- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — A Las Vegas public relations specialist who worked for Michael Jackson gave damaging testimony against the pop star yesterday, suggesting his associates arranged a smear campaign against the family who would accuse him of molestation.

Ann Marie Kite said a Jackson lawyer told her that they would portray the mother of a boy as a drug addict in the press.

Miss Kite was hired to handle Mr. Jackson’s crisis management after the airing of a damaging documentary, but she worked for him for only six days and never met him.

Mr. Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor at his Neverland ranch in 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy’s family captive. The charges were sparked by journalist Martin Bashir’s 2003 documentary, “Living With Michael Jackson,” in which the pop star said he let young boys sleep in his bedroom.

Miss Kite said there was alarm in the Jackson camp when the woman and her children abruptly left Neverland in the middle of the night in the aftermath of the documentary.

“It made me very uncomfortable,” she said of being told by a Jackson associate, Marc Schaffel, that the mother and children had left. The indictment names Mr. Schaffel as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Later the same day, she said, Mr. Schaffel told her “the situation had been contained. … He said they had been brought back to the ranch. I didn’t understand why he would be upset about them leaving the ranch.”

She said she then contacted her ex-boyfriend, David LeGrand, a lawyer for Mr. Jackson who had hired her.

“I said, ‘Don’t make me believe that these people were hunted down like dogs and brought back to the ranch,’” she said.

She said he told her, “I can’t discuss this right now.”

Prosecutors called Miss Kite to support the claim that Mr. Jackson and associates held the family against their will at Neverland and other locations throughout February 2003 to force them to help in a public relations campaign to rehabilitate his image.

Miss Kite said she was hired on Feb. 9, 2003, six days after the documentary aired, and was terminated Feb. 15 with no reason given.

A former Jackson lawyer, Mark Geragos, later asked her to sign a confidentiality agreement but she refused, the witness said.

“I believed it would negatively impact me. I believe it was designed to shut me up,” she said.

Miss Kite said that later she contacted her ex-boyfriend again and was told the mother would not be a problem.

“He said that they no longer had to worry about [the mother] because they had her on tape and they were going to make her look like a crack whore,” she said.

The conversation was apparently a reference to a videotaped statement the family made Feb. 19-20, 2003, in which they praised Mr. Jackson.

On cross-examination, Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. stressed that Miss Kite never met the singer or most of his associates and dealt with them only by telephone.

“In the six days that you represented Mr. Jackson, did you feel you became an expert on Mr. Jackson’s life?” the attorney asked acerbically.

“Oh no, sir,” she said.

Asked about her expertise in representing celebrities, she said the only one she had ever represented was Marshall Sylver, a Las Vegas hypnotist who appeared in infomercials.

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