The family of Michael Jackson’s accuser once seemed like a less-successful version of Jackson’s own family — a collection of precocious kids who aspired to stardom but suffered under an allegedly abusive and controlling father.
When the boy was 10, his mother began taking him, his younger brother and his older sister to free dance lessons and to a comedy camp for underprivileged kids. Comedians who met the children remembered them as talented.
The boy later met Jackson and spent time at his Neverland Ranch, where the two would make slick home movies. The boy testified that in 2002, when he talked about his cancer fight in the documentary “Living With Michael Jackson,” the singer took him aside to encourage him.
“He said, ’Hey, I’m going to put you in movies and this is your audition,”’ the boy testified.
At Jackson’s trial, the pop star’s attorneys successfully suggested that the boy’s acting abilities were put to bad use.
After the verdict Monday, jurors suggested the boy’s mother had encouraged her children to lie, and they expressed disdain for how she acted on the witness stand. The unconvincing performances doomed a prosecution that relied almost entirely on the credibility of the accuser’s family.
Prosecutors argued that the boy and his family had a history of lying that included a lawsuit brought against J.C. Penney. In that case, the family accused store security guards of beating them.
The family received a $152,000 settlement in 2001, and the mother immediately left her husband, whom she then accused of abusing her and the children. The father has since pleaded no contest to child cruelty and spousal abuse.
The Jackson defense also questioned the family about a videotaped interview they gave to rebut a damaging documentary in which Jackson acknowledged sleeping with boys but said it was non-sexual.
The family praised Jackson, but testified that all their remarks were scripted by Jackson’s associates. At one point in the interview, the mother described what she said was the children’s greatest dream: “Their personal wish, humongous wish, is to be in movies.”
Prosecutors tried to prop up the family’s credibility by ending their case with a videotape of the boy’s first interview with police in July 2003.
Juror Raymond Hultman said the boy’s appearance — slouching and quietly describing the alleged molestation — almost convinced him that the boy was telling the truth.
“That kind of turned my opinion around about how I felt about the case,” Hultman said.
But other jurors convinced him that there was reasonable doubt about the family’s credibility by pointing out that the boy went to authorities only after talking to lawyers and a psychologist.
Despite the family’s latest setback, the verdict comes at a relatively stable time in their rocky lives. The mother has married an Army major with a good paycheck, and the family says abuse by the children’s biological father is behind them.
The accuser, once frail, is now a high school football player. But one thing he no longer remains is an aspiring actor. He said on the stand that his new career goal is to work in law enforcement.