- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — The family that has accused Michael Jackson of holding them captive at his Neverland ranch showed no signs they were unhappy or felt they were being held against their will, the ranch manager testified yesterday.

Joe Marcus said that the family members “were excited to be there” and that when he would take them out on shopping trips and to the dentist, they were anxious to get back to Neverland.

“Did she ever complain to you about anything?” defense attorney Robert Sanger asked about the accuser’s mother.

“Never,” Mr. Marcus said.

Mr. Marcus also said he never saw Mr. Jackson do anything inappropriate to children and never saw anything that would have prompted him to report an illegal act to authorities.

The 18-year employee was part of a string of current and former Neverland employees called by the defense to counter former ranch employees who testified against Mr. Jackson during the prosecution case. The defense began the first full week of its case yesterday.

Mr. Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient in February or March 2003, giving him wine and conspiring to hold the family captive to get them to rebut a documentary in which he appeared with the boy and said he let children sleep in his bed.

The ranch manager testified that during that time, he provided the family with transportation when they wanted to go on outings off the property.

When they went on a shopping trip, Mr. Marcus said, he stayed at the car while they wandered around the popular tourist town shopping for an hour.

Mr. Sanger asked whether the mother was followed by a “positive PR film crew” during that shopping trip and others, something she described on the witness stand.

“Not to my knowledge,” Mr. Marcus said.

He said he met the family one day at an orthodontist’s office where the accuser and his brother went to have work done on their teeth. He said it was raining and he found the family anxious to get back in the car and return to Neverland when the appointment was over.

The mother has said she made up dental needs as a ruse to try to escape.

Mr. Marcus and other witnesses gave the jurors colorful descriptions of Neverland, which they have seen only in photos. The judge refused a request early in the case to have jurors visit the ranch.

Mr. Jackson left the court hastily after the day’s testimony, and his spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain, said he was in pain from a persistent back problem.

“He’s very physically tired. His back is not doing well. He was uncomfortable in court,” she said.

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