SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The judge in Michael Jackson's (search) child molestation trial said Monday he will allow the mother of two of the pop star's children to testify as a prosecution witness.
Prosecutors want Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe (search) to tell jurors that she was compelled to appear on a videotape praising Jackson as a good father and a humanitarian.
Prosecutors say Rowe did the interview under duress, having been told by Jackson associates that if she did not do it she would risk losing her visitation rights with her children, daughter Paris and son Prince Michael (search).
Rowe was a nurse for one of Jackson's plastic surgeons when they married in November 1996. Their son was born in February 1997, followed by their daughter in April 1998. The couple filed for divorce in October 1999. Jackson has a third child, Prince Michael II, whose mother has remained anonymous.
The defense objected to the testimony on grounds that it was part of a prosecution "desperation" tactic at the end of its case and had no relevance to the charges against Jackson.
In addition, the defense said that if Rowe testified they would seek to present the entire three hours of her video interview with Jackson associates as well as a tape recording she made secretly.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger denied there were any threats to her during what he called "a tremendous amount of taped material."
"I just plain don't see the relevance to these proceedings," he said.
Prosecutor Ron Zonen said Rowe would tell jurors that she engaged in a "highly scripted interview and that the incentive was to suggest she would have visitation with her children if she did this."
Zonen said this would corroborate the testimony of the mother of the Jackson's young accuser who testified she also was pressured to appear in a video and speak from a script.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy's family captive to get them to rebut a TV documentary in which Jackson appeared with the boy and said he allowed children to sleep in his bed. Jackson called the sleeping arrangement non-sexual.
The jury was out of the courtroom most of the morning, but returned to hear testimony by former Jackson employee Kassim Abdool, who was called to corroborate part of an account by Ralph Chacon, another ex-employee who says he saw Jackson commit a sex act on a child in 1992 or 1993.
Abdool said he saw Jackson and the boy, who later received a multimillion-dollar settlement from the singer, leaving a Jacuzzi area where their swim suits were lying next to each other on the floor. He said that Jackson, wearing a towel, gave a piggyback ride to the boy, who wore a bathrobe.
Abdool and Chacon were among former employees who lost a wrongful termination suit against Jackson in 1997 and were ordered to pay damages to the entertainer.
In another development, one of Jackson's attorneys, Brian Oxman, left the defense team Monday. Lead attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. announced the departure in a statement that gave no explanation. Mesereau and Oxman were seen talking and then giving each other a hug after court recessed for the day. Oxman did not return a call for comment.