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Ex Boosts Jackson Defense

In a stinging turn for prosecutors, Michael Jackson's ex-wife testified the singer was easily manipulated by "opportunistic vultures" in his inner circle who wanted to make millions from his troubles.

Deborah Rowe turned the tables on the prosecutors who called her when she testified Thursday that she believed men named as Jackson's unindicted co-conspirators were actually conspiring against her former husband.

Angry prosecutors then turned against their own witness and tried to show she was unbelievable, but she stuck to her story, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales. As her testimony continued, prosecutors were as somber as a group of friends at a wake.

"I think that Debbie Rowe is one smart woman who found a way to snow this prosecution into believing that she was going to be a witness for them," said Jackson biographer and CBS News Correspondent J. Randy Taraborrelli. "Actually, she was a witness for Michael Jackson. It was really a stunning turn of events in this trial."

District Attorney Tom Sneddon said he planned to call three new witnesses Friday but did not identify them. He also announced the prosecution would wrap its case up Tuesday, though it had initially planned to finish this week.

"The problem for prosecutors is that they had to gain ground with Debbie Rowe. They needed her to tie together some of the strands of their case against Jackson, and instead of doing that they very clearly lost ground,'' said . "Meanwhile they are running out of time before the end of their case and they just won't have many more of these opportunities."

Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the accuser's family captive to get them to rebut the "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary in which the boy appeared and Jackson said he allowed children to sleep in his bed but that it was non-sexual.

Prosecutors called Rowe to support their contention that Jackson's alleged co-conspirators scripted a videotaped interview in which she defended Jackson, just as they had allegedly scripted an interview in which the family rebutted the documentary.

But when Rowe took the stand Wednesday and Thursday, she said there was no script and that she never looked at a list of questions in advance because she wanted her words to be spontaneous.

Asked by Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen if she knew what she was supposed to say on camera about Jackson, she used such terms as "a wonderful person," "a great father," and "generous and caring."

Asked how she felt about doing the video, she said, "I was excited to do it. I would get to see the children and could renew a relationship with Mr. Jackson."

Asked why she was interested in that, she said, "They're my family."

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr., she said she did not blame Jackson for keeping her from her children but felt that his advisers and lawyers were to blame.

Asked how she feels about Jackson now, she said, "I've always considered him my friend."

"And you still do?" asked Mesereau.

"Yeah," Rowe said, then added, "If he'd talk to me."


Rowe, who is in a family court fight with Jackson over visitation with her son, Prince Michael, 8, and daughter, Paris, 7, only spoke well of Jackson and reserved expressions of ill will for others around him.

Rowe said the organizer of the video, Marc Schaffel, bragged to her about how much money he was making off Jackson. Asked what she thought of Schaffel and two other unindicted alleged co-conspirators, Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer, Rowe said, "I think they're opportunistic vultures."

"She painted Michael Jackson as being the victim in this entire case," said Taraborrelli.

Schaffel is suing Jackson on claims that he hasn't been paid more than $3 million in loans and fees. A Santa Monica judge on Thursday rejected Schaffel's request to place a lien on the singer's Neverland ranch until after the criminal trial, Schaffel's attorney, Howard King, said in Los Angeles.

Mesereau also asked Rowe to describe Jackson in her own words as she had described him in the video. She caught her breath and said: "Generous to a fault, good father, great with kids, puts other people ahead of him. Brilliant businessman."

She became tearful when she described her feelings about Jackson.

"There's different Michaels," she said. "There's like my Michael and the Michael that everyone else sees."

Jackson dabbed at his eyes as she spoke.

"That would be Michael the entertainer?" Mesereau asked.

"Michael the entertainer, yeah," Rowe said.

Rowe looked across the courtroom several times at Jackson and once tried to engage him in conversation.

Taraborrelli reports that before the testimony yesterday when the judge and the attorneys and jurors were not present, Rowe and Jackson were just sitting there staring at one another and there was a moment when he apparently said something to her and she mouthed to him, "I'm okay."

"I knew right then that there is a still a connection as far as she's concerned between herself and her ex-husband," Taraborrelli said.

Rowe also testified she had once told sheriff's investigators that she believed the mother of Jackson's accuser was "orchestrating lawsuits." She said she also told investigators, "Michael is very easily manipulated if he's scared."

Before Rowe left the stand, the prosecutor asked if she believed Jackson was "amenable" to her seeing their children.

"I'm hoping in my heart that he is," Rowe answered, adding, "I haven't spoken to him. I don't know."

When defense attorneys objected to the question, Zonen said it was for the purpose of impeachment — to raise questions about the credibility of a witness. It was one of several times prosecutors have tried to impeach their own witnesses after they gave unexpected testimony.

As Jackson left court at the end of the day he was asked if it was good to see Rowe again.

"Yes," he said.