A Michael Jackson associate cashed two big checks in early 2003 on an account controlled by him and Jackson, a bank official testified today (May 2) as prosecutors neared the end of their presentation in Santa Maria, Calif. Beverly Wagner, a bank branch manager, testified that Marc Schaffel cashed checks totaling $1.5 million from an account belonging to Neverland Valley Entertainment, for which Jackson and Schaffel were the only signatories.
She said Schaffel first came in to cash a check for $1 million dated April 2, 2003, and a week later came in to cash a check for $500,000.
Schaffel is named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator, and his name has surfaced repeatedly in the trial in connection with efforts to contain damage from the documentary “Living With Michael Jackson,” in which Jackson appeared with the boy who now is accusing him of molestation. Jackson said in the documentary that he let children sleep in his bed but it was non-sexual.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon said last week that the prosecution would rest its case tomorrow.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the accuser’s family captive to get them to rebut the documentary, which aired in the United States on Feb. 6, 2003.
Prosecutors called sheriff’s Sgt. Craig Bonner to present records designed to show contact between the parties. The records showed several calls between phone numbers for Jackson associates and also between the associates’ phones and the home of a man who at the time was the boyfriend of the accuser’s mother. The man is now the mother’s husband.
After the prosecution rests, the defense was expected to ask Judge Rodney S. Melville to dismiss the entire case for insufficient evidence. They will argue that the prosecution’s testimony failed to substantiate the charges. Such motions rarely succeed.
Much of the speculation is about whether Jackson himself will take the stand in the defense phase. Attorney Dana Cole, a friend of defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr., said Mesereau is leaning toward putting him on because “Tom feels Michael would make a very good witness.”
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