- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (Reuters) — A 24-year-old man broke down in tears yesterday as he told jurors that Michael Jackson repeatedly molested him when he was 7 to 10 years old, twice paying him not to tell his mother.

Each incident started as a game of tickling, with the first beginning when the two were watching television and the boy was on Mr. Jackson’s lap, the young man told a hushed court at the pop star’s trial on molestation charges.

“I’m tickling and he’s tickling, and it eventually moved down to my little private region … my crotch area. You’re seven. I didn’t think it was wrong,” said the young man, whose mother worked as a maid for Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Jackson, who has pleaded not guilty, is being tried on charges of molesting another boy, but the prosecution is allowed to bring other witnesses before the Santa Maria jury. The 24-year-old’s family reportedly reached a $2 million settlement.

The young man said Mr. Jackson gave him a $100 bill after the first incident and another one after the second.

“Pretty much at every tickle thing there was money given. … It was ‘Don’t tell your mom,’” the man said.

He broke down in tears and requested a break as he recounted a purported third incident.

“This is so much harder than I thought,” he told the jury. “This took a lot of counseling to get over, just to let you know.”

The witness said another incident occurred when he was 10, after he and Mr. Jackson had played a video game at the star’s Neverland ranch and were lying together, watching television.

Mr. Jackson began tickling him and then reached underneath his shorts, the man said.

“He reached up and to my privates,” he said.

“Did he actually your touch your penis or your testicles?” the prosecutor asked.

“I think option two,” the man said.

“What were you thinking at the time?” the prosecutor pressed.

“I should probably go,” the man replied.

He also told the jury that he remembered the tickling and touching in that incident lasted four or five minutes. It was “two cartoons’ worth, a cartoon and a half,” he said.

Mr. Jackson is charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy at Neverland, plying the youth with alcohol in order to abuse him and conspiring to commit child abduction, extortion and false imprisonment.

The performer, who has pleaded not guilty, faces more than two decades in prison if convicted on all 10 counts of a Santa Barbara County grand jury indictment.

The defense says the boy’s mother had manufactured the charges to get money from Mr. Jackson. On Sunday evening, Mr. Jackson spoke by telephone to about 200 fans gathered in Santa Maria.

“I really believe I have the most amazing fans in the whole world,” he told his cheering fans by speakerphone. “Thanks for believing in me. God and the truth are on our side.”

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