SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A former lawyer for Michael Jackson (search) testified Thursday in the singer's child molestation trial that men who took over Jackson's management diverted nearly $1 million of the pop star's money, and he believed it was for their own benefit.
David LeGrand (search) was called in a defense effort to portray Jackson as a victim of a conspiracy by his associates — the same men the prosecution claims he conspired with to hold his accuser's family captive to get them to rebut a damaging TV documentary. The defense has tried to show that there was no captivity conspiracy and that the associates' actions were for their own financial gain.
"I became suspicious of everybody," LeGrand said of Jackson's associates. "It seemed everybody wanted to benefit from Michael Jackson in one way or another."
The testimony was followed by a courtroom flap in which Judge Rodney S. Melville (search) sternly issued a warning that former Jackson lawyer Mark Geragos (search) must obey a defense subpoena and take the stand Friday morning.
"That'll give me time to get the warrant out when he doesn't appear," Melville said after discussions over when Geragos could testify amid commitments to other cases.
It was unclear what Geragos would testify about. He represented Jackson while he was under investigation but was let go in April 2004. A Geragos colleague said he would inform Geragos and judges in courts where the attorney has appearances scheduled Friday.
Jackson is accused of molesting a boy in February or March 2003 and plying him with wine. He is also accused of conspiring with a group of associates named as unindicted co-conspirators to get the family to make a video rebutting the documentary. The accuser appeared in the documentary with Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed but it was non-sexual.
Prosecutors have sought to show that Jackson had deep financial problems that motivated the conspiracy as he faced career damage from the documentary.
LeGrand's account echoed earlier testimony from Jackson's ex-wife Deborah Rowe (search), who claimed her husband was a victim of "opportunistic vultures" in his inner circle.
LeGrand said he was brought in to straighten out a maze of transactions involving Jackson when he met Ronald Konitzer and Dieter Wiesner, two of the unindicted alleged co-conspirators. But he said he was fired within two weeks of writing Konitzer a letter asking him to account for $965,000.
LeGrand said he discovered that they had the ability to divert Jackson's assets and thousands of dollars had been dispersed to them.
LeGrand also said he met the accuser's mother at Jackson's Neverland ranch at least once and she "seemed satisfied with being there." He said her children were running through the house "having a pretty good time."
Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss focused on the negative fallout from journalist Martin Bashir's "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary and suggested Jackson was planning with his inner circle on how to respond when it aired.
LeGrand acknowledged that Jackson was concerned, but not about the same things everyone else was concerned about.
"He seemed very concerned about blurring the images of his children (on the video) and enforcing his agreement with Mr. Bashir to view and edit the video before it was aired," he said.
Asked if Jackson was worried that the documentary would not be positive, he said, "Mr. Jackson didn't use the word positive. He expected accuracy, sincerity."
In another development, prosecutors say they should be allowed to present evidence of the singer's alleged moral failures to witnesses who take the stand to testify that he has good character.
In a motion, prosecutors said they should be allowed to tell character witnesses that Jackson has shown children adult materials and given them wine, and that the singer has allowed children into his bed "while heavily addicted to Demerol and other controlled substances."
They also want jurors to hear details of a boy's allegations in 1993 that Jackson molested him.
The prosecution's motion did not include evidence supporting their allegations. In court, they have presented dozens of sexually explicit books and magazines seized from the singer's home, and the accuser and his siblings have accused Jackson of giving them alcohol.