Published April 14, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The mother of Michael Jackson's (search) accuser took the stand in the pop star's molestation case Wednesday, at one point apparently appealing to the jury for mercy.
"Please don't judge me!" she said, sobbing and holding her arms out to the panel.
The woman's testimony came after Judge Rodney S. Melville (search) allowed her on the stand despite her refusal to discuss alleged welfare fraud. She invoked the Fifth Amendment in fending off that line of questioning, frustrating a defense attempt to attack her credibility.
Looking directly at the jury during a convoluted and sometimes tearful account, the woman said Jackson promised her family he would protect them, but then ended up betraying them. She also said she once saw the singer licking her son's head — an account that contradicted others' testimony.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient, plying the boy with alcohol, and holding his family captive in February and March 2003 to coerce them to help rebut a damaging documentary.
The accuser's mother said Jackson has persuaded her that "killers" were after her children, but that he would keep them away.
"I thought, 'What a nice guy,'" she said. "I was just like a sponge, believing him, trusting him." She recounted what she sarcastically called Jackson's "lovey dovey speech" at a Florida hotel room, in which Jackson told the family "in a very male voice" that he would be their father figure and protector.
She said Jackson told the family "that he loves us, that he cares about us, we're family. ... That we were in the back of the line, now we're in the front of the line, that he's going to protect us from those killers."
Later she added: "And you know what? They ended up being the killers."
Asked by Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen about her memory of the events, she pointed to her head and exclaimed: "Some things are just burned in here."
She then described seeing Jackson lick her son's head during a February 2003 flight from Miami to California on a private jet.
"Everyone was asleep. I had not slept for so long," she said. "I got up. I figured this was my chance to figure out what was going on back there. And that's when I saw Michael licking (the boy's) head."
She sobbed, pounded her chest and said, "I thought I was seeing things. I thought it was me."
During the first few hours of the woman's testimony, defense attorneys did not make a single objection.
Earlier, the woman described how she had lived from 1998 to 2003 in a small bachelor-style apartment with only one main room. She said her son and husband sometimes stayed at her mother's house because the boy had a special sterile room there.
Defense attorneys contend the family kept the bachelor apartment to make celebrities believe they were poor, but actually spent much of their time at the home of the boy's grandmother.
They also have raised questions about the woman's credibility by accusing her of bilking celebrities and committing welfare fraud. District Attorney Thomas Sneddon (search ) said in opening statements the woman would admit she took welfare payments to which she wasn't entitled.
But in taking the stand outside the presence of jurors earlier in the day, the woman took the Fifth, and refused to discuss "everything to do with the welfare application."
Melville allowed her to testify, despite vehement arguments from defense attorney Robert Sanger. The judge rejected a request for a mistrial, saying the defense could raise questions about the woman's credibility through other testimony.
Before the woman's husband left the stand earlier in the day, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. questioned him at length about her use of welfare payments during a time when he was also giving her some support.
The husband said he was never aware that his wife had received a settlement in a lawsuit with J.C. Penney. He said he learned about it from news reports of the Jackson case.
The husband also said that the accuser's mother had been using check-cashing companies to cash her welfare checks and subsequently was paying a fee, so her he told her to deposit them in his checking account. But he didn't know she had checking accounts all over Los Angeles, FOXNews.com columnist Roger Friedman reported from the courthouse in Santa Maria.
The stepfather testified that in early 2003 he paid her rent and provided her and her children food, utilities and occasional use of his car. He said he did not know whether she had disclosed the support to government officials.
"I didn't know any rules with regard to welfare," he said. "She was my girlfriend, they were her children. If I gave her any money, it was out of the goodness of my heart."
He also denied that he once told police he did not believe the boy's mother was in danger as she left Neverland. He testified that the boy's mother seemed distressed when she called from Neverland several times in February 2003.
He said that after one call, he told he told police the woman would be leaving Neverland and wanted to know if officers could intercept the car that was bringing her back to the Los Angeles area. Police told him they couldn't do that, he said.
Mesereau noted that a police report said he told an officer he did not believe the mother was in any danger.
"I am denying saying that," the stepfather testified.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.