Michael Jackson, late to court and in pajamas, hears accuser testify

Friday, March 11, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Michael Jackson went AWOL from his child molestation trial Thursday and was nearly jailed before he finally showed up more than an hour late, in his pajama bottoms and slippers, to listen to his accuser's second day of testimony.

The judge apparently did not punish Jackson for his tardiness, which his attorney blamed on a serious back problem that required treatment at a hospital.

Jackson's late arrival occurred before his 15-year-old accuser testified about drinking liquor with the pop singer and looking at sex magazines with him. He also said he once saw Jackson walk into the room naked.

The jury heard only brief remarks from Judge Rodney S. Melville about the drama that unfolded at the start of the day, when defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. announced Jackson's back problem.

Before Jackson showed up, the judge said he was issuing an arrest warrant and might revoke his $3 million bail. But he told the attorney he would hold the warrant for one hour to give the defendant time to get to court.

A distressed Jackson arrived a few minutes after the hour was up, walking gingerly into court wearing slippers, a suit jacket over a T-shirt and pajama bottoms. As he walked toward the courthouse, Jackson turned around and waved at his fans.

"Mr. Jackson had a medical problem and it was necessary for me to order his appearance," Melville told jurors.

Prosecutors allege that Jackson, 46, molested the then-13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003, gave him alcohol and conspired to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging TV documentary in which Jackson said he shared his bed with children.

On the stand, the accuser occasionally glanced across the courtroom at Jackson, who appeared wan.

The witness told the jury that at some point Jackson showed him sexually explicit magazines found in a briefcase belonging to an employee. He said Jackson made a statement deriding the employee for having the magazines, but that he and the pop star looked at them for 30 minutes to an hour.

The boy, who had one of his kidneys removed as part of the cancer treatment, also said that at various times in Jackson's private quarters -- his bedroom, office and a wine cellar -- he was given drinks he described as vodka, rum, and "Jim Bean," apparently meaning Jim Beam bourbon.

"Did you ever tell Mr. Jackson you only had one kidney," asked District Attorney Tom Sneddon.

"Yes," the boy said. "I told him it was bad for me to drink alcohol and he said it was OK, nothing was going to happen."

The boy told the jury that he and his brother were once on Jackson's bed at Neverland when the singer came in naked, but the account differed from earlier testimony by the brother.

"He just ran up there and got something and then went downstairs," the witness said.

His 14-year-old brother had said Jackson came in naked and aroused and said it was "natural." But the accuser made no mention of Jackson being aroused, and did not recall the singer saying anything.

"Me and my brother were kind of like 'Eww!' because we never saw a grown man naked before," he said.

Questioned about the making of the documentary, the accuser testified that Jackson suggested they hold hands and he spontaneously put his head on the singer's shoulder.

"I was really close to Michael and he was like my best friend. I just put my head on his shoulder," he testified.

The prosecution says the molestation occurred after the documentary aired.

The boy also described a trip to Miami in which Jackson wanted the boy to be with him when he held a news conference to respond to the documentary. The boy's family was flown to Miami just as the documentary was about to air.

He said Jackson gave him wine in a Diet Coke can during the trip, saying it would help him relax amid all the media reports about the documentary.

"He told me if I had ever heard of Jesus juice. He told me, 'Like you know how Jesus drank wine? We call it Jesus juice,"' he said.

"I drank a little bit of it and I told him it tasted ugly. ... He said he knew I was stressed out from all the media stuff going on and the Jesus juice would relax me."

He said Jackson gave him a jacket when they left the Miami hotel and gave him a watch on the plane.

"He told me not to tell anyone about the Jesus juice. He said that this is a symbol that we will be friends together," the witness said.

Associated Press Writer Tim Molloy contributed to this report.

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