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‘Neverland’ manager testifies about search

Testimony in Michael Jackson's pretrial hearing continued, with the manager of the singer's estate taking the stand.

The property manager of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch testified Friday that sheriff’s deputies looking for evidence last year searched areas that were not specified in a warrant.

Joseph Marcus took the witness stand during a pretrial hearing as the defense sought to prove authorities went overboard when they swept into the estate on Nov. 18, 2003.

Marcus said he initially cooperated when the battalion of investigators arrived.

“I worked with them all day,” he said, adding that he studied the search warrant they presented to make sure he admitted them only to the areas specified.

He said he agreed to let them into Jackson’s office and a few other areas that were not on the search warrant when they said they were doing so only to establish that the locations were secure and no one was there.

“I cooperated and opened the door, but then they decided they wanted to do a search,” Marcus testified. “I objected because it was not in the scope of the search warrant.”

A deputy told him he would call and have the search warrant amended, but Marcus said that was not done as far as he knows, and the search went ahead anyway. He added that he was also pressured to answer questions by authorities.

“I initially refused to and said I wasn’t really interested,” Marcus said. “I said, ‘Do I have to answer questions?’ and they said, ‘No, if you have nothing to hide.’ I said there’s nothing to hide here. It is what it is.”

Violet Silva, the chief of security at Jackson’s ranch, testified that she, too, questioned authorities about the scope of the search warrant and pointed out that Jackson’s personal office and video library were not mentioned, though a security office in the same building was listed.

One of the deputies said to her: “’Well we could just consider the whole building to be the security office,”’ Silva said.

She said there was discussion about having the warrant amended by a judge but that was never done and the search continued.

“I shouted out, ‘Did you get that addendum?”’ Silva testified. A deputy shrugged her off and indicated it had not been obtained, she said.

Friday’s testimony came at a hearing in which defense attorneys are trying to limit the evidence prosecutors can use at the entertainer’s Jan. 31 trial. The judge was expected to rule later.

Defense attorneys argue that the search of Neverland, which lasted 15 hours and involved about 40 officers, was overly broad and unjustified.

A prosecutor asked Marcus about whether alcohol was served at Neverland and the witness said it was not. The judge halted questioning on the topic after the defense objected that it was off the point of the hearing.

Before Marcus took the stand, defense attorney Steve Cochran questioned sheriff’s Detective Paul Zelis, who directed the search, and noted deputies seized a magazine on which was written the phone number of Mohamed Al Fayed.

“We had a person (by that name) involved in this investigation and it was in plain view,” the deputy said.

Mohamed Al Fayed is the father of Dodi Al Fayed, who was killed in a car crash with Britain’s Princess Diana. There was no further elaboration on how the elder Al Fayed may have been involved in the Jackson case.

Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.

On Thursday, Jackson complained in a statement posted on his Web site that he and his family have been “vilified and humiliated” for years.

“I personally, have suffered through many hurtful lies and references to me as ’Wacko Jacko’ as well as the latest untruth about me fathering quadruplets,” Jackson said. “This is intolerable and must stop.”

The entertainer needed the judge’s permission to issue the statement because of a gag order in the case.