The Michael Jackson child molestation trial hurtled toward a close today (May 27) as prosecutors showed jurors a video of the accuser being interviewed by police and defense lawyers decided not to put on a rebuttal case. Closing arguments could begin as early as Wednesday.
The tape of the 2003 interview showed the boy — downcast and speaking quietly — telling investigators for the first time that he was molested by Jackson. The defense then decided not to call the accuser back to the stand — as they had planned to do — and closed their case.
The tape offered little that the boy hadn’t already testified to on the stand, but he became via video the last witness the jury would see. The courtroom was hushed and when the lights came up jurors were solemn, looking downward. Jackson had no comment as he left.
The jury has been hearing the case since opening statements on Feb. 28. The prosecution presented more than 80 witnesses and the defense called 50 before ending its main case this week. Prosecutors then called 15 rebuttal witnesses, some of whom had testified earlier.
On the tape, the boy haltingly described the alleged molestation in much of the same language he used in his testimony during the trial. The tape showed the boy, in denim shorts and a blue shirt, slumped in a chair. He occasionally smiled, scratched his arm and fumbled with a button on his shirt.
“He put his hands in my pants. He started masturbating me,” the boy told detectives who urged him to tell his story. “I told him I didn’t want to do that and he kept on doing it. I told him no.”
Sheriff’s investigators made small-talk as they tried to build rapport before pressing him to be forthcoming during the July 6, 2003 interview. With his head down and frequently pausing, the boy described the alleged molestation in a low voice.
He said Jackson masturbated him “five or so” times and later clarified under questioning by Sgt. Steve Robel that it was five times or less. In his witness stand testimony the boy said he could remember Jackson masturbating him twice but there may have been more times. His brother testified to twice seeing Jackson molesting the boy.
In the interview he described things that Jackson allegedly said to him, including that boys need to masturbate or they would go crazy.
After that, Robel told the boy, “I guarantee you will feel much better after you get it … off your chest.” The boy then took a deep breath and after a long pause went on.
“He said that he wanted to show me how to masturbate,” the boy said. “I said no. Then he said he could do it for me.” The boy looked down, then resumed haltingly.
“He grabbed me,” he said. Robel asked him where he was grabbed. “My private area,” the boy said, going on to describe the masturbation and saying that Jackson touched him for “a long time.”
The boy said the first molestation occurred after he and Jackson had been drinking at Neverland. “Toward the last days at Neverland … he would always have me drink,” the boy said.
Robel said at one point, “I don’t care who Michael Jackson is. Michael Jackson has done wrong to you and your mother and his friends.” At the end, Robel assured the boy he was doing the right thing.
“I’m very proud of you,” he said at the end. “What he has done to you. He’s the bad person, not you. You and your mother and brother and sister are the good people.”
The accuser, now 15, testified at the start of the trial. The prosecution asked to introduce the tape during its rebuttal case, which began after the defense rested earlier this week.
Prosecutors contended that the videotape would show that the boy’s story has been consistent. After lengthy arguments, the judge admitted the tape for limited purposes — to “examine his demeanor and the manner in which he made the disclosures.”
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the then-13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving him wine 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 but it was non-sexual.
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