- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors yesterday rested their case in the Michael Jackson trial after more than two months in which they sought to prove that the pop star molested a 13-year-old cancer patient and conspired to hold the boy’s family captive.

The defense immediately filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal on grounds the prosecution did not prove its case. Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said the motion would be heard first thing today.

The prosecution’s last witness yesterday was a man who once worked for a Jackson associate. Rudy Provencio acknowledged during a defense cross-examination that before testifying, he hand-wrote changes into a law-enforcement interview he gave to implicate Mr. Jackson in a conspiracy.

Over the nearly 10 weeks during which District Attorney Tom Sneddon’s prosecutors presented their case, a colorful cast of more than 80 witnesses took the witness stand. Chief among them were Mr. Jackson’s young accuser, who is now 15, the boy’s mother and others who testified that Mr. Jackson molested boys as far back as the 1980s. Some of the prosecution’s witnesses wound up benefiting the defense; Mr. Jackson’s ex-wife cast him as a victim of money-hungry charlatans.

Without saying a word, Mr. Jackson remained the trial’s star. Even his absence, twice caused by ailments, created a scene — and once required him to rush to court in pajamas, under threat of arrest by the judge. After that, Mr. Jackson was on time and calmly listened to testimony.

As the last prosecution witness stepped down, Mr. Sneddon closed a presentation that had two main thrusts: that in 2003 Mr. Jackson twice fondled the boy, and that he arranged to detain him and his family so they would rebut a damaging British documentary about the singer.

“Living With Michael Jackson,” broadcast in the United States in February 2003, showed the boy side-by-side with Mr. Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed. Prosecutors say Mr. Jackson molested the boy at least 14 days after the program aired, even as the singer and associates panicked over the show’s damage to Mr. Jackson’s image.

The molestation case boiled down to the word of the accuser and his brother. The boy testified he was twice molested in Mr. Jackson’s bedroom at Neverland ranch. The boy’s brother said he saw Mr. Jackson twice molest the accuser as the boy slept.

The accuser told jurors how he met Mr. Jackson while being treated for cancer and thought the singer was “the coolest guy in the world.” He also said he was shown adult Web sites during his first visit to Neverland. He and his siblings also said Mr. Jackson gave them wine.

Mr. Sneddon won key rulings from the judge, including one that let him revisit a similar 1993 case that never made it to court because Mr. Jackson and the accuser reached a multimillion-dollar financial settlement.

Under a California law specific to molestation cases that permits claims of past activities in order to show a pattern of behavior, witness after witness told of seeing Mr. Jackson touching boys inappropriately more than a decade ago.

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