Defense Rests With No Jackson

Michael Jackson leaves the courtroom during a break in testimony in his child molestation trial at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Tuesday, May 24, 2005 in Santa Maria, Calif. (AP Photo/Hector Mata, Pool)
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.

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