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Defense Rests With No Jackson

The defense rested Wednesday in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial without putting the pop star on the stand, wrapping up after a three-week effort to portray the accuser and his mother as shakedown artists.

Prosecutors immediately began their rebuttal. The jury could get the case as early as the middle of next week and begin deciding whether Jackson molested a 13-year-old cancer patient at his Neverland ranch in 2003.

Defense lawyers portrayed Jackson as the victim of trumped-up charges brought by the boy's mother when she realized that the family's days of living lavishly at Jackson's expense were about to end. A series of witnesses described the mother as a grifter and a welfare cheat who made a career out of hitting up celebrities for money.

The defense took only three weeks to attack a case prosecutors spent nearly 10 weeks laying out.

"A short defense case is usually either a sign of confidence or of despair, and I think here it is a sign of confidence," reports Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "Jackson's lawyers have to feel good about how things have gone so far.

"Their witnesses, their story, held up much better than did the prosecution's witnesses and story. That doesn't guarantee an acquittal but it's a good sign for Jackson."

Initially, the defense case was projected to last up to eight weeks, with a celebrity-studded witness list some 300 names long, including Elizabeth Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Kobe Bryant.

But only a few of celebrities were called, among them Jay Leno and Macaulay Culkin. Jackson did not take the stand, either, despite his lawyers' hints at the start of the trial that he might do so.

Comedian Chris Tucker, star of the "Rush Hour" movies, was the final defense witness Wednesday. He said he found the accuser to be unusually cunning for a 12-year-old after meeting the boy at a benefit while the child was battling cancer in 2001.

Tucker said his suspicions about the family set in when they came to the set of a movie he was filming in Las Vegas and refused to leave. He said he paid for their hotel and expenses, but after several weeks they were still there.

Tucker said that under pressure from the family he arranged a private flight to Miami for them after they discovered that Jackson was there, and in Florida he took Jackson aside and warned him to be wary of the family.

"I said, `Michael, something ain't right,"' Tucker said.

Leno testified Tuesday that he became suspicious of the accuser after he received several voice-mail messages in which the boy gushingly expressed his admiration for "The Tonight Show" host.

Prosecutors cast Jackson, 46, as a pedophile with a history of fondling boys, including the cancer survivor in February or March 2003 at Neverland.

Jackson also is charged with giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging TV documentary that recounted Jackson's penchant for letting children sleep in his bed.

The defense called 50 witness in all, including Culkin and two other young men who disputed earlier prosecution testimony by insisting that Jackson never behaved inappropriately when they stayed at Neverland as boys.

According to testimony, the family received a $152,000 settlement from J.C. Penney after filing a lawsuit in which the mother accused department security guards of roughing up her and her children in 1998. The defense suggested that the woman's injuries were actually caused by the woman's then-husband.

Also, a paralegal testified for the defense that the mother admitted lying about the injuries and threatened to have the paralegal killed by the Mexican Mafia.

There was also testimony that the family had the run of Neverland while staying at the amusement-park estate's guest quarters. Witnesses told of the mother receiving spa treatments and the family racking up $7,000 in shopping, dining and other expenses during a week at a California hotel.

Without ever taking the stand, Jackson spoke to jurors through a nearly three-hour videotape that included scenes left out of the documentary "Living With Michael Jackson." In the video, Jackson said his feelings for children were innocent and loving.

"I haven't been betrayed or deceived by children," he said. "Adults have let me down."

Highlights of Michael Jackson's defense case:

  • Jackson never took the stand but the jury heard him on a videotape as he talked with a documentary maker. On the tape he made such remarks as "I'm not a nut" and "I haven't been betrayed or deceived by children. Adults have let me down." He also said, "There's always some jerk, some mean-spirited person that wants to bring you down."
  • Actor Macaulay Culkin testified that he was not molested during childhood visits in which he shared a bed with Jackson at his Neverland ranch. He called the case against Jackson "ridiculous."
  • Two other young men said that as boys they repeatedly slept in the singer's bedroom without being touched inappropriately. Their mothers said they trusted Jackson.
  • Jay Leno said that in 2000 he received numerous phone messages from the accuser that were "overly effusive" and sounded scripted, but he said the boy didn't ask for money.
  • Actor Chris Tucker testified that the accuser and his brother were cunning, describing extensive efforts to get money, gifts and other things from him. He told of bizarre behavior by the mother that made her seem "possessed." He said he warned Jackson to watch out for them.
  • Defense attorneys called witnesses who painted the accuser's mother as a welfare cheat who exploited her son's cancer to get money. An accountant said the family ran up $7,000 in shopping, dining and other bills paid by Jackson during a time they claim they were captives.
  • The manager of Jackson's Neverland ranch said the accuser's family showed no signs of being unhappy or of feeling they were held against their will.
  • A former Jackson lawyer said that men who took over Jackson's management diverted nearly $1 million of the pop star's money and that he believed it was for their benefit. The testimony suggested Jackson's associates were conspiring against him instead of with him.
  • Former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos testified he had a private investigator conduct surveillance of the accuser's family because he feared the family was trying to shake down Jackson.
  • A child welfare worker said she met privately with the accuser and his family during the time they claim they were Jackson's captives and they praised him and denied any sexual abuse.
  • Paralegal Mary Holzer testified that the mother admitted a lie concerning claims the family made in a lawsuit that led to a $152,000 settlement from J.C. Penney. The mother claimed in the suit that she was injured by security guards who stopped them when her son left a store in 1998. But Holzer said the mother admitted her husband caused her bruises. Holzer said that when she told the mother she couldn't lie, the mother threatened to have the Mexican Mafia kill her and her child.