Monday night to discussing his forthcoming court appearance. Noting he has often poked fun at Jackson's expense, Leno quipped, "I was called by the defense. Apparently they've never seen this program."

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy in February or March 2003 when he was 13, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a documentary in which the boy appeared with Jackson as the entertainer said he let children into his bed for innocent, non-sexual sleepovers.

Jackson's attorneys yesterday called witnesses who painted the mother of his accuser as a welfare cheat who exploited her son's cancer to get money and lived lavishly at Jackson's expense.

The defense tried to show the mother was behind several moneymaking schemes and angrily rejected people who sought to help her with anything but cash. The mother's former sister-in-law testified that the mother used profanity to denounce blood drives held for the accuser when he was fighting cancer.

"She told me that she didn't need my [expletive] blood," said the former sister-in-law, bursting into tears, "that she needed money."

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