Published April 27, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Debbie Rowe, (search) ex-wife of Michael Jackson (search) and the mother of his two eldest children, testified Wednesday for the prosecution that Jackson asked her to appear in a TV interview done to rebut the damaging documentary that led to his arrest.
But in a setback for the prosecution, a weeping Rowe said her televised statements praising Jackson weren't scripted or rehearsed.
"I didn't want anyone to be able to come back to me and say my interview was rehearsed," Rowe said. "As Mr. Jackson knows, no one can tell me what to say."
She reiterated that she had been offered a list of questions by her interviewers but she declined to look at them before she talked.
"It was a cold interview and I wanted to keep it that way," she said, glancing at Jackson as she spoke. The pop star, dressed in a maroon suit, showed no obvious reaction to her testimony.
Prosecutors called Rowe to bolster their argument that Jackson conspired to hold the accuser's family captive to get them to rebut the documentary, in which the singer said he lets children sleep in his bed. The accuser's mother claims a video she recorded praising Jackson was made under duress and that every word was from a script.
The prosecution has said Rowe would offer similar testimony — that she was also pressured to praise Jackson in a video — but her testimony Wednesday did not reflect that.
She is expected to be on the stand for at least a few days and could be the prosecution's final witness before it rests its case.
Rowe testified that Jackson spoke to her by phone in February 2003 and asked her to take part in a TV show that was being made to rebut the Martin Bashir "Living With Michael Jackson" (search) documentary. She said Jackson told her that the documentary was full of lies.
Her testimony was the first to suggest Jackson had direct involvement in the production of the rebuttal program.
Rowe, who once gave up her parental rights to their son and daughter but recently had them restored, is embroiled in a Los Angeles family court fight with Jackson over visitation with the children.
Some court observers said Rowe seemed to have a genuine affection for her ex-husband even as she testified for the prosecution.
Prosecutors had wanted Rowe to say that the video in which she praises Jackson was scripted by Jackson's team. The mother of Jackson's accuser has claimed that a video she appeared in was also done from a script.
In February 2003, Rowe did a videotaped televised interview saying the children, Prince, 8, and Paris, 7, belonged with their father. The prosecution contends that Rowe was pushed into doing that interview by Jackson, who allegedly promised her visitation with the kids if she did.
"I did not leave my children," Rowe said in that interview. "My children are with their father, where they’re supposed to be." In the same interview, she said that there are some people who are meant to be parents and Jackson "is one of them."
Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the accuser's family captive to get them to rebut the "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary in which the singer tells an interviewer he lets children sleep in his bed, though not in a sexual way.
Also Wednesday, Jackson's attorneys asked for a mistrial but were turned down by the judge during a dispute over testimony about that documentary, which led to the pop star's prosecution.
The pop icon's ex identified herself on the stand as Deborah Rowe Jackson, although she said she prefers to be addressed as Ms. Rowe.
Asked by prosecutor Ron Zonen how she knows Jackson, she said, "We've been friends and we were married."
Rowe said she knew Jackson for 20 years before they wed, but when asked about the marriage, she replied, "We never shared a home."
On the stand, Rowe said that when they divorced she gave up custody of the children but was allowed limited visits of eight hours every 45 days. But she said she missed many chances to see the children because they were traveling with Jackson.
Rowe was a nurse for one of Jackson's plastic surgeons when they married in November 1996. Their son, Prince Michael, was born in February 1997, followed by their daughter, Paris, in April 1998. The couple filed for divorce in October 1999. Jackson has a third child, Prince Michael II, whose mother has remained anonymous.
On Monday, the judge overruled defense objections to allowing Rowe to testify but stressed he would "look to ways to restrict that testimony."
At least one legal eagle said Rowe's testimony shouldn't be a part of Jackson's molestation trial.
"This is another example of Judge [Rodney] Melville losing control of this trial. This is why this trial is taking forever," criminal defense attorney Drew Findling told FOX News on Wednesday. "To the rest of the U.S., this is garbage. ... Who gives a crap? If ever she [Debbie Rowe] has been scripted, she's been scripted for today."
There was also talk Wednesday that Jackson himself could eventually be called to the stand, though some law experts bristled at the thought.
"I wouldn’t put Michael Jackson on the stand," Findling told FOX News. "The problem is the weirdness factor. The more he talks, the weirder he is. … You don’t want him to get 20 years in jail for being a freak."
Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard from the man who recorded a video featuring the family of the young accuser.
Hamid Moslehi (search) testified at the pop star's child molestation trial that he did not see them reading or rehearsing from a script.
His testimony did not support an account by the boy's mother, who alleges she was forced to closely follow a script praising Jackson as part of a scheme in which her family was held captive to get their help in rebutting a damaging television documentary about Jackson.
Moslehi testified that the boy, his brother and sister were at his house for two or three hours before the taping began and he saw them playing but not rehearsing. He said the mother was there for about an hour before the taping and that he did not see her reading or rehearsing either.
Moslehi, Jackson's former videographer, also said he did not see anyone coaching the mother as she applied her makeup for the taping in his bathroom.
The woman has testified that Jackson associate Dieter Wiesner coached her on what to say.
Wiesner and associate Ronald Konitzer, who are named as unindicted co-conspirators in the case, were also the subject of Moslehi's testimony on Tuesday.
He said the two men became Jackson's managers in late 2002, a few months before they allegedly took part in a conspiracy to hold the family captive.
Prosecutors asked Moslehi about Wiesner and Konitzer to try to link them more closely to the singer. The mother of the accuser has testified that the German businessmen intimidated her family.
On cross-examination, Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. (search) tried to show that Jackson was a victim of Wiesner and Konitzer, not a close associate.
Mesereau asked Moslehi if he knew that Wiesner and Konitzer had stolen close to $1 million from Jackson. The question drew a prosecution objection, and the judge did not allow a direct answer. When Mesereau repeated it without the dollar figure, the witness answered no.
It was not certain who would testify after Moslehi, but prosecutors were expected to call Rowe to the stand soon.
Also on Tuesday, a travel agent testified that a Jackson associate ordered her to arrange a one-way trip to Brazil for the singer's accuser and his family, then canceled the journey at the last minute.
Cynthia Montgomery was called Tuesday to support a prosecution claim that Jackson was planning to kidnap the accuser and his family and send them to Brazil for an indefinite period following the February 2003 documentary in which the singer said he let children sleep in his bed.
Montgomery said the orders for the planned March 1, 2003, flight were given to her by Marc Schaffel, another Jackson associate named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator.
At the last minute, Montgomery said, the travel plans were canceled by Schaffel, who told her "his plans had changed."
The accuser's mother has testified that she orchestrated her family's escape from Jackson's associates by claiming her children had to visit their grandparents before they could leave for Brazil. The mother has said the family left Jackson's Neverland estate for the last time on March 12, 2003.
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Roger Friedman, Jim Hammer, Anita Vogel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.