- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — The judge in Michael Jackson’s child-molestation trial agreed yesterday to allow testimony that the boy accusing the pop singer of molestation once claimed comedian George Lopez stole his wallet.

Jackson attorney Robert Sanger said Mr. Lopez and the boy met at a comedy club, but later had a falling out. Mr. Sanger said the boy, pressed by his father, then accused the comedian of stealing his wallet and demanded $300.

The defense asserts that the incident shows a pattern of the accuser trying to get money and other things from celebrities. Mr. Jackson’s attorneys have said the boy invented molestation claims against the singer after the boy and his family were evicted from the Neverland ranch.

District Attorney Tom Sneddon sought to block the Lopez evidence, saying the boy tried to resist his father’s plan to say there was $300 in the wallet.

Also yesterday, Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville rejected a defense request for a mistrial after a witness mentioned the name of a youngster who made sex charges against the pop star a decade ago.

On Thursday, a former housekeeper at Mr. Jackson’s Neverland ranch mentioned the boy who received a multimillion-dollar civil settlement after charging in 1993 that Mr. Jackson molested him.

The defense argued the testimony violated Judge Melville’s ruling that no accusations of past sexual crimes could be admitted unless the judge said so.

In denying the request for a mistrial, Judge Melville said prosecutors elicited the testimony to establish how much contact Mr. Jackson had with boys who visited Neverland — not to suggest any impropriety by the singer.

The judge also set March 28 for a hearing on the prosecution request to allow information about reputed prior offenses into the trial.

Mr. Jackson has never been convicted of a sexual offense, but prosecutors want to present witnesses they believe will show that the current case is part of a pattern.

Mr. Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient at Neverland in 2003. No testimony was heard yesterday; it will resume on Monday.

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