Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Prosecutor says Jackson imprisoned family to get statement against charges

VIDEOTAPEThe district attorney in the Jackson case says that the pop star forced a mother and child to make statements that exonerate him

AP , Santo Maria, California

Michael Jackson imprisoned a child and his family at his ranch and forced them to make a videotape absolving him of molestation claims after a television documentary linked the pop star to an obsession with young boys, a prosecutor said.

In a documentary broadcast in February of last year, Jackson defended his habit of letting children sleep in his bed as "sweet" and non-sexual. Jackson was shown holding hands with the boy who is now his accuser.

Later in the same month, his lawyers made their own videotape of the boy and his mother. The tape has not been shown publicly, but sources who spoke on condition of anonymity have said the mother and child praised Jackson's generosity toward them and described him as a father figure to the boy, a cancer patient.

"The person Jackson perceived could put out this [public relations] fire was John Doe and his family," Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss said on Tuesday, referring to the alleged victim.

"If he could get them on tape describing Mr. Jackson as a wonderful person, it would quell this fire," he said.

Auchincloss said on Tuesday the family had become virtual prisoners, forbidden to leave Neverland Ranch, and were forced by Jackson to make the tape. He said the family escaped once but was "cajoled back." He did not elaborate.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau derided the entire prosecution case as "absurd on its face" and demanded dismissal of all charges.

The allegations came at a hearing in which Judge Rodney Melville granted a defense request to postpone the scheduled Sept. 13 trial. He set a new date of Jan. 31 next year.

The fiery court presentation was the first time the prosecution disclosed the theory of its conspiracy case against Jackson. Auchincloss detailed a number of the overt acts in the indictment, which have been kept secret until now.

Auchincloss suggested Jackson lured the alleged victim to his bed after the documentary aired. He also said that Jackson began to entice the boy with alcohol and flew the family to vacations in luxury resorts.

"He had his private plane land in the middle of the night in Santa Barbara, and take John Doe and his family to Neverland," the prosecutor said.

"At Neverland, there are late nights, no homework. Do what you want, eat what you want, stay out late -- no rules. It's a world of self-indulgence. Ultimately, it gets John Doe to sleep in the bed of Michael Jackson," the prosecutor said.

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