The mother of two of Michael Jackson’s children described the pop star Thursday as a “good father, great with kids” who became a victim of “opportunistic vultures” in his inner circle as they sought to make millions from his troubles.
The testimony about Jackson’s associates marked the second straight day that Jackson’s ex-wife Deborah Rowe turned the tables on prosecutors who called her to the stand in his child molestation trial.
Rowe was called to bolster a charge that the singer and his associates conspired to hold the accuser’s family captive to make a video praising him. But Rowe instead portrayed Jackson as a victim of men now named as unindicted co-conspirators.
She said they recruited her to make a video praising Jackson, then sold it for millions and kept the money. She said the organizer of the video, Marc Schaffel, bragged to her about how much money he was making off Jackson.
“He was out to hurt Michael and in addition would hurt my children,” Rowe said.
Rowe’s testimony was sometimes teary, sometimes salty and sarcastic. At one point she said, “Damn you” to prosecutors in an apparent misunderstanding about a question.
She seemed to lament the state of her relationship with Jackson when a defense lawyer asked if she still considered Jackson a friend. “Yeah,” she said, adding, “if he’d talk to me.”
At one point when she was asked by the defense to describe Jackson, she caught her breath and said: “Generous to a fault, good father, great with kids, puts other people ahead of him. Brilliant businessman.”
She later became teary-eyed when she described her feelings about Jackson, who at one point dabbed at his eyes. Rowe only spoke positively of her ex-husband and reserved expressions of ill will for Schaffel and two other unindicted alleged co-conspirators, saying, “I think they’re opportunistic vultures.”
Rowe was a nurse for a Jackson doctor when they married in 1996, and they had two children together — 8-year-old Prince Michael and 7-year-old Paris.
The couple filed for divorce after three years of marriage, and Rowe is now locked in a family-court dispute over visitation with their children, who are in the singer’s custody. Jackson has a third child, Prince Michael II, whose mother has remained anonymous.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the accuser’s family captive to get them to rebut the “Living with Michael Jackson” documentary, in which the singer said he lets children sleep in his bed.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon had said Rowe would tell the jury that her remarks were scripted in the separate rebuttal video she made praising Jackson.
But Rowe denied Wednesday that her remarks were scripted or rehearsed. She said she agreed to make the video because she wanted to help the singer and she hoped to see their two children.
Rowe: Didn't always tell truthRowe also testified that she had not been truthful about everything in her videotaped interview.
Rowe’s second day of testimony came after Jackson’s lawyers tried to abort her appearance with a motion to strike everything she said on Wednesday — a move they dropped after Thursday’s questioning elicited more positive testimony about Jackson. Their reason for the motion was not made public.
When asked by District Attorney Ron Zonen about how she felt about doing the video, she said, “I was excited to do it. I would get to see the children and could renew a relationship with Mr. Jackson.”
At the end of his direct examination, Zonen asked, “What was your motivation for participating in this interview?”
“To see my children,” she said.
Zonen also asked a question designed to show she had no recent knowledge of Jackson’s parenting skills at the time of the interview.
“How long had it been since you had seen your children?” Zonen asked.
“About 2½ years,” she said.
But under cross-examination by Thomas Mesereau Jr. she said she did not blame Jackson for keeping her away from the youngsters but felt that his advisers and lawyers had interceded.
The prosecution announced it would probably rest its case Tuesday.
As Jackson left court at the end of the day he was asked if it was good to see Rowe again.
“Yes,” he said.
Schaffel is suing Jackson on claims that he hasn’t been paid more than $3 million in loans and fees. A Santa Monica judge on Thursday rejected Schaffel’s request to place a lien on Neverland until after the criminal trial, Schaffel’s attorney, Howard King, said in Los Angeles.