Jackson Pals: Just Sleep, No Sex

Michael Jackson's defense team is off and running.

Thursday, the defense called two men - now in their early 20s - who each told of meeting Jackson at age 5 and going on to spend many nights with the pop star, but never having any kind of sexual contact with him.

Friday, the mothers of the two men may take the stand, as Jackson's lawyers work to refute the testimony of the 80 witnesses called by the prosecution in the nearly ten weeks it took to try to convince the jury that the singer is guilty of child molestation and conspiracy.

Jackson is accused of fondling a 13-year-old cancer survivor, giving him alcohol, and conspiring to detain the teen and his family so they could rebut a damaging documentary by Martin Bashir in which Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed.

The defense began its case Thursday after Judge Rodney Melville denied its motion for an acquittal. Jackson's attorneys had argued that the state failed to prove its case, and that prosecution witnesses had "a tendency to self-destruct" on the stand.

The first defense witness, dancer and film director, Wade Robson, said he has known Jackson since age 5 and stayed at his friend's Neverland ranch more than 20 times. He slept in Jackson's bedroom on all but three or four of those visits, he said.

Robson, 22, said they played video games, watched movies, talked and sometimes had pillow fights, but Jackson never touched him in an inappropriate or sexual way.

A former Jackson maid, the mother of a boy who got a multimillion-dollar settlement from Jackson in the 1990s after accusing the star of molestation, testified previously that she once saw Jackson showering with Robson. Robson said he had never showered with Jackson.

"There were a lot of holes in the prosecution's case and now Jackson's lawyers are trying to fill those holes with a narrative that is obviously a lot more favorable to their client," says . "This is precisely the sort of testimony that is likely to make a difference: a so-called Jackson victim, with direct personal knowledge of what might have occurred, coming forward to say there was no molestation, at least not with him."

In cross-examination, prosecutor Ron Zonen suggested that when Robson said Jackson never molested him, "What you're really telling us is that nothing happened when you were awake."

"I'm telling you nothing happened," the witness said.

Asked if something might have happened while he was asleep, Robson said, "I think something like that would wake me up."

Zonen then sought to suggest that the witness was often so exhausted by practicing dance and having fun at the ranch that he might have slept heavily.

Robson and a defense witness who testified later Thursday, Brett Barnes, were among individuals mentioned in the portion of the prosecution case intended to show that Jackson has a pattern of past inappropriate behavior with boys.

Barnes, 23, of Melbourne, Australia, said he met Jackson at age 5 when the singer passed through Australia on tour. He said he was already a Jackson fan and his mother wrote a letter telling Jackson about him.

"After a while, we received a phone call from him and we became really good friends," he said.

Barnes said that as a youth he stayed with Jackson at least 10 times. Asked if he had ever been touched inappropriately, Barnes said, "Never, I wouldn't stand for it."

Barnes said he was aware that witnesses testified in the trial they had seen him touched inappropriately by Jackson.

"I'm very mad about it," he said. "It's not true and they put my name through the dirt. I'm really not happy about it."

While cross-examining Robson, Zonen approached the witness stand carrying two books taken from Jackson's home, one showing nude boys and the other showing men in sexual acts.

Robson said he did not consider the book about boys to be pornographic, but he appeared to be taken aback when shown the book depicting men in sex acts.

"Would you be concerned with a man who possesses that book crawling into bed with a 10-year-old boy?" Zonen asked.

Robson paused and said quietly, "Yes."

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. quickly countered, asking Robson if he would feel differently if he knew that Jackson also had a collection of 10 years' worth of Playboy, Hustler and other heterosexual pornographic magazines.

Robson said he would feel differently and would no longer be concerned about it. He also said Jackson had never shown him sexually explicit material.

Mesereau also pointed out Robson's fiancee in the courtroom and had him confirm that he is heterosexual.

The defense had filed its motion for acquittal immediately after the prosecution rested Wednesday. Such motions are common and are rarely successful.

Jackson's attorneys said the accuser, his brother and his mother told a string of lies on the stand, calling the mother a "bizarre" witness who told a "whopper."

Defense attorney Robert Sanger said the mother was dishonest when she said that her video interview rebutting the documentary was false. He also said the accuser's brother falsely said he never pulled a knife on a woman, and the sister gave false accounts of where she slept at Neverland.

District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who has pursued Jackson for more than a decade, countered that the evidence was overwhelming and that he was "sick and tired" of defense claims that witnesses committed perjury.

The judge said he was reluctant to make a decision about the credibility of the witnesses, suggesting that was the jury's job.