Ex-Security Chief Says Jackson Kissed Boy
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif., April 25 -- The former head of security at Neverland Ranch told jurors Monday that Michael Jackson stood before a statue of Peter Pan and snuggled and kissed a boy who later accused the pop star of molesting him in the early 1990s.
"He was hugging him from behind," said Kassim Abdool, who worked the overnight security shift for Jackson from 1991 until 1994. "I saw him give him a little kiss on the side" of the cheek.
The testimony of Abdool, a former policeman from the island of Trinidad with a brushy full beard and downcast eyes, was intended by prosecutors to corroborate the previous eyewitness account of fellow security guard Ralph Chacon. Earlier this month, Chacon told jurors he saw Jackson perform oral sex on the boy, then around 9 or 10 years old.
But just as he did with Chacon, Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. launched a withering counterattack against Abdool -- characterizing him as a bitter former employee who had lost a wrongful termination lawsuit against the entertainer and had repeatedly sold his stories of life at Neverland to the tabloid press. ("Kinky Sex Secrets of Michael and Lisa Marie's Bedroom" was the headline on one of those stories, Mesereau noted.)
The appearance of Abdool took jurors back again to the early 1990s, when Jackson was first investigated for child molestation. No criminal charges were ever brought in that case, and Jackson has denied he did anything wrong, though he did pay his accuser a financial settlement, reportedly $20 million.
Prosecutors have brought up previous acts of alleged molestation to show what they call "a pattern and practice" of abuse by Jackson -- by "grooming" young victims, showering them with attention, presents and trips, showing them pornography, giving them alcohol and then hopping into bed with them. Jackson now faces a 10-count indictment, including acts of molestation and false imprisonment. He pleaded not guilty.
Abdool said his job was to keep intruders out of Neverland and to protect Jackson and his guests from stalkers, fans and paparazzi -- but with strict instructions not to get too close to Jackson or engage him in conversation. Jackson didn't call Abdool by his name but simply would shout "security" if, in one example, he wanted a couple of cold sodas while he was soaking in the hot tub with a young guest.
Abdool was hazy about dates and times. But one night, he recalled, he watched as Jackson and his earlier accuser got into the Jacuzzi in their swim trunks, and how, when Abdool was locking up, he found their trunks together on the floor of a restroom beside the swimming pool. That same night, Abdool said, he saw Jackson wrapped in a towel giving the boy, who was wearing a robe, a piggyback ride.
Mesereau reminded Abdool that he had signed statements more than a decade ago saying he had never seen Jackson touch a child in a sexual way, never seen the entertainer naked, and that Jackson "plays as if he's a child himself."
Mesereau also heaped scorn on the 1997 civil suit brought against Jackson, in which Abdool, Chacon and other former employees claimed that they were wrongly fired and had suffered emotional distress and other disabling maladies while working at Neverland. They had sought $16 million in damages, but lost and were ordered instead to pay Jackson's attorney fees of $1.4 million.
"Did you ever pay him any of that money?" Mesereau asked.
"No, sir," Abdool replied.