Jackson's Lavish Lifestyle Put On Display
Michael Jackson's elegant home with its lavish playground for children was placed on display in a courtroom as defense attorneys showed a judge videotapes of a raid last year on the pop star's NeverlaMichael Jackson's elegant home with its lavish playground for children was placed on display in a courtroom as defense attorneys showed a judge videotapes of a raid last year on the pop star's Neverland estate.
The videotape was viewed yesterday (Aug. 19) at a hearing in Jackson's child molestation case, at which defense attorneys were attempting to limit the evidence prosecutors can present during trial in January. Jackson's lawyers say the search was overly broad and unjustified.
The pretrial hearing will resume today with testimony from the lead detective who directed the search of Jackson's home.
Also yesterday, the defense elicited testimony from the stepfather of Jackson's accuser that validated what had long been rumored - that the accuser's family sought payment from the music superstar for appearing in a video designed to restore Jackson's reputation.
Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.
In a one-hour excerpt from some 15 hours of video, sheriff's detectives trudged behind the gates of Jackson's Tudor-style mansion, with its dark wood paneling and glittery chandeliers. The detectives from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department swept into the entertainer's "toy room," where his children often played with life-sized "Star Wars" figures and a larger-than-life Superman figure.
Also videotaped was Jackson's wine cellar, business office and the "classroom," with its child-sized desks, where he had his children home-schooled.
Jackson and his family were not at home when the search began at 9 a.m. on Nov. 18 and ended well after midnight. Some 40 officers participated, trucking with them portable toilets and two crime scene investigation trucks for collection of evidence.
During the earlier testimony, the accuser's stepfather, identified as "Mr. Doe" to shield his stepson's identity, portrayed himself as the moving force behind efforts to obtain payment from Jackson's people.
"I said, 'This family has nothing and you're making millions from this and what are you going to do for this little family?'" the man said of a conversation with someone he identified only as the "gentleman from Neverland." He said the person offered to provide a college education and buy the family a house.
His testimony appeared to bolster defense contentions that the accuser's family tried to "shake down" Jackson for money. Lawyers for Jackson claim the molestation accusations came when no payment was made.
The attempt to tape a testimonial video interview followed the broadcast of a British TV documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson," which included the alleged victim and showed Jackson defending his practice of having young boys sleep in his bed.
When the documentary raised a storm of controversy, the stepfather said, Jackson hired an investigator to record a rebuttal video to vouch for the entertainer's good character.
The stepfather also testified Jackson wasn't the only one from whom he sought payments. He said he asked British journalists who came to the family's home how much they would pay, adding that they offered $15,000. He said the family never took the money.
In another development, Jackson, with the judge's approval, released a brief statement on his Web site railing at critics he said have targeted him and his family with lies and ridicule. The statement did not mention the charges he is facing.
"It is unfortunate that for years we have been targets of completely inaccurate and false portrayals," Jackson said. "We have watched as we have been vilified and humiliated. I personally have suffered through many hurtful lies and references to me as 'Wacko Jacko' as well as the latest untruth about me fathering quadruplets."
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