SANTA MARIA, Calif. — The teenage sister of Michael Jackson’s accuser told jurors Thursday about a series of unusual events that unfolded around the time of the alleged abuse, including a sudden trip in which the family was whisked away to Miami on a private jet.
The sister’s also described a drinking party with Jackson, changes in her brother’s behavior and claims of death threats against her family. The testimony was elicited to support allegations the singer conspired to hold the accuser’s family captive and get them to rebut a February 2003 documentary in which Jackson said he allowed boys to sleep in his bed. The Miami trip occurred as the program was about to air.
The sister did not mention witnessing any molestation of her brother, a cancer survivor. She was to continue testifying Friday.
“Me and my brother are very, very close,” she said. “During all this he didn’t want to talk to me. He didn’t want to be near me.”
She said she once discovered a wine cellar by following her two brothers through a door hidden behind a juke box.
“When I walked into the wine cellar I saw Michael Jackson pouring wine into cups,” she said. Her brothers and the son of a Jackson assistant were drinking from the cups; she had one too, she testified.
Earlier, she testified that on the flight back from Miami, Jackson shared a soda can with her brother, and also gave him a watch and a jacket decorated with sparkles.
Prosecutors allege the boy was molested twice by Jackson after the program aired. They contend Jackson gave the boy wine in the soda can and the gifts as bribes to keep quiet about the alcohol.
The 18-year-old college freshman avoided eye contact with Jackson during most of her testimony as she described the family’s encounters with him, which began during a celebrity-filled odyssey after her brother was diagnosed with cancer. The family was introduced to such stars as actor Chris Tucker and NBA star Kobe Bryant.
Jackson showed no reaction during her testimony. Leaving court, he said that seeing her was “interesting, frustrating.”
The defense has portrayed the family as being motivated by greed in its pursuit of celebrities.
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Under questioning by District Attorney Tom Sneddon, the girl told jurors about strange events that happened after the documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir was taped.
The girl said after an urgent call from her mother, the family was flown to Miami on a private jet. At a resort there, Jackson was waiting and in his suite they met a large group of people, she said.
The witness said her brother quickly received special attention from Jackson, who pulled him aside and closed the door to his room.
She said the two remained in the room about 15 to 30 minutes and similar private visits occurred at least three more times during their stay.
When her brother came out, she said, “He was very hyper, running around, very talkative, playful.”
Jackson instructed the family not to watch the Bashir documentary that night. “He was upset about it, didn’t want us to see it,” she said.
Back at Neverland, she said, the family had a conversation with a Jackson adviser in which he urged her and her family to take part in a rebuttal video and gave them a script.
She said they were later instructed by Jackson associate Dieter Wiesner to “say nice things about Mr. Jackson and not talk about what goes on at the ranch.”
Afterward, Jackson’s associates told them there were death threats against the family, and they were taken to a luxury hotel near Neverland, she said.
They also were taken to apply for passports and visas for a trip to Brazil, she said — a trip that never happened.
Earlier in the day, jurors got their first look Thursday at the singer’s master bedroom suite, site of the alleged molestation.
The panel was shown videotape from a Nov. 18, 2003, raid of Jackson’s ranch that included shots of his cluttered bedroom, but none of the sexually explicit magazines that Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon has said were found in the suite.
The video, shot by Sheriff’s Department photographer Albert Lafferty, showed a sparkling bedspread, pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Temple, several TVs and stacks of videos.
Two rooms that investigators called the “doll room” and the “toy room” were filled with dolls, mannequins and figurines of such characters as Batman and SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as C-3PO, Boba Fett and R2-D2 from “Star Wars.”
‘Crack whore’ strategy
On Tuesday, Ann Marie Kite, hired in 2003 to help rehabilitate Jackson’s image after the airing of a damaging documentary, testified Wednesday that his associates hoped to portray the accuser’s mother as a “crack whore.”
Slideshow: Michael Jackson trial The prosecution, which called Kite, has alleged that Jackson’s team wanted help with a public rebuttal to the British documentary, in which Jackson said he allowed young boys to sleep in his bed.
In an aggressive cross-examination by defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr., Kite also said she was concerned during her employment that Jackson was a victim of people in his inner circle who either botched his public relations or deliberately tried to damage his reputation.
She said she believed one of the singer’s five alleged co-conspirators in the case, Ronald Konitzer, may have been trying to wrest away ownership of a valuable music catalogue that includes The Beatles’ songs. None of the alleged co-conspirators has been indicted.
Containing the situation
Kite said she became alarmed when Jackson associate Marc Schaffel told her that the alleged molestation victim had left Neverland in the middle of the night with his family on Feb. 13, 2003, a week after the documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” aired.
She said Schaffel, another alleged co-conspirator who has not been indicted, told her the family had been returned to the ranch and “the situation had been contained.”
She said she then contacted her ex-boyfriend, David LeGrand, a lawyer for Jackson who had hired her. “I said, ‘Don’t make me believe that these people were hunted down like dogs and brought back to the ranch,”’ she said.
She said he told her, “I can’t discuss this right now.”
Kite said LeGrand told her several days later that the family would not be a problem. “He said that they no longer had to worry about (the mother) because they had her on tape and they were going to make her look like a crack whore,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.