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Jury to hear accuser's mom's groping claims

Mother made allegations of improper touching in lawsuit
/ Source: news services

Jurors in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial will be allowed to hear evidence that the accuser’s mother had made allegations of improper touching against store security guards, a judge ruled Friday.

Attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. made the allegations during motions on whether evidence could be admitted about the family’s lawsuit against J.C. Penney.

The family claimed in a lawsuit that they were beaten by guards and held against their will and that the mother was groped, after Jackson’s young accuser left the store with clothes that had not been paid for.

Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said he will allow testimony about the case, especially as it pertains to the mother’s credibility. But he said the defense would not be allowed to refer to the boy as a shoplifter.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient at his Neverland ranch, plying him with alcohol, and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.

More allegationsMesereau said that after the mother received a $150,000 settlement from J.C. Penney and Tower Records, another defendant in the case, she immediately accused her husband of abusing her and filed for divorce.

The woman then accused her ex-husband of inappropriately touching her daughter, Mesereau said.

The attorney also said the woman testified in the J.C. Penney case that her husband had never hit her, but alleged in her divorce that he had beaten his family for years. That was perjury, Mesereau said.

Mesereau also said the mother had her son ask celebrities for money and spent some of the funds on cosmetic surgery.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen argued that the issue was how the mother acquired the money, not what she spent it on and that the issue was largely irrelevant.

“The question is whether a man who admits to sleeping with children was sleeping with this child, and what he did with this child. That’s what this case is about,” Zonen said.

Opening statements in the case are scheduled to begin Monday.

Alternate jurors selectedJury selection for the trial was completed Thursday when four men and four women were sworn in as alternates who would step in if there is a problem with any of the 12 regular jurors chosen earlier in the week.

The jury is mostly white and Hispanic; the alternate panel includes one black man.

Jury selection had been expected to last several weeks, but was completed Thursday, the sixth court day. There were two week-long breaks in the process because of the death of an attorney’s sister and Jackson’s hospitalization with flu-like symptoms.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s father told the celebrity TV program ”Access Hollywood” in an interview that it was unfair of prosecutors to dismiss a black woman from the jury pool.

“I’m just sorry that they got rid of the black juror,” Joe Jackson said in an interview broadcast Friday.  “We needed that juror and it’s not fair, I’ll tell you that.”

The Jackson family patriarch was apparently referring to a woman who was dismissed by prosecutors from the jury pool earlier in the week, over the objections of defense lawyers.

Prosecutors said Friday they would show the documentary called “Living with Michael Jackson,” in which the singer is shown holding hands with his accuser and saying he allowed children to sleep in his bed, but not for any sexual purpose.

Both sides also agreed to meet Saturday for a joint interview with a former attorney who represented the alleged victim’s mother. What the attorney might talk about was not disclosed.

Hospital flap?Also Friday, Jackson’s camp blasted ABC News for reporting that a dying woman was moved out of her Santa Maria hospital room last week to accommodate Jackson after he arrived there on Feb. 15 suffering flu-like symptoms. His illness forced a one-week delay in the trial.

Family members of 74-year-old Manuela Gomez Ruiz told ABC that she died later that day after she was taken off a ventilator and moved to another room despite having suffered a massive heart attack. They have threatened to sue Jackson and the hospital.

“Michael Jackson sends his condolences to the family of the deceased,” his spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, said in a statement. ”However, it is outrageous that Michael Jackson’s name would be invoked into a situation of which he had no authority or control. He was a patient himself. It appears that ABC is deliberate in its attempt to circumvent Michael Jackson from receiving a fair trial.”