BURBANK, Calif. — Jay Leno greeted Michael Jackson’s defense attorney with a mock swearing-in on “The Tonight Show” Friday, then mostly played nice after months of making the entertainer the target of monologue jokes.
Leno, a defense witness in Jackson’s molestation trial, delivered only one gentle gibe at the pop star’s faltering career before interviewing Thomas Mesereau Jr.
Referring to a rumor that Jackson could start a show in Las Vegas, Leno joked in his monologue, “He’s going to be playing Diana Ross in the ’Legends Show.”’
The comic turned serious when questioning Mesereau, who called Jackson a “misunderstood” musician who could never hurt a child or conceive of holding a family hostage.
Jackson, 46, was acquitted of charges earlier this week that he molested a boy at his Neverland Ranch, gave him alcohol and conspired to hold his family captive. He has not spoken publicly since the trial ended.
“Michael Jackson is an artist. He’s a creative spirit. He likes to sit in a tree and compose music,” said Mesereau, who wore all black and barely cracked a smile during the interview.
Mesereau attacked prosecutor Tom Sneddon, saying “he had a personal vendetta” and “mischaracterized the case from day one.” He said Sneddon had been searching for accusers since a previous case fell apart after the boy’s family accepted a multimillion dollar settlement from Jackson.
“It was like an open casting call on Michael Jackson. The best they could come up with was this family, which we thoroughly discredited from A to Z,” Mesereau said.
He characterized Jackson’s 1994 settlement as “really insignificant money given what he was making” but said it was a mistake.
“All this money was spinning all around him, and he got taken advantage of,” Mesereau said. After the settlement, he said, “others thought they could get an easy pay day as well.”
Mesereau praised the jury as “strong willed, independent and open minded.”
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“We got some very honorable, courageous people, and they did the right thing,” he said.
Leno asked Mesereau why Jackson needed to be rushed to a hospital emergency room several times during the trial despite his seemingly large number of aides.
“There’s the umbrella guy, there’s the magician. Why isn’t there a doctor?” Leno asked. Mesereau said he didn’t know, but added that Jackson’s stress-related back problem was serious.
“Michael was not emotionally built for this type of process: month after month, sitting in the courtroom, listening to this nonsense being thrown at him,” he said.
Leno testified at Jackson’s trial in May that he became suspicious of effusive and seemingly scripted phone messages he received in 2000 from the boy who would later accuse Jackson of molestation.
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