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Accuser couldn't leave Neverland, guard says

Witness says he was asked to return as informant
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former security guard at Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch testified at the pop star’s child molestation trial Wednesday that a notice once was posted in a guard station saying the boy who is now the singer’s accuser was not to be allowed to leave the estate.

But the prosecution witness, Brian Barron, also said under defense questioning that it would have been appropriate to keep child guests on the estate if their parents weren’t present and that guards probably would not let any children leave if they were unsupervised.

Barron, a police officer for the town of Guadalupe, moonlighted at Neverland for about three years until leaving after the ranch was raided by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s investigators on Nov. 18, 2003. He said his superiors in Guadalupe suggested he leave the estate because of the criminal investigation.

He said he refused a request by the sheriff’s department that he go back to work at Neverland as a law enforcement informant.

Barron said the directive that the boy was not to leave the estate was posted during a weeklong period in January or February 2003. He said he did not know who wrote it.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Sanger, Barron acknowledged that as a police officer he would have been required to report anything illegal he saw at the ranch but that he never had grounds to do so.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy, a 13-year-old cancer patient, in February or March 2003.

He also is accused of conspiring to hold the boy’s family captive to get them to make a so-called rebuttal video following the airing of a TV documentary in which the boy appeared with Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed but that it was non-sexual.

‘A perfectionist’Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss, Barron said employees were tense when Jackson was at Neverland.

“He’s like a perfectionist. Everything has to be right,” Barron said of Jackson. “There was a lot of work to be done. Everyone was walking on pins and needles a little more to make sure everything was right.”

Auchincloss also asked Barron to identify pictures of three boys from the community of Los Olivos who were frequent visitors to the ranch and to describe their conduct.

“Destructive,” he said. “Whenever they were there, we would have broken golf carts.”

The prosecution informed the court Tuesday, in the eighth week of the trial since opening statements, that it planned to rest its case next week.

That announcement followed the end of testimony by the accuser’s mother, who underwent a final round of vigorous cross-examination Tuesday in which the defense sought to undermine her credibility. The defense questioned the authenticity of photographs showing her covered with bruises after an alleged beating by store guards in 1998.

The photos were made in connection with a lawsuit that resulted in a settlement of more than $150,000 for the woman’s family. Jackson’s defense suggested that the woman exaggerated claims against the guards as part of a history making false allegations to get money.