SANTA MARIA, Calif., April 11 -- The mother of a young man who received a settlement from Michael Jackson in the mid-1990s testified Monday that she allowed her then-13-year-old son to sleep in Jackson's bed countless times after the "sobbing" pop star begged her to.
The woman said on the witness stand that her son had idolized Jackson long before he first met the famous entertainer in 1992. At first, she said, she resisted her son's request to sleep with Jackson, but during a trip to Las Vegas in March 1993, Jackson came to her "crying, trembling, shaking."
Michael Jackson arriving at the Santa Barbara County courthouse yesterday.
(Connie Aramaki -- AP)
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Video: Journalists and Jackson fans outside the Santa Maria, Calif., courthouse.
"He said, 'You don't trust me. We're a family,' " the woman testified. " 'Why can't he sleep in my bed?' "
The woman said she told Jackson, "This is not right," before relenting. The next day, she said, Jackson gave her an expensive gold watch from Cartier. After that, the woman testified, she allowed the boy to sleep with Jackson during trips to Neverland, Disney World and Monaco, and during more than 30 overnight visits Jackson made to her home in Santa Monica. She said Jackson gave her earrings, a necklace, a ring and a $7,000 gift certificate to a Fred Segal boutique, which she spent on clothes and jewelry. She said the singer also gave her his credit card for a shopping trip, during which she bought two purses.
The woman's testimony about Jackson and her son's lawsuit were part of the prosecution's continuing effort to show that Jackson has a pattern of inappropriate conduct with boys. The boy's settlement was reportedly for $20 million, though prosecutors are not allowed to mention an amount in court.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. has been trying to paint Jackson accusers as money-hungry opportunists, and Monday his tactic was no different. Mesereau repeatedly asked the woman whether she'd consulted attorneys to pursue her suit before going to law enforcement officials. She said she hadn't. But she admitted that the boy's father, whom she divorced in the '80s, had hoped that Jackson would pay for a new wing to be built onto his house.
Mesereau also asked whether the boy's father at one point said their son's relationship with Jackson was a "wonderful means of [the boy] not having to worry for the rest of his life?" "Yes," she said.
The mother conceded during cross-examination that she allowed her son to continue to sleep with Jackson even after she came to regard the situation between her son and the pop star as "weird."
The woman's testimony bore striking resemblance to earlier testimony by the family of the 15-year-old accuser at the center of the current trial. Jackson faces four counts of child molestation as well as charges that he served the boy alcohol and conspired to hold the boy's family captive.
When she got to know Jackson, Monday's witness was a single mother, divorced from her son's father and separated from her daughter's father, she said, and Jackson took on the role of a surrogate father for her son. The 15-year-old accuser's father was also out of the picture during much of his relationship with Jackson, according to family testimony, and Jackson similarly became a father figure.
The woman also said that her son became sullen and withdrawn from the family during the course of his relationship with Jackson, just as the 15-year-old accuser's behavior changed, his sister testified last month.
In a complex and sometimes confusing chain of events, the woman testified that at some point during a meeting with Jackson, she signed papers given to her by a private investigator Jackson had introduced her to. Prior to this, she said, she'd had sole custody of her son, though her ex-husband saw the boy occasionally. The papers altered the custody arrangement.
"Jackson was frantic," the woman said. "He was begging me to come over and sign this so there wouldn't be any lawsuits."
She said she signed the papers partly because of pressure from Jackson, but under questioning from Mesereau, she admitted to signing a separate declaration saying the only reason she was changing the custody arrangement was because her ex-husband threatened not to return her son to her if she didn't. She said she thought the change in custody would last only a week. She said she never got her son back.
The boy is 25 years old now, she said. Asked when she last spoke to him, her voice rose and trembled slightly. "Eleven years ago," she said. This is not by her choice, she added later, smiling awkwardly.
At the end of the woman's testimony Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon asked her about the conversation in Las Vegas in which Jackson allegedly begged her to trust him, and she agreed.
"Do you regret ever doing that?" the prosecutor asked.
"Very much so," she said.