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Witness: Accuser’s mom a ‘welfare cheat’

‘Tonight Show’ host Leno expected to testify on Tuesday
/ Source: The Associated Press

The defense in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial Monday painted the mother of his accuser as a welfare cheat who exploited her son's cancer for money, and lived lavishly at Jackson's expense at a time she claims she was being held captive. The defense called witnesses to show a history of money schemes and her angry rejection of anyone who sought to help her with anything but cash.

The mother's former sister-in-law said her efforts to hold blood drives when the accuser was ill with cancer were dismissed by the mother, who called her and used profanity to denounce her.

"She told me that she didn't need my (expletive) blood, that she needed money," said the former sister-in-law, bursting into tears.

The defense, seeking to show Jackson was another target of such schemes, called a flurry of witnesses as it neared the end of its case. Jackson's attorneys were expected to call comedian Jay Leno on Tuesday, with the possibility they would rest by the end of the day.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, plying him with alcohol and conspiring to hold the family captive to get them to rebut an embarrassing documentary.

The boy appeared in the documentary with Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed, but that it was non-sexual.

Other witnessesThe defense also called a welfare worker who said the mother did not disclose on a welfare application that her family just 10 days earlier had received funds from a $152,000 lawsuit settlement.

Also, an accountant showed the family racked up $7,000 in shopping, dining and other expenses paid by Jackson during a week of their alleged captivity.

Mercy Manriquez, an employee of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, testified she handled the mother's Nov. 15, 2001, application for assistance. The application, signed by the accuser's mother, said the woman had no other sources of income and no assets.

Manriquez testified a person who willfully excludes sources of income from the forms is committing fraud.

Before the mother testified in the trial, she invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on the welfare issue and was not required to talk about it. However, Judge Rodney S. Melville allowed the defense to present records and testimony about it to jurors.

The jury was shown checks for $769 each in monthly payments that were deposited in the bank account of the woman's then-boyfriend, who is now her husband.

The accountant, Mike Radakovich, said he was hired by the defense to analyze records regarding the settlement of a lawsuit against J.C. Penney. The accuser's family had sued the department store chain, complaining they were beaten by security guards.

Radakovich said the total amount of the settlement was $152,000, of which portions went to the woman's three children, to her former husband and toward attorneys' fees.

The mother's share was $32,307, which was deposited into an account for the benefit of one of her sons, who then had cancer, Radakovich testified. That boy would later become Jackson's accuser.

Within days, however, Radakovich said, most of the money had been withdrawn and was used to buy a cashier's check for $29,000 written to a Ford dealership.

The mother testified previously in the trial she considered buying a car with the money but never did. There was no evidence the check was ever cashed.

The defense also called a community newspaper editor who testified she ran a story about the accuser's medical plight and discovered later she had been "duped."

"It was a story I didn't want to do but (the mother) played on some sympathies in the office so I assigned it," said Connie Keenan, editor of the Mid Valley News. After the story ran, the mother wanted another one, the editor said.

"The mother wanted an additional story because she didn't make enough money from the original story — those are her words, not mine," Keenan testified.