SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A comedian who gave $20,000 to the family of the boy now accusing Michael Jackson (search) of molestation testified Tuesday that she received a tearful phone call from the boy's mother that led her to believe the family was being held against its will.
Comedian Louise Palanker (search) said she tried to get in touch with the mother after seeing the TV documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" (search) in which Jackson and his accuser held hands and Jackson acknowledged letting children sleep in his bed.
Palanker was called by the prosecution to support the charge that Jackson conspired to hold the family captive after the documentary aired on Feb. 6, 2003, in order to get them to make a rebuttal video praising Jackson.
On the witness stand, Palanker said that soon after she left a message with the boy's grandparents, the mother called her and sounded frightened.
"She was extremely agitated and she was almost whispering. ... This was fear-based agitation," Palanker said.
The mother told her not to call her back at the same number, the witness said. Palanker quoted the mother as saying: "Don't call me back here. They're listening to everything I say. These people are evil."
"I said, 'Are the children in school?' She said, 'No.' That's when she started crying," Palanker said.
Palanker did not say where the mother was at the time of the call. The comedian said she called her attorney afterward because "I felt that they were being held against their will."
Jackson, who is accused of molesting the boy in February or March 2003, arrived on time Tuesday, smiling but moving slowly as he did Monday when he was late again after another visit to a hospital. The pop star has complained of back pain.
The defense contends that the boy's mother exploited relationships with Palanker and other celebrities to get money, but the prosecution sought to show with Palanker's testimony that it was the now-estranged father who did that.
Palanker said she met the family at a comedy camp for underprivileged youth run by the Laugh Factory club in Hollywood and began helping them financially after the boy was diagnosed with cancer. Palanker said she gave the family $10,000 to cover expenses.
"It was fairly spontaneous," she said. "I just decided on my own to do it."
But she said she gave a second gift of $10,000 when the father asked for more money. Palanker said the father told her the family could not afford rent because his wife had spent their money on such things as prayer and "a lot of statues and votive candles."
The comedian said she later learned the family had fixed up a clean room for the boy so he could recover from chemotherapy at his grandparents' house and that the family also bought the boy a big screen TV and DVD player that they all used.