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Jackson to Face Alleged Victim's Mother in Court

The woman, who called the pop star 'the devil,' has been subpoenaed by the defense in a bid to toss out seized evidence.

September 17, 2004|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — In a move bound to please the throngs of fans who have gathered here, Michael Jackson is to appear in court today and silently face the mother of the boy he is accused of molesting -- a 36-year-old woman who earlier this year told grand jurors that the pop star is "the devil."

The woman, known in court records only as "Jane Doe," has been subpoenaed to testify on a crucial, if narrowly defined question: Did Santa Barbara County authorities know that a Beverly Hills private investigator was working for former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos when they seized tapes and documents at the investigator's office?

The defense contends they did, and that any evidence the authorities found in Bradley Miller's office cannot be used in court because it would breach attorney-client confidentiality.

The woman's appearance will cap a lengthy defense effort to throw out much of the material seized with search warrants at Miller's office and at Jackson's Neverland ranch.

It also will give defense attorneys a chance to attack the credibility of a key prosecution witness. Thomas Mesereau Jr., Jackson's lead attorney, has lambasted the woman during court arguments as a money-hungry shakedown artist and chronic liar.

Jackson, who has the court's permission to skip all of his pretrial hearings, appeared only in August, when Dist. Atty. Tom Sneddon had to take the stand himself. Seated at the defense table, Jackson was clad totally in white, as were five of his siblings in the courtroom.

On Thursday, Mesereau and Sneddon expressed dismay over a number of leaks in the case, which Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville has conducted with an extraordinary concern for secrecy. In particular, they were upset by "The Insider," a syndicated TV show, airing this week what was billed as an audiotape of a year-old police interview with the accuser's mother.

On the tape, the purported mother said that she was immune to the lure of Jackson's millions of dollars. "God handpicked me and the kids because he knew that we weren't going to fall for any of their money," she said.

In court, Sneddon said he knew of only three copies of the mother's taped interview: one in his office, one with the defense team and one in the Santa Barbara County sheriff's office.

"We were very upset and disturbed to hear this had happened," he said.

The secrecy issue also surfaced when media attorney Theodore Boutrous was criticized by the defense for e-mailing reporters a sealed document that defense attorney Robert Sanger had inadvertently faxed to him.

Boutrous, who contended he did nothing wrong, was in court as he has been numerous times in the past, futilely asking Melville to unseal a mountain of documents that in most other cases are open to public scrutiny.

Representing a 10-member coalition that includes The Times, Boutrous is challenging Melville's rulings in a state appeals court.

Meanwhile, Mesereau laid into a recently published book by Raymond Chandler, a Santa Barbara attorney whose nephew accused Jackson of molesting him in 1993. The case against Jackson at that time fell apart after the singer reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the boy and his family.

Mesereau, who like other attorneys in the case is under a gag order, was given permission by Melville to make a public statement countering what the attorney said was prejudicial publicity. He said he plans to do that today.

On Thursday, lawyers sparred, as they frequently have, over evidentiary issues, with defense attorneys contending that prosecutors have been slow to share evidence with them. Even 10 months after Jackson's arrest, investigators are still serving search warrants, said defense attorney Steve Cochran. "Many agencies complete their investigations before shooting the wad of criminal charges," he said.

But Sneddon was unapologetic, telling the judge: "I'm just going to do what I have to do to protect my clients. I can't tell you I'm going to stop asking for warrants where it's appropriate."

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