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Larry King kept off stand in Jackson trial

Judge: Talk show host's testimony not relevant
/ Source: The Associated Press

The judge in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial ruled Thursday against allowing CNN host Larry King to testify for the defense, saying his statements would be irrelevant.

Judge Rodney S. Melville ruled after listening to King’s account of a conversation with an attorney, Larry Feldman, who represented the accuser’s family.

Without the jury present, King said that Feldman told him the accuser’s mother was out for money and referred to her as “wacko.”

Testifying earlier for the prosecution, Feldman denied making such statements about his clients, saying, “It is absolutely privileged, and if anybody tells you that, they are absolutely lying.”

After listening to an account by King and another man who heard the conversation, the judge ruled them out on grounds they would not impeach Feldman’s testimony because neither could say the attorney directly quoted the accuser’s mother.

The defense then moved on, calling Azja Pryor, the mother of comedian Chris Tucker’s son. She wept as she recalled meeting the accuser and his family when the boy had cancer.

Feldman was contacted by the accuser’s family members after they left Jackson’s Neverland estate for the last time in 2003. He referred them to Stan Katz, a psychologist who reported suspicions of child molestation to authorities after interviewing the family members.

On the stand and without jurors present, King said he spoke to Feldman at a Beverly Hills restaurant before the trial began. He said he and a producer were trying to get Feldman to appear on “Larry King Live.”

He said Feldman told him he didn’t take the mother’s case because he didn’t find her credible and thought she was only after money.

“The mother was a ’wacko’ was the term he used,” King said.

“He said he thinks she wants money. ... He said ’wacko’ a couple of times and he said ’she’s in this for the money,”’ King told the judge.

Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked King if he asked Feldman to clarify what he meant by “wacko.”

“No, I think that’s self-explanatory,” King said.

There had been speculation that King might try to avoid testifying by invoking a state shield law that protects journalists from testifying in many circumstances. But the matter was not raised before the testimony was ruled out.

The judge also ruled against testimony by a publisher, Michael Viner, who was present during King’s meeting with Feldman.

Without the jury present, Viner told the judge that Feldman said “he had met with them (the family) and felt that their statements, their case, didn’t hold up to scrutiny and he didn’t believe them.”

Accuser's behaviorOn Wednesday, Jackson’s 12-year-old cousin testified that he saw Jackson’s accuser steal wine and money and secretly watch pornography on television while fondling himself.

Rijo Jackson said the accuser’s brother — a key prosecution witness — also took part in the misbehavior during visits to Neverland.

The defense elicited the testimony in an apparent effort to show that the accuser engaged in sexual activity and drank alcohol without Jackson’s involvement.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003 and plying him with wine. He is also charged with conspiring to hold the boy’s family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary in which Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed but that it was non-sexual.

Feldman testified in early April. The prosecution had called him as part of its explanation to the jury of how the alleged molestation came to the attention of authorities. But the defense used his appearance to pursue its contention that the accuser and his family were out to get money from Jackson.

Feldman had acknowledged under cross-examination that the boy, now 15, has until he turns 20 to file a civil lawsuit against Jackson.