Jul 27, 1:15 PM (ET)
By LINDA DEUTSCH
SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) – A prosecutor said Tuesday that pop star Michael Jackson enticed a young boy into thinking that the singer was “the coolest guy in the world,” then imprisoned him and his family at his Neverland Ranch and forced them to make a video absolving him of molestation claims.
The fiery court presentation by Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss disclosed for the first time the prosecution’s theory of its conspiracy case against Jackson, claiming he panicked after a television show threatened to destroy his career by linking him with an obsession with young boys.
“The fact that Mr. Jackson rationalized this behavior on national television was his downfall,” Auchincloss said. “It represented the complete and utter ruin of his empire. … It made him an international object of loathing and scorn.”
At that point in the presentation, Jackson’s lawyer objected that the prosecutor, who was supposed to be opposing a dismissal motion, was delivering a final argument. But the judge allowed him to continue.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. derided the entire prosecution case as “absurd on its face” and demanded dismissal of all charges.
Auchincloss, detailing a number of the overt acts in the indictment, which have been kept secret until now, suggested that Jackson actually lured the alleged victim to his bed after the video had been shown on television.
“The person Jackson perceived could put out (public relations) fire was John Doe, and his family,” the prosecutor said, referring to the alleged victim. “If he could get them on tape describing Mr. Jackson as a wonderful person, it would quell this fire.”
In an earlier motion marked by unusually confrontational language, Michael Jackson’s defense team called the investigation of him “breathtaking” and his prosecution on child molestation charges an effort to “take down a major celebrity.”
The accusations were contained in a motion requesting that the trial be delayed four months, until early next year. The motion was filed July 13 and kept sealed by Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville until Monday.
In his reply, Auchincloss said prosecutors would not oppose a brief delay but that “any continuance contemplated should be measured in weeks, not months.”
A hearing on the defense and prosecution motions and other matters was set to begin Tuesday. Jackson was not expected to attend the proceeding, which could last several days.
Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He is free on $3 million bail and scheduled to stand trial Sept. 13.
The Jackson team’s filing said it would take them months to study all the information gathered by prosecutors.
“The scope of the prosecution’s investigation is breathtaking,” the document stated. “This is not a usual criminal investigation. It is an effort to take down a major celebrity.
“The expenditure of resources by the prosecution is unprecedented and extravagant,” defense attorney Steve Cochran told the judge.
In arguing for a four-month delay, Cochran said “in virtually every respect, this litigation is unusual and complex.”
“The theory of the prosecution is, among other things, that at least six individuals conspired between February and March of 2003,” he said. “The prosecution’s strategy, however, is to target only Mr. Jackson and hold the specter of charges over the heads of the other five people.
“Nothing less than Mr. Jackson’s life is at stake in these proceedings,” the motion said.
The judge has not released the names of the alleged co-conspirators or how they allegedly helped Jackson. An attorney representing a coalition of media organizations has filed an appeal seeking release of that information.
In documents released earlier, the prosecution referred to the alleged co-conspirators as Jackson’s “henchmen,””hirelings” and “thugs.”