A former employee of Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch was called to the stand in his child molestation trial today (May 9) to cast doubt on the testimony of an ex-maid who claimed the pop star inappropriately touched actor Macaulay Culkin and other boys.
Francine Contreras testified that while working at the ranch from 1991 to 1993 she never heard the maid, Adrian McManus, say anything bad about the singer. Contreras also cast McManus as a pilferer, saying the maid had at her home a display of hats, pajamas, watches, T-shirts and other items taken from Neverland.
McManus would leave the ranch with a laundry basket, saying it was clothes she needed to iron for Jackson, Contreras said. The witness also described McManus taking home some toy squirt guns from Neverland that were supposed to be wrapped as gifts for children.
Contreras and other current and former Neverland employees were called as the defense began its first full week of presenting witnesses to the jury. Also testifying was Neverland security chief Violet Silva, who described measures to guard the 2,700-acre ranch and a confidentiality agreement all who enter must sign.
The document, under which people agree to not take pictures or to record anything, is intended “to keep you from profiting from your experience there,” Silva said.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger asked if the agreement is intended to conceal any untoward or illegal activity. “No,” Silva said.
The defense began its case last week after the prosecution rested. Defense witnesses last week included two young men who said they slept in the same bed with Jackson and were not molested, as well as their mothers, who expressed trust in Jackson.
McManus had testified for the prosecution that she saw once Jackson kiss Culkin on the cheek while his hand was on Culkin’s bottom. She described similar scenes with other boys. Culkin, a regular guest at Neverland in the early 1990s, is expected to be among defense witnesses, though there has been no indication when he might be called.
McManus’ credibility was attacked by the defense, which showed that she and her husband were found to have defrauded three children of more than $30,500 and in another lawsuit was assessed $30,000 for stealing a sketch of Elvis Presley by Jackson and selling it to a tabloid.
Similarly, the prosecution sought to challenge Contreras’ character by asking if she had been prosecuted for stealing at her subsequent job at a Mervyn’s department store. Contreras said she was prosecuted for trespassing, not stealing.
Jackson, 46, is accused of fondling a 13-year-old former cancer patient, plying him with alcohol, and conspiring to detain him and his family so they would rebut a documentary in which he is seen holding hands with his accuser and saying he allows children to sleep in his bed, though he says the sleepovers were non-sexual.
In brief testimony, a former head of housekeeping at Neverland said that the mother of Jackson’s accuser asked her for a job during the mother’s first visit to the ranch. Gayle Goforth said the mother told her she was worried about her son’s health and that she was having money problems.
“She asked me if I would give her a job at the ranch,” Goforth said. Goforth said she noted the ranch was far from the family’s home in Los Angeles but that the mother said she was willing to move.
“I told her that the rents were very expensive in the area. She said, ‘I’ll come and I’ll sleep in the car if I need to,'” Goforth testified, saying she tried to end the conversation. “I thought that her being a guest and everything it wasn’t appropriate,” Goforth testified.
Goforth said she was suspended over a mix-up involving a sale of property from Neverland and that she the quit because she was offended. “I was suspended over the sale of some furniture that I thought was allowed to be done,” she said. She said she didn’t know if Jackson was the one who had disciplined her but she assumed he was.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.