The family accusing Michael Jackson of child molestation is trying to pull off “the biggest con of their careers,” Jackson’s attorney told jurors today (June 3) as he wrapped up his closing argument.
Attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. finished his two-day closing hours after Jackson again visited a hospital for undisclosed reasons. Jackson made it to court, and the case, which could land him in prison for years if convicted, was expected to go to the jury by day’s end.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it only takes one lie under oath to throw this case out of court,” Mesereau told the panel of eight women and four men. “You can’t count all the lies under oath by [the accuser’s family]. How many does it take to let you know this case is a fraud?”
Mesereau played excerpts from a video in which Jackson denied sexual impropriety and said he had never “been betrayed or deceived by children.” The attorney closed by telling jurors that Jackson had been lax with his money and had let the wrong people into his circle but was not guilty of any crime.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen, who had given his closing yesterday, then began a rebuttal in which he portrayed Jackson’s Neverland ranch as a predator’s lair. After he finished, the jury was expected to receive final instructions from the judge and begin deliberations.
Jackson has appeared gaunt in recent days, and officials at Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital in Solvang disclosed Friday that he had visited the emergency room overnight. Hospital spokeswoman Janet O’Neill refused to discuss why he was there.
Jackson’s case has been disrupted twice by his hospital visits —- one for treatment of flu symptoms and another for a back problem.
Today, Jackson appeared drawn but made it to court on time. He arrived with his parents, sisters Janet and LaToya, and brothers Jermaine, Tito and Randy. He clutched his mother’s arm as he walked in.
“Michael’s innocent!” came shouts from some in a crowd of about 75 people outside.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the boy in 2003, plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut the documentary “Living With Michael Jackson.”
In his closing argument Thursday, prosecutor Zonen said Jackson brought the accuser, then a 13-year-old cancer survivor, “into the world of the forbidden.” He said Jackson gave the boy alcohol and showed him pornography before molesting him in the bedroom of the entertainer’s Neverland ranch.
Mesereau countered by telling the jury that prosecutors portrayed Jackson as a hard-drinking, porn-collecting pedophile to “dirty up” the pop star because they couldn’t prove that he molested a child.
Mesereau directly attacked the accuser’s honesty Friday, saying a lawsuit in which the boy’s family got a $152,000 settlement from J.C. Penney began when the boy was caught shoplifting. He said the boy stated in a deposition for the J.C. Penney lawsuit that his parents never fought, but he and his brother, sister and mother would later say his father beat them for years.
“This kid’s lying at the age of what, nine? Ten?” Mesereau said.
The boy was like “a bull in the china shop,” constantly asking for money, Mesereau said. He said the mother was more sophisticated, ingratiating herself with her targets.
“She gets to know you, she hugs you, she loves you,” Mesereau said. “Then she tells you a tale of woe and she gets money.”
In the documentary at the center of the case, Jackson holds hands with the boy and says he allows children into his bed for innocent, non-sexual sleepovers. The prosecutor, Zonen, said Thursday that by the time the accuser and his family stayed at Neverland, “the behavior had turned to something terribly illegal.”
Zonen ridiculed the idea the boy’s mother could have made up the entire molestation story and prompted her children to lie in order to make money with a future lawsuit against Jackson.
“It’s unmitigated rubbish,” he said.
Jackson would face prison if convicted of all charges, although the term is uncertain because of many sentencing variables.
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