Michael Jackson's private security guard and assistant, the one who traveled with him exclusively during the time Jackson knew his current accuser and family, says the singer will be proven innocent of all charges.
Yesterday I talked to Mike LaPerruque, a retired sergeant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who remains on reserve after a 22-year active career.
LaPerruque says he worked for Jackson from August 2001 until June 2003, was with him in New York for the 30th anniversary solo concerts, Jackson's escape from New York following September 11, and on several occasions met the boy who's accusing Jackson of child molestation, as well as the boy's mother and siblings.
If he's called before a jury, LaPerruque — who signed a confidentiality agreement with Jackson during his employment — will testify that the singer can only be innocent of all charges.
"I was with him 24/7," LaPerruque was able to tell me. "I had a key to his room at all times, and I was never told not to use it."
Did he ever walk into Michael Jackson's bedroom and see him in bed with a child other than one of his own?
"No! Of course not," said LaPerruque.
He called the mother of Jackson's 13-year-old accuser "the type of woman who knew how to manipulate people."
When LaPerruque heard the newsbreak last November 17 about the Neverland raid and Jackson's latest problems, he says his first thought was, "Poor guy. He can't catch a break. He had a new album coming out and a lot of stuff happening."
LaPerruque said his immediate thought was that "it was a shakedown."
LaPerruque told me that he's been offered all kinds of things in exchange for an interview, even a trip to Paris. His agreement with Jackson prohibits him from talking about certain aspects of his employment, but he is not completely biased in favor of Jackson. He told me one story about what happened in the Berlin hotel the day after the baby-dangling incident.
"There were a bunch of friends there, and they said to give a real F.U. to the press and to these lawyers who were saying there should be an investigation, they would do something funny," he explained. "They would buy a life-sized baby doll from a toy store, cover its head with a blanket, and then throw it over the side. Michael thought they were kidding around, and so he said, 'Great idea.'"
Soon after, LaPerruque spotted one of Jackson's pals returning from a toy store with the doll.
"I had to stop it from happening," he said. "I physically took it away from the guy. I said, 'It's not funny, and you don't know what's happening in the States.'"
He added: "I got into a little hot water on that one. But Michael does things impulsively."
LaPerruque left Jackson's employ last June, he said, because of the crazy schedule.
"They would call me and say 'Michael's going to Las Vegas, he's already left for the airport, you have an hour to meet him,'" LaPerruque explained.
He said that he spent 10 weeks with Jackson in Las Vegas, during the whole Martin Bashir shoot, and was with him in Germany and in Florida. On the road, LaPerruque would act as Jackson's traveling secretary, making schedules and slipping them under his door for the morning.
"Michael Jackson is one of the most down-to-earth guys I've met in my life," LaPerruque said.
He told me a story about hanging out with Jackson in a Chevy Astro van, eating chicken wings from Jerry's Deli on Ventura Boulevard, talking about Egyptian history.
Under oath he will testify that he's had experience with child molesters in his 22 years as a cop, and that Jackson does not fit the profile. He said he has two kids, and he would feel comfortable with either one of them — a boy and a girl — spending time with Jackson.
Clearly, LaPerruque is a fan. But he is also a potential nightmare for Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who will be put in the position of cross-examining a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and questioning his veracity.
For example, LaPerruque said, "[Jackson] would never offer a child liquor." He said the "Jesus Juice" that Jackson jokes about — liquor hidden in soda cans — is designed so the child-friendly singer is not photographed doing something adult, like holding a drink. He is not the first member of Jackson's entourage to use this explanation with me.
So we'll have to add Mike LaPerruque to the list of impressive defense witnesses for Michael Jackson, which already includes director Brett Ratner, actor Chris Tucker and a dozen or more eyewitnesses ready to take the stand.
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