Cracking Jacko Accuser's Mom's Secret 'Code'
Yesterday's court session in the Michael Jackson trial yielded the usual amount of questions and curios, including a declaration by the accuser's mother that the pop star planned on sending her kids away permanently via a hot-air balloon.
But the prosecution fought back. After three grueling days of cross-examination for Janet Arvizo, District Attorney Tom Sneddon had to do something to rehabilitate his much-diminished star witness.
Assistant prosecutor Ron Zonen, who is no dummy, introduced a series of pictures into evidence. They showed a badly bruised and beaten Arvizo after her handling by J.C. Penney security guards in her infamous arrest.
But there is one problem: The Drudge Report has for some time now been running a mug shot of Arvizo taken by the West Covina, Calif., police department, and that picture does not jibe with the ones Zonen showed the court.
This was first noticed by yours truly and New York Daily News reporter Michele Caruso. In the mug shot, Arvizo doesn't look happy, but she doesn't look battered, either.
That did not come as a surprise to a source who was close to the J.C. Penney incident. He insists that the pictures we saw in court yesterday were fakes. So what happened?
"Either Janet Arvizo's husband David beat her on purpose to perpetrate a scam, or he just beat her," my source said.
The much-maligned David Arvizo pleaded no contest to spousal abuse and child cruelty in 2001 and has not seen his children since.
In the 2001 J.C. Penney case, the Arvizo family was awarded about $152,000 just before David Arvizo was himself taken to court. The Arvizos claimed that security guards for J.C. Penney and Tower Records set upon them like rabid dogs and beat their brains in.
The apparent cause was that their then-10-year-old son, Jackson's future accuser, had walked out with clothes that he didn't pay for.
Janet Arvizo testified that she came upon her husband and two sons in the process of being attacked by the guards.
Janet finally admitted in court yesterday — after previously feigning amnesia — that she netted $32,000 from the subsequent civil suit, while her sons got $25,595 and $8,576, respectively. Her husband also received $5,000.
My source explains that the Arvizos didn't get the $3 million they originally wanted, settling for the lesser amount when they realized they couldn't get more.
But those pictures!
"They look like someone beat her with a club, repeatedly," my source said. "In broad daylight, in a mall. It's simply not true. She didn't have those bruises from that experience."
Shortly after the checks came in, Janet Arvizo sued her husband for divorce.
The pictures were meant to prove Arvizo's story, show how she suffered and bolster her sagging defense.
Court observers noted that Jackson's defense attorney Tom Mesereau let the pictures be introduced as evidence without any fuss — just a slight gesture of the wrist as if to say, "OK." No other piece of evidence has been received with less debate.
It will be interesting to see today if Mesereau knows something about those pictures — like who took them and when and why Janet Arvizo wasn't treated at a hospital for these injuries — when court resumes today.
But that still doesn't let Janet Arvizo off the hook. Mesereau has finished his cross-examination, but Arvizo now undergoes re-direct and then follow-up questions from Mesereau.
Her third day of testimony was much like her first two, except that yesterday she seemed drowsy on the stand.
At one point, she put her head down flat on the witness box and appeared to doze off completely.
At other times, she was her usual combative self, fighting with Mesereau, making asides to the jury and to Michael Jackson and mostly breaking all rules of decorum for a courtroom.
This did not please Judge Rodney Melville, who chastised her for not answering questions posed to her. He admonished her several times.
But it was no use. Arvizo responded to every one of Mesereau's questions by turning to the jury and giving long, digressive answers.
Several times, objections to her questions were raised, though not by Mesereau, but by Zonen, her court representative. Attorneys in the court said it was a rarity to see a prosecutor making objections about his own client.
Arvizo did indeed suggest that Jackson's people might have whisked her kids away in a hot-air balloon. She also contradicted her previous testimony several times, and left herself open to other witnesses coming in during the defense's case and presenting opposite evidence. Not good.
Among her preposterous claims: She was limited to "one meal a day" during her alleged "kidnapping" by Jackson employees. Restaurant receipts indicate otherwise — and a high caloric intake at that.
She also claimed that she and her family were not allowed to leave the Calabasas Country Inn and Suites, despite records showing that they were hardly ever there and even went to the movies when they weren't shopping or dining out.
There was more testimony from Arvizo about her "kidnapping," including that she never bothered to call 911, didn't tell anyone in the number of federal buildings she traversed that she had been kidnapped, and didn't tell her own lawyer or her friend Azja Pryor, who is comedian Chris Tucker's girlfriend.
Instead, Arvizo insisted again that she was speaking to all these people "in code," dropping hints so that her parents wouldn't be murdered by Jackson's team.
Mesereau pointed out that Arvizo spent the last two nights of this saga not trapped at Neverland, but with her fiancé in his apartment. She didn't tell the U.S. Army major either, she said, but spoke to him in code as well.
You may be asking at this juncture: Whatever happened to the child-molestation charge in this case?
Arvizo admitted yesterday that she never told the police that such a thing might have happened until she had had several meetings with lawyers, including Larry Feldman, the attorney who got a $20 million settlement for another teenager allegedly molested by Jackson in 1993.
As I predicted, Mariah Carey's "The Emancipation of Mimi" has turned into a big hit. It will enter the charts at No. 1 this week with over 300,000 copies sold. This tops the debut two years ago of her "Charmbracelet" album by between 60,000 and 75,000 copies. Not bad.
So comebacks are still possible. That's nice to know.
Nicole Kidman's in New York tonight for the opening of the Tribeca Film Festival. Her movie with Sean Penn, "The Interpreter," screens at the Ziegfeld and the Museum of Modern Art, with a party following at MoMa.
But "The Intrepreter" will have to compete with Time Magazine's party for the 100 most influential people in the universe up at the Time Warner Center.
And Thursday's big gala at Avery Fisher Hall for Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camps remains the hottest ticket in town. Call 212-721-6500 for more information about how to see Paul McCartney, Julia Roberts, Robin Williams, Mary J. Blige and Tony Bennett, among other mega-stars, perform. Worth every penny and then some!