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What took so long?

Jackson's fame, and accuser's reputation, made for an easy case

Let’s just hope he doesn’t celebrate by throwing a slumber party.

Then again, you never know with a celebrity.

Robert Blake probably went back to Vitello’s while packing heat. O.J. Simpson could have opened his own cutlery store and nobody would have blinked. It wouldn’t surprise me if Michael Jackson got into his jammies tonight and invited a Boy Scout troop over for a game of Twister.

A jury found Michael not guilty on all counts Monday. It’s impossible to look into the minds of the jurors to determine whether the King of Pop’s star power influenced their decision. I’m sure they’ll deny it did. I’m sure they’ll say how meticulously they scrutinized every shred of evidence and testimony, and how they followed the judge’s instructions to the letter.

But on one side you have an eccentric icon of American pop culture with a lonely upbringing who is suspended in a childlike state of oddball innocence. On the other is a mother who allowed her underage son to attend sleepovers with a middle-aged man and who has a history of scamming.

In retrospect, what took those jurors so long? Were they simply waiting to gather the courage to wade into the crowd of Michael’s devotees? I saw the lady letting the doves fly off after each “not guilty” verdict was read. If it were me, I would have barricaded myself inside the jury room until they gave me a police escort.

Nowhere but homeThis was a silly waste of taxpayer dollars. This was a “Fleecing of California” on NBC Nightly News.

The prosecutors thought they really had a career-making trophy this time. But they were so entranced by the unreliable mumbo-jumbo given to them by the accuser and his family that they failed to see the greater truth.

Michael wasn’t going anywhere except home.

Unless the prosecutors produced a videotape of Michael in flagrante delicto — i.e., Michael in bed with a boy, a llama and a soda can filled with wine — it was the accuser’s word against the reputation of one of the most famous men on the planet. If you polled the planet, the overwhelming majority would side with Michael because “Thriller” was such a great album and the accuser should kiss Michael’s behind for granting him an audience. Well, maybe not.

The accuser never had a chance. This was not a white picket fence kind of family. This wasn’t the cast of “7th Heaven.” The way lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. saw it, this was the kind of clan where one member runs a three-card monte game on a street corner while the others go through the crowd and pick pockets. The prosecutors were asking a jury of eight women and four men to send the little boy who fronted the Jackson 5 someplace grim where you just don’t moonwalk because you’re never sure what you’ll bump into.

Michael’s habit of inviting young boys over to indulge in his cornucopia of adolescent pleasures was not enough to convict. But it would have been if it were anyone else.

Make believe this wasn’t Michael Jackson, but John Q. Public, a middle-aged accountant who lives alone down the block. You hear he’s been inviting underage boys over to sleep in his bed. He admits — on camera, no less — that he does so. You hear that wine may have been served. You hear he settled a child molestation case years ago. Chances are that case would never go to trial because John Q. Public would be escorted out of town by the local Tar and Feather Committee.

The Jackson case wasn’t tried in a vacuum. Besides the brawn of his illustrious career, Michael surely was aided in this trial by the many mixed nuts who showed up each day to cheer him on, berate the media and lash out at the prosecution. Through their collective idiocy, they raised the celebrity bar, lowered the one that measures the IQ of a mob, and turned a sober legal proceeding into the red-carpet arrivals at the MTV Awards.

Ready for a repeat?I bet if the 12 members of the jury hadn’t had to serve, they would have been in the crowd helping to make signs that say, “Michael, on behalf of mankind, we’re sorry” and seeing that the doves had enough food and water.  I shudder to think what would have happened if Michael had been convicted on a count or two and some of the birds didn’t get to fly away. Prosecutors would have had a case of animal abuse against 500 angry sycophants.

So what happens now?

I’m guessing the accuser’s family will not be happy, and will file a civil suit against the entertainer. In a civil suit, of course, the burden of proof is easier — a preponderance of the evidence rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Well, memo to accusers: I got your preponderance right here.

This civil case will be no different from the criminal case. The accuser and his family can repeat everything they said the first time over a 14-week criminal trial, but Michael Jackson is still the guy whose hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial, and a lot of people feel bad about it to this day. Folks had no such love for O.J. That’s why he got nailed in his civil case. That and the mountain range of evidence, of course. This family, whether dirty or clean, does not have nearly enough ammunition to bring down this star.

No one outside of Michael and the accuser will ever really know what transpired inside Boys Town, a.k.a. Michael’s bedroom. All we know now is that Michael is strange, and free. But we were sure about that all along.

Michael Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to