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Michael Jackson's lawyer previews strategy
Updated: 2005-02-26 09:40

Michael Jackson's lead attorney offered a road map of their case in his impending molestation trial, alleging that his accuser's mother gave conflicting court testimony, hid money to collect welfare and got cosmetic surgery with money her cancer patient son had gotten from celebrities.

Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s presentation came as he sought to admit evidence relating to the credibility of the family of Jackson's accuser, including a lawsuit they filed claiming J.C. Penney security guards beat them, held them against their will and groped the mother after the boy left a store without paying for clothes.

Michael Jackson (news) leaves the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria, Calif., on Friday February 25, 2005. Opening statements in the case could begin next week. The entertainer is charged in a 10-count indictment with molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland Valley ranch. (AP Photo//Erick Neitzel,pool)
Michael Jackson 
leaves the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria, Calif., on Friday February 25, 2005. Opening statements in the case could begin next week.[AP]
Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville agreed to allow jurors to hear about the lawsuit, although he barred the defense from referring to the boy as a "shoplifter."

The judge was critical over how much Mesereau was revealing about his case ahead of opening statements, set to begin Monday.

"You almost laid out your whole case, not for me, but for other people," Melville said, referring to the courtroom packed with observers, including a dozen reporters. Others watched in an overflow room.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient at his Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara County, plying the boy with alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.

The prosecution alleges the boy was molested after the airing of a TV documentary that showed the boy with Jackson, who said he allowed children to sleep in his bed. Defense attorneys are expected to portray the accuser's family as after Jackson's money.

Mesereau told the court that the day after the alleged beating by guards, the mother returned to the store and hugged employees, then filed the lawsuit and later amended it to add the groping claim.

Mesereau also said the woman testified in the J.C. Penney case that her husband had never hit her, but later alleged in her divorce that he had beaten his family for years. She also accused her ex-husband of inappropriately touching her daughter, the lawyer said.

The family's lawsuit ended in a $150,000 settlement from J.C. Penney and Tower Records. Mesereau said the mother hid assets from the settlement to get welfare payments from Los Angeles County.

He also said the mother had her son ask celebrities including TV host Jay Leno for money and spent some of the funds on cosmetic surgery.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen argued that the issue was how the mother acquired the money, not what she spent it on, and that the issue was largely irrelevant.

"The question is whether a man who admits to sleeping with children was sleeping with this child, and what he did with this child. That's what this case is about," Zonen said.

Mesereau argued that it all showed a pattern of fraud.

"She got a breast enhancement and a tummy tuck and then told Mr. Jackson and all these people that she was destitute," the attorney said.

The judge ruled that during opening statements lawyers may not show the jury the entire "Living with Michael Jackson" documentary but may use a clip. The prosecution plans to use a two-minute segment. The first prosecution witness is expected to be the documentary's maker, Martin Bashir.

The judge did not immediately rule on a defense request to take the jury to Jackson's ranch. One juror and two alternates have already been there.

In another matter, Melville ruled that the defense will not be allowed to delve into the issue of alleged extramarital affairs by the accuser's mother.

The defense said it had wanted to show that during the time she was allegedly held captive by Jackson she was in contact with a Los Angeles police officer and an Army officer whom she eventually married. The defense claims she could have asked him for help if she had been a captive.

The defense also alleged that the mother might have been delusional at the time she was allegedly held against her will because she wasn't taking drugs that had been prescribed for her. The judge barred mention of prescription drugs unless the defense can establish that the woman was supposed to take them and did not.

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