Cop Pressed On Jackson Comments

Pop star Michael Jackson departs at the end of the day's testimony in his child molestation trial, at Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., Tuesday March 15, 2005. AP

The lead investigator in the Michael Jackson child molestation case said he urged the accuser and his family to go forward with his claims against the singer by promising them, "We're going to try our best to make this case work."

Defense attorney Robert Sanger confronted Sgt. Steve Robel on Tuesday with those and other statements from recorded interviews, suggesting that they indicated investigators were biased against Jackson from the beginning.

He quoted Robel as saying, "One thing I want to emphasize is you guys are doing the right thing here. ... I don't care how much money they have. He's the one who's done wrong. ... We're going to try to bring him to justice."

Sanger asked: "That's not the statement of someone with an open mind who's trying to find the truth, is it?"

Robel said that during his training he was taught to make such a statement to alleged victims.

"That statement is to reassure them," he said, "because they were terrified when they came forward. It took us two weeks to get them to come in."

Sanger asked: "Isn't the technique you are taught to tell them (is) to be honest and not to tell them they're right, everyone else is wrong?"

The investigator, who is due back on the stand Wednesday, answered that that was not the technique he was taught.

The next witness could be a civil attorney the family went to before they reported the alleged molestation to police, the same attorney who represented Jackson's accuser in 1993, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

Jackson arrived in court early on Tuesday, and his spokesperson said that the singer has been starting his trial days by praying with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said the singer usually wakes up at about 4:30 a.m., and talks to Rev. Jackson for 15 to 20 minutes. The two talk to each other by phone and pray together, she said.

Bain also noted that the trial has not stemmed visits by youngsters to Jackson's Neverland ranch. She said that his staff regularly greets children who want to visit the singer's amusement park of a home, which includes a zoo, carnival rides, trains and other entertainment.

"There are over 1,000 requests a month from organizations wanting to take children to Neverland," Bain said.

Robel's testimony on Tuesday came after the singer's accuser wrapped up his testimony by saying he only told a school administrator Jackson had not molested him was because he wanted to avoid teasing from classmates.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. revealed Monday in the cross-examination of the boy, now 15, that he had once denied being molested in a talk with Jeffrey Alpert, a dean at John Burroughs Middle School in Los Angeles.

The boy testified Tuesday that he got in fights with other students when he returned from Jackson's Neverland Ranch in March 2003 because they would mock him.

"All the kids would laugh at me and try to push me around and say, 'That's the kid that got raped by Michael Jackson,"' said the boy, who alleges Jackson molested him at least twice at Neverland.

He said fighting got him summoned to the office of a school dean, and that was when, "I told him that it didn't happen."

"Why did you tell him that?" District Attorney Tom Sneddon asked.

"All the kids were already making fun of me in school and I didn't want them to think it happened," the boy said.

The conversation was prompted by the Feb. 6, 2003, TV documentary that showed Jackson with the boy and in which Jackson acknowledged sharing his bed with children, although he characterized it as innocent and non-sexual.

Mesereau concluded his questioning of the boy Tuesday by asking if he realized he could profit by filing a lawsuit against Jackson before he turns 18. The boy said he did not know that.

Prosecutors claim Jackson conspired to hold the boy, his mother, sister and brother captive to get them to record a video rebutting the TV documentary. The family heaped praise on Jackson in the rebuttal video.

Sneddon's redirect questioning was relatively brief. He had the boy talk again about his bout with cancer, how he had become close to God and what he thinks of Jackson now.

"I don't really like him anymore," the boy said. "I don't really think he's deserving of the respect I was giving him as the coolest guy in the world."

Sneddon's probing managed to answer some of the questions about the accuser's credibility that the defense had raised the day before, Legal Analyst Anne Bremer told The Early Show.

"He came back and repaired a lot of damage with the witness and didn't take much time doing it," said Bremer. "The witness's credibility remains intact to a certain extent."

Later in the day, defense attorney Sanger raised inconsistencies in the teen's statements about the alleged molestation. He asked Robel whether the boy initially alleged that Jackson had masturbated him five times. Robel said that was true.

But the lawyer suggested Jackson was not charged with that many incidents because the investigation showed Jackson wasn't at Neverland on some of the dates that were alleged.

"Your investigation disclosed on the (the family's) last days at Neverland there were not five occasions when the molestation could have occurred," Sanger asserted.

"No, that's not correct," said Robel, but he acknowledged "two or three days" when Jackson was not present.

He also acknowledged that the boy gave different versions of when he was first molested in his first interview: saying it was before the family had an interview with child welfare workers, then saying it was afterward, then saying it was before and after.

The boy testified in the trial that he was molested after meeting with the child welfare workers.
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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