SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Michael Jackson’s Web site trumpeted his courtroom vindication Tuesday, linking it with such historic events as the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., while his lawyer suggested Tuesday the singer will no longer share his bed with young boys.
During an interview on NBC's “Today” show , Katie Couric asked attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. whether or not Jackson would continue to share his bed with children. Mesereau, while refusing to admit that Jackson ever said he shared his bed with children, did say the singer would no longer allow children into his room “because of the false charges that were brought here.”
“He’s not going to do that anymore,” Mesereau said. “He’s not going to make himself vulnerable to this anymore.”
Jackson was acquitted Monday of child molestation, conspiracy and other counts by jurors who said the accusations of a young boy and his family were not credible — a legal victory that triggered jubilation among the pop star’s fans and embarrassment for the district attorney’s office.
The Jackson Web site mjjsource.com featured graphics declaring “Innocent” and showing a hand giving a victory sign as a fanfare plays. A scrolling calendar highlights historic events such as “Martin Luther King is born,” “The Berlin Wall falls,” “Nelson Mandela is freed,” and finally, “June 13, 2005, Remember this date for it is a part of HIStory.” The reference was to Jackson’s 1995 album “HIStory: Past, Present, and Future Book I.”
Mesereau said Jackson didn’t eat during the trial, didn’t sleep and lost weight. “It was a terrible ordeal for him,” Mesereau said.
A raucous welcome greeted Jackson as he returned to his Neverland Ranch on Monday afternoon. As a convoy of black SUVs carrying him and his entourage pulled through the gates, his sister LaToya rolled down a window, smiled widely and waved. The crowd responded with a euphoric cheer.
“All of us here and millions around the world love and support you,” proclaimed a banner strung across a fence by the compound in Los Olivos that Jackson said he created to provide himself with the childhood he never enjoyed.
“It’s victory,” said Tracee Raynaud, 39. “God is alive and well.”
Aside from the Web site message, there was no comment from Jackson or his family Tuesday. He has no media representative since Raymone K. Bain was dismissed last week, and neither he nor his family issued any statements Tuesday morning.
Stinging defeat for Sneddon
The acquittals marked a stinging defeat for Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who displayed open hostility for Jackson and had pursued him for more than a decade, trying to prove the rumors that swirled around Jackson about his fondness for children.
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Sneddon sat with his head in his hands after the verdicts were read.Slideshow: Michael Jackson: 1958 - 2009
“We don’t select victims of crimes and we don’t select the family. We try to make a conscientious decision and go forward,” Sneddon said afterward, adding “I’m not going to look back and apologize for anything that we’ve done.”
Jurors may have acquitted Jackson of all charges of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor, but not all of them were convinced the King of Pop had never molested a child.
“He’s just not guilty of the crimes he’s been charged with,” said Ray Hultman, who told The Associated Press he was one of three people on the 12-person panel who voted to acquit only after the other nine persuaded them there was reasonable doubt about the entertainer’s guilt in this particular case.
Prosecutors presented testimony about Jackson’s allegedly improper relationships with several boys in the early 1990s, including the son of a maid who testified that Jackson molested him during tickling session between 1987 and 1990. Another, Brett Barnes, took the stand to deny that he was molested during sleepovers at Neverland.
Doubts about Jackson remain
But Hultman said he believed it was likely that both boys had been molested. He said he voted to acquit Jackson in the current case because he had doubts about his current accuser’s credibility.
“That’s not to say he’s an innocent man,” Hultman, 62, said of Jackson.
Some jurors noted they were troubled by Jackson’s admission that he allowed boys into his bed for what he characterized as innocent sleepovers.
“We would hope first of all that he doesn’t sleep with children anymore and that he learns that they have to stay with their families or stay in the guest rooms or the houses or whatever they’re called down there,” jury foreman Paul Rodriguez said. “And he just has to be careful how he conducts himself around children.”
Some jurors acknowledged they flatly disliked the accuser’s mother, portrayed by the defense as a welfare cheat who brought a trumped-up lawsuit against J.C. Penney, accusing store guards of roughing her and her family up. “I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us,” said one juror, a woman, who declined to give her name.
Another woman juror said she felt sorry for the accuser and his siblings, believing they had been trained by their mother to lie. “As a mother, the values she has taught them, it’s hard for me to comprehend,” she said. “I wouldn’t want any of my children to lie for their own gain.”
The verdict means Jackson will be free to try to rebuild his blighted musical career. But his legal victory came at a terrible price to his image.
Prosecutors branded him a deviant who used his playland as the ultimate pervert’s lair, plying boys with booze and porn. Prosecution witnesses described other bizarre behavior by Jackson: They said he licked his accuser’s head, simulated a sex act with a mannequin, kept dolls in bondage outfits on his desk.
Defense lawyers described Jackson as a humanitarian who wanted to protect kids and give them the life he never had while growing up as a child star. The boy had asked to meet the star when he thought he was dying of cancer.
The defense said the family exploited the boy’s illness to shake down celebrities, then concocted the charges after realizing Jackson was cutting them off from a jet-set lifestyle that included limo rides and stays at luxurious resorts.
Jackson was cleared of 10 charges in all, including four counts that he molested the boy in early 2003. Jackson also was charged with providing the boy with wine — “Jesus juice,” the pop star called it — and conspiring with members of his inner circle to hold the accuser and his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary. Jurors also had to consider four lesser charges related to the alcohol counts, forcing them to render 14 verdicts in all.
The case was set in motion by the 2003 broadcast of the British TV documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” that Jackson had hoped would actually improve his image. In the program, Jackson held hands with the boy who would later accuse him, and he acknowledged sharing his bed with children, a practice he described as sweet and not at all sexual.
After the verdict, a weary Jackson retreated to Neverland where, according to his family, he went straight to bed. The entertainer, who appeared exhausted as he shuffled out of court, is “trying to get back his strength,” said his father, Joe Jackson.
“I feel justice was done,” Jackson’s father said. “We thank the fans for supporting us.”
As the verdict was read, Jackson sat motionless, as he did throughout the trial, only dabbing at his eyes with a tissue. One of his lawyers, Susan Yu, burst into tears. Some of the women on the jury also wept.
“I’m shaking,” said Emily Smith, 24, of London, who was among the few lucky fans in Santa Maria who got courtroom passes to hear the reading of the verdicts. “I believe justice has been done today. I can’t tell you how good it feels.”
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