- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — A security guard at Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch testified yesterday that he caught the pop star’s teenage accuser and his brother with a bottle of wine, and a maid told the jury that she saw adult magazines in the brother’s backpack.

Defense attorneys in Mr. Jackson’s child molestation trial called the Neverland employees to challenge prosecution claims that the pop star exposed the children to alcohol and adult materials, suggesting instead that the boys found the items on their own.

The defense also attacked the family’s claims of being held against their will, calling witnesses who said there was no hint of captivity when the mother went to a spa for a body waxing or when her children went to an orthodontist to have their braces removed.

The trips to the spa and orthodontist occurred at a time while, the prosecution says, the family was being held captive by the pop star and associates. The mother has described the dental visit as a ruse to try to escape.

Mr. Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003 and giving him wine. He also is accused of conspiring to hold the boy’s family captive to get them to rebut a TV documentary in which the boy appeared with Mr. Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed but that it was “totally innocent.”

Prosecutors have said that Mr. Jackson showed the boys sexually explicit material on the Internet and in adult magazines, suggesting it was a precursor to molestation.

Security guard Shane Meredith testified yesterday that he found the boys in the wine cellar, which has an entrance behind a jukebox in Neverland’s arcade, after noticing that the jukebox door was open.

Mr. Meredith said he went down the stairs and surprised the boys.

“I saw the two children laughing, giggling,” Mr. Meredith said. “I could see them with a bottle of alcohol. … I told them they needed to get out of that area right now. … They were pretty shaken.”

Mr. Meredith noted that the bottle was half-full.

Neverland maid Maria Gomez also testified that she once saw adult magazines in a backpack that she thought belonged to the accuser’s brother. The backpack was in a guest unit.

Testifying through a Spanish-language interpreter, Miss Gomez also said that the boys’ mother praised Mr. Jackson as “a blessing to them,” but about a week later “started talking about being there against her will … that we should help her leave.”

Miss Gomez testified that the mother indicated she was being held by three persons including Dieter Wiesner, who is among Jackson associates named as unindicted, accused co-conspirators.

The defense has sought to suggest that the associates were conspiring against Mr. Jackson to profit off his troubles, rather than conspiring with the singer.

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