Published May 24, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The defense called star comedians Jay Leno (search) and Chris Tucker (search) Tuesday to testify in Michael Jackson (search)'s child molestation trial, then told the court that the "Rush Hour" star will be their last witness, indicating Jackson will not testify.
Jackson refused to comment on his way out of the courthouse on whether he made the final decision not to take the stand. He smiled with palms pressed together and said he couldn't comment.
Tucker testified that he met Jackson's accuser after the boy's father introduced himself at a comedy club and asked him to take part in a benefit.
Tucker said that a few days after the benefit, the boy told him it hadn't made any money, so Tucker wired "probably $1,500 or more" to a foundation for the family.
Mesereau asked Tucker if he believed the money was for medical expenses.
"I was hoping it was for that," Tucker said.
Tucker, sidekick to Jackie Chan in the "Rush Hour" movies, said he also took the boy's family to an amusement park and on shopping trips to a mall.
Tucker remained on the stand at the end of the day and was scheduled to undergo final questioning on Wednesday. At the prompting of Judge Rodney S. Melville, lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said, "This is the last witness."
The chances of the pop star testifying in his own defense against child molestation charges had been remote from the outset but were fueled by Mesereau's comment in opening statements to the jury that they would hear from Jackson on certain issues.
Tucker took the stand about 2 p.m. PDT (5 p.m. EDT). Leno, host of "The Tonight Show," testified Tuesday morning shortly after court was in session — saying neither the accuser nor the boy's mother ever asked him for money.
It's likely the pop music icon's lawyers were disappointed with Leno's testimony, which ended almost as quickly as it began. The defense is hoping to convince the jury that the accuser and his mother tried to bilk celebrities — including Jackson, Leno and Tucker — out of money.
Leno testified that neither the boy accusing Jackson of sexual assault nor his mother tried to get money out of him.
"I wasn't asked for any money nor did I send any," he said.
The accuser did call him a number of times about five years ago, when the boy was a 10-year-old cancer patient, according to Leno's testimony.
He said he grew suspicious because the boy sounded scripted and "overly effusive" and left incessant voicemail messages for Leno.
The comedian believes he did finally call the boy once in his hospital room, according to testimony, and spoke to the child, his brother and his mother.
He said his recollection was confirmed by a conversation with comedian Louise Palanker (search), a friend who had become acquainted with the boy.
"I was told by Louise that they were really happy to hear from me," Leno said.
Leno testified that he makes 15 to 20 calls a week to children who are ill, and he began receiving voicemails from Jackson's future accuser around 2000.
Leno said the boy said he was his hero. Leno testified he thought it was strange that a young boy would be such a fan of a comedian who is in his 50s.
"I'm not Batman. It seemed a little unusual," Leno said.
He also said he once heard a voice in the background, but said he wasn't sure if it was the boy's mother, a nurse or someone else.
Defense attorneys have suggested that Leno heard the mother in the background coaching her son, but Leno didn't identify the voice.
Leno — who on Monday night's show joked that a heat wave had him "sweating like a Cub Scout" at Jackson's Neverland Ranch — said the boy left so many messages that he finally approached Palanker.
"I said, 'What's the story here? This doesn't sound like a 12-year-old. This seems a little scripted,'" Leno testified. He said Palanker told him the boy wanted to be a comedian and writes out everything he says.
Leno testified he makes many calls to ill children, and at one point did an imitation of the mumbly way children usually speak to him — not the kind of forceful, adult presentation he said he heard from Jackson's accuser.
But Leno said the boy never asked for money and he never gave him any, though he did send "Tonight Show" memorabilia and a picture.
The defense has said Leno was so concerned about the boy's calls that he called police, but Leno said Tuesday it was police who contacted him. He said he probably did tell police he believed the family was looking for money.
"In the business I'm in you hear from a lot of crazy people and I'm reluctant to follow up. But when it's a child I do follow up," he testified. The comic said the calls ended when he asked Palanker to intercede.
When Leno stepped down from the stand about 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT), he gave a plug for "The Tonight Show," saying actress Renée Zellweger (search) was going to be one of his guests Tuesday night.
Hours later Leno was skewering Jackson again as he taped Tuesday night's show in Burbank.
"OK, you know the worst part about testifying, I had to follow the chimp. The witness chair was a mess," Leno told his audience.
The talk show host, who smiled and waved at fans Tuesday morning as he arrived at the Santa Maria courthouse by limousine, had been expected to testify that the accuser and his mother tried to cheat him out of money.
When the trial began several weeks ago, Mesereau said in his opening statement to the jury that Leno had been suspicious of the call and reported to Santa Barbara police that "something was wrong. They were looking for a mark."
The defense is arguing that both Leno and Jackson were among several celebrities whom the accuser's mother tried to swindle.
Leno, NBC's late-night talk show host, dedicated much of his Monday monologue to discussing his court appearance. Noting he had often poked fun at Jackson, Leno quipped: "I was called by the defense. Apparently they've never seen this program."
Jackson's attorneys were rushing toward concluding their case by calling a series of witnesses who painted the mother of his accuser as a welfare cheat who exploited her son's cancer to live lavishly at Jackson's expense.
"It is clear that this mother is a scammer — she's a con artist," criminal defense attorney Ivan Golde told FOX News on Tuesday.
Jackson's defense on Monday tried to show that the accuser's mother had been behind several moneymaking schemes and had angrily rejected people who sought to help her in ways that did not involve cash.
The mother's own former sister-in-law testified that the mother used profanity to denounce blood drives held for the accusing boy when he was fighting cancer.
"She told me that she didn't need my [expletive] blood," said the former sister-in-law, bursting into tears, "[but] that she needed money."
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy, then 13, in February or March 2003 and giving him alcohol.
He is also charged with conspiring to hold the boy and his family captive in order to get them to rebut a televised documentary, one in which the boy appeared with Jackson as the entertainer said he let children into his bed for innocent, nonsexual sleepovers.
The defense also called a woman who was a paralegal at a law firm that handled a lawsuit by the accuser's family that led to a $152,000 settlement from J.C. Penney.
The lawsuit claimed store security guards physically abused the family and groped the mother after the accuser walked out of a store without paying for clothes.
Paralegal Mary Holzer said the mother once told her the injuries she claimed to have received from the guards were inflicted by her then-husband on the night of the store incident. Holzer said she told the mother she couldn't lie, but the mother then threatened her life.
"She told me that [her husband's] brother ... is in the Mexican mafia ... and that she knows where I live and they would come and kill me and my 9-year-old daughter," Holzer said.
She said she never reported what the mother said about her injuries because she was terrified. When the mother testified, she said Holzer was dishonest and a huge Michael Jackson fan.
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Stan Goldman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.