Published April 12, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The stepfather of Michael Jackson's (search) accuser testified Tuesday that after the broadcast of a damaging TV documentary about Jackson, an associate of the pop star offered the family a college education and a house.
But the stepfather said when he sought money for the family, he was accused of blackmail.
The stepfather took the stand as the prosecution shifted from witnesses who alleged past improprieties by Jackson back to the current allegations that the singer molested a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, gave him alcohol and conspired to hold his family captive to get them to rebut the documentary.
In the Feb. 6, 2003, documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson," Jackson and the boy appeared on camera, and Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed but characterized it as innocent.
Part of the stepfather's testimony dealt with the period leading up to Feb. 19-20, 2003, when the boy, his brother, sister and mother made a rebuttal video in which they praised Jackson.
The stepfather testified he began asking Jackson associate Frank Tyson (search) what monetary compensation there was for the family if they participated in the rebuttal video. Tyson has been named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in Jackson's case.
"I said, 'What are you offering this family to do this?'" the stepfather said. He quoted Tyson as replying, "We're offering protection."
The stepfather continued, "I said, 'Frank, the family doesn't need protection. Who are you protecting them from?'"
He said he never got an answer.
As the conversation continued, the witness said, Tyson "said he was going to offer a college education and a house." The stepfather said he told Tyson the family did not need a house or college, and asked, "What are you offering them monetarily?"
At that point, the witness said, Tyson replied, "Are you trying to blackmail us?"
The stepfather said he had no idea there was any information that could be used for blackmail. He also said he received "zero" money from Jackson.
The stepfather described a tumultuous time in February 2003 when the mother and children were whisked off to Florida, purportedly to hold a news conference with Jackson, returned and were taken to Neverland (search), then brought back to Los Angeles.
During that period, he said they gave an audio interview to a private investigator, filmed the rebuttal video and were interviewed by child welfare authorities.
Prosecutors allege the molestation occurred near the end of the family's purported captivity.
"And in the middle of all this turmoil, to your knowledge, molestation began on the 20th [of February]?" Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked incredulously. The judge sustained an objection and the question was not answered.
The stepfather described a series of calls by the mother from Neverland in which she sounded "distressed, disturbed."
"She said she was not able to see her children, that when she went off Neverland she had a chaperone," he said.
The stepfather said when the boy returned from Neverland for the last time his behavior was markedly changed.
"It appeared to me he'd been brainwashed by someone," the man blurted out, drawing a defense objection. Judge Rodney S. Melville told the jury to disregard the remark.
Asked by the prosecution to describe the change in the boy, the stepfather said, "He'd become mean. He was using curse words. He had never done that before."
He also said of the boy, "He was acting very cocky, kind of rude, actually. I don't think he wanted to see me. It was almost like, 'What are you doing here?'"
On cross-examination, Mesereau noted the accuser's previous disciplinary problems at school, and then played for jurors a Feb. 16, 2003, audio tape in which the accuser's mother lauds Jackson as being "like a father ... unselfish, kind, exhibiting unconditional love."
During the 20-minute tape, the stepfather rocked in his chair, occasionally rolled his eyes and shook his head.