- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — The child-molestation case against Michael Jackson went to the jury yesterday after the defense begged the panel to acquit the singer, portraying him as a victim of grifters trying to pull “the biggest con of their careers.”

Defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. told jurors the pop star is not the “monster” that prosecutors have portrayed. He said the accuser and his family fabricated the molestation accusations to take advantage of Mr. Jackson.

“They are trying to profit from Michael Jackson. They think they have pulled it off. They are just waiting for one thing — your verdict.”

He added: “If you look in your hearts, do you believe Michael Jackson is evil in that way? Is it even possible? It really is not.”

Prosecutors painted a vastly different picture — one of Mr. Jackson as a serial child molester and his Neverland ranch as a predator’s lair.

“Why would Mr. Jackson do it?” Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen said. “Because he could. … This child was in love with him. This child would do anything he said.”

Soon after, as the jury went to work, a grim-looking Mr. Jackson left the courthouse and walked slowly to his entourage’s waiting vehicles and drove off without comment.

Mr. Jackson felt nervous in court, but was physically fine and was relieved the trial is over, said his spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain.

“He’s very strong, and he has a strong faith in God and the justice system. He is not falling apart. He has been a true soldier in all of this,” she said.

Mr. Jackson, 46, has appeared gaunt in recent days, and officials at Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital disclosed yesterday that he had visited the emergency room overnight. Hospital spokeswoman Janet O’Neill refused to discuss why he was there.

After Mr. Mesereau’s closing argument and a prosecution rebuttal, Judge Rodney S. Melville ordered jurors to begin their deliberations and gave them 98 pages of instructions. He told Mr. Jackson he could stay at Neverland during deliberations, but lawyers would have to stay within 10 minutes of the courthouse in case the jury had questions that needed to be addressed.

Mr. Mesereau wrapped up his closing with an impassioned plea for Mr. Jackson’s acquittal. He mounted a fierce attack on the accuser and his mother, brother and sister.

“She is a complete liar and fabricator and con artist,” he said of the mother. “She has conned people for years. She’ll say anything — absolutely anything.”

He said that “what they are trying to do to Michael Jackson is so harmful, so brutal, so devastating … if you have any reasonable doubt about the double talk, the lies, it’s over. You must acquit Michael Jackson.”

Mr. Mesereau accused prosecutors of trying to “dirty up Michael” because they lack the evidence to prove their case.

“The witnesses are preposterous. The perjury is everywhere,” Mr. Mesereau declared. “None of it works. The only thing they’ve had is to throw dirt all over the place and hope it sticks.”

Mr. Mesereau played excerpts from a video in which Mr. Jackson denied sexual impropriety and said he had never “been betrayed or deceived by children.” The lawyer closed by telling jurors that Mr. Jackson had been lax with his money and had let the wrong people into his circle, but was not the “monster” prosecutors had portrayed and was not guilty of any crime.

Afterward, Mr. Zonen, who had given his closing Thursday, offered a brief rebuttal. As he prepared to speak, Janet and LaToya Jackson left their front-row seats and walked out of the courtroom. Miss Bain said they did not want to see their brother vilified.

Mr. Zonen reminded jurors of past accusations from other boys against Mr. Jackson and said such testimony was necessary “to see the total picture.”


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