Tuesday, May 24, 2005

From combined dispatches

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Michael Jackson’s defense will rest its case today, without giving the pop star a chance to testify, lawyers indicated yesterday.

?I anticipate the defense will rest [Wednesday] morning and we should be done by Thursday,? chief prosecutor Tom Sneddon told trial Judge Rodney Melville, referring to the prosecution rebuttal witnesses.

Mr. Jackson’s lead attorney, Thomas Mesereau, confirmed Mr. Sneddon’s statement to the judge.

?This is our last witness,? he said.

Following the end of the prosecution rebuttal, the defense is expected to get a chance to call witnesses to counter the prosecution rebuttal ahead of closing arguments.

Mr. Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary about the pop star. He could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted on all 10 charges.

During testimony yesterday, comedian Jay Leno testified that the boy at the center of the case sounded scripted over the telephone but never asked for money.

The defense called the ?Tonight Show? host to the stand to support its assertion that the boy’s family schemed to get money from celebrities. The boy had cancer when he telephoned Mr. Leno.

Later in the day, the defense called actor Chris Tucker to the stand and said he would be their last witness. Mr. Tucker is scheduled to complete his testimony today.

Initially serious and understated on the witness stand, Mr. Leno warmed up during his testimony, occasionally smiling.

?I’m not Batman,? he joked as he explained why he thought it odd that a boy would be calling a comedian in his mid-50s to tell him he was the youngster’s hero.

Mr. Leno said he grew suspicious when he began receiving repeated voice-mail messages from the boy in 2000. He said the boy left so many messages that he finally approached comedian Louise Palanker, a friend who had become acquainted with the boy.

?I said, ‘What’s the story here? This doesn’t sound like a 12-year-old. This seems a little scripted,’? Mr. Leno testified. He said Miss Palanker told him the boy wanted to be a comedian and writes out everything he says.

Mr. Leno testified he makes many calls to ill children, and at one point did an imitation of the mumbling way children usually speak to him — not the kind of forceful, adult presentation he said he heard from Mr. Jackson’s accuser.

The defense also called Mary Holzer, a paralegal at a law firm that handled a lawsuit by the accuser’s family. The family accused guards at J.C. Penney of roughing them up after the boy left a store with clothes that had not been purchased. The family received a $152,000 settlement.

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