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Jackson Case: Calls, Big Checks

As the prosecution nears the end of its case against Michael Jackson, it's introducing as evidence phone calls made by dozens of Jackson associates.

During the weeks surrounding the broadcast of a damaging documentary about Michael Jackson, his associates apparently made dozens of phone calls to each other, prosecutors showed Monday in the pop star's child molestation and conspiracy trial.

The phone records and unexplained testimony about one associate cashing two huge checks on an account shared with Jackson were offered as the prosecution neared the end of its case.

The jury was not told how the calls support the case, but prosecutors are expected to say in final arguments that they show frantic activity in an effort to stem the damage caused by the "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary.

CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman reports that the charts of phone records detail how members of the Jackson camp called members of the alleged victim's family — all this taking place around the time the prosecution claims the family was detained by Jackson associates.

None of the calls were traceable to Jackson, 46, who is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland ranch, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy's family captive to rebut the documentary, in which the singer said he shared his bed with children.

The documentary, which aired in the United States on Feb. 6, 2003, featured Jackson holding hands with the boy now accusing him of molestation and saying he has allowed children to sleep in his bed, though he said the sleepovers were non-sexual.

District Attorney Tom Sneddon said last week that the prosecution would rest on Tuesday.

Much of the speculation is about whether Jackson himself will take the stand in the defense phase. Attorney Dana Cole, a friend of defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr., said Mesereau is leaning toward putting him on because "Tom feels Michael would make a very good witness."

CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen doesn't think it will happen.

"When a defendant testifies in a criminal case, it's because the defense is very worried and is on the defensive," he said. "I don't think that's the case here."

Jackson's attorneys have presented a long list of possible witnesses, including many big names such as Stevie Wonder, Eddie Murphy and Elizabeth Taylor, reportsFutterman, but that doesn't mean they are all going to be called.


"I think the defense understands there's an interest in brevity here," said Cohen. "And if they keep the defense case short, make the points they need to make and then sit down, they'll be appreciated by the jury."

Prosecutor Mag Nicola spent hours showing jurors charts of calls, primarily between the phones of three men named as unindicted co-conspirators, the mother of the boy who was allegedly molested, and an assortment of Jackson employees and lawyers.

The first series of calls occurred during a trip to Miami by Jackson, his entourage, the accuser and the boy's family. Prosecutors showed calls to and from the presidential suite at the Miami resort where Jackson stayed.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Robert Sanger asked sheriff's Detective Robert Bonner whether there was any way to determine if Jackson took part in the calls. Bonner said there was not.

In other testimony, a bank manager testified that in April 2003, Marc Schaffel, who has been identified as an unindicted co-conspirator, cashed checks for $1 million and $500,000 on an account for which he and Jackson were the only signatories.

Schaffel's name has surfaced repeatedly in connection with efforts to contain damage from the documentary. But Schaffel has claimed that he had extensive financial dealings with Jackson and that the pop star owes him more than $3 million in loans and producing fees.

The prosecution's presentation has had lots of problems, reported Futterman. At times it has seemed disjointed. Last week, when the prosecution expected Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe to say that she was pressured to say nice things in a video interview about the pop star, she said just the opposite: that no one told her what to say.

"This should be the pinnacle of the prosecution case; it should never get better than it is right now, and it's not very good," Cohen said.

"They need to tie Michael Jackson to the conspiracy. They haven't clearly tied him to that," said San Francisco attorney Michael Cardoza, a courtroom observer.

Despite these problems, legal experts point out that this case involves a very emotional issue, child molestation, and if jurors believe Jackson is indeed a child molester, they may be willing to overlook any weaknesses in the prosecution's case.