Lawyer: Jackson A Weak Target

Michael Jackson's lawyer said Tuesday he is convinced that the pop star "has never molested any child," but he said Jackson would no longer let children or their families sleep in his room.

"He's not going to do that because it makes him vulnerable to false charges," attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview.

Mesereau said he believes that Jackson will continue to be "a convenient target for people who want to extract money or build careers at his expense." As a result, the attorney said, Jackson will have to change his lifestyle and "not easily allow people to enter his life."

Mesereau and his colleague, Susan Yu, spoke to the AP the morning after Jackson's acquittal on charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at his Neverland ranch.

Both attorneys described Jackson as the most vulnerable person they have ever met. They said he is physically depleted from the four-month trial and will need time to rest before he again ventures into the public.

Jurors said the accusations of a young boy and his family were not credible — a legal victory that triggered jubilation among the pop star's fans and embarrassment for the district attorney's office.

The Jackson Web site mjjsource.com trumpeted the acquittal with graphics declaring "Innocent" and showing a hand giving a victory sign as a fanfare plays. A scrolling calendar highlights historic events such as "Martin Luther King is born," "The Berlin Wall falls," "Nelson Mandela is freed," and finally, "June 13, 2005, Remember this date for it is a part of HIStory." The reference was to Jackson's 1995 album "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future Book I."

A raucous welcome greeted Jackson as he returned to his Neverland Ranch on Monday afternoon. As a convoy of black SUVs carrying him and his entourage pulled through the gates, his sister LaToya rolled down a window, smiled widely and waved. The crowd responded with a euphoric cheer.

"All of us here and millions around the world love and support you," proclaimed a banner strung across a fence by the compound in Los Olivos that Jackson said he created to provide himself with the childhood he never enjoyed.

"It's victory," said Tracee Raynaud, 39. "God is alive and well."

The verdict means Jackson will be free to try to rebuild his blighted musical career. But his legal victory came at a terrible price to his image.

But music industry analysts say Jackson's career can survive his molestation trial, after his acquittal on all charges.

Def Jam Records chairman L.A. Reid says all Jackson has to do is "concentrate on nothing else but making great music" and give great live performances.

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports that Jackson will take some time to recuperate with his family. This trial has really taken a toll on him over the past few months. But eventually his famous brothers would like him to join them in a worldwide victory tour to celebrate his acquittal.

"My family was very excited," said his brother Jermaine Jackson on CBS News' The Early Show. "And in the very beginning we always said that Michael was 1,000% innocent."

Jermaine Jackson told Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm that his brother was very happy and finally smiled the first time he saw him after the verdict.


"He was just so beat up for so long, for just to sit there and hear things said about you that you know are totally false. And then to have to go through this," he said.

The acquittals marked a stinging defeat for Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who displayed open hostility for Jackson and had pursued him for more than a decade, trying to prove the rumors that swirled around Jackson about his fondness for children.

Sneddon sat with his head in his hands after the verdicts were read.

"We don't select victims of crimes and we don't select the family. We try to make a conscientious decision and go forward," Sneddon said afterward, adding "I'm not going to look back and apologize for anything that we've done."

"This is one of the worst criminal cases I've ever seen" from a prosecutorial viewpoint, reports CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

Not all the jurors were convinced the King of Pop had never molested a child.

"He's just not guilty of the crimes he's been charged with," said juror Ray Hultman. He told The Associated Press he was one of three people on the 12-person panel who voted to acquit only after the other nine persuaded them there was reasonable doubt about guilt in this particular case.

"Everybody has beliefs, and I think what was challenging to all of the jurors in this case was to be able to separate our beliefs from what the evidence showed," Hultman said on The Early Show. "And in the end, we had to weigh the evidence and if there was any reasonable doubt, that was the decision that we needed to make."

Prosecutors presented testimony about Jackson's allegedly improper relationships with several boys in the early 1990s, including the son of a maid who testified that Jackson molested him during tickling session between 1987 and 1990. Another, Brett Barnes, took the stand to deny that he was molested during sleepovers at Neverland.

But Hultman said he believed it was likely that both boys had been molested. He said he voted to acquit Jackson in the current case because he had doubts about his current accuser's credibility.

"That's not to say he's an innocent man," Hultman, 62, said of Jackson.

Some jurors noted they were troubled by Jackson's admission that he allowed boys into his bed for what he characterized as innocent sleepovers.

"We would hope first of all that he doesn't sleep with children anymore and that he learns that they have to stay with their families or stay in the guest rooms or the houses or whatever they're called down there," jury foreman Paul Rodriguez said. "And he just has to be careful how he conducts himself around children."

Some jurors acknowledged they flatly disliked the accuser's mother, portrayed by the defense as a welfare cheat who brought a trumped-up lawsuit against J.C. Penney, accusing store guards of roughing her and her family up.

One juror said she felt sorry for the accuser and his siblings, believing they had been trained by their mother to lie. "As a mother, the values she has taught them, it's hard for me to comprehend," she said. "I wouldn't want any of my children to lie for their own gain."

The verdict means Jackson will be free to try to rebuild his blighted musical career. But his legal victory came at a terrible price to his image.

Prosecutors branded him a deviant who used his playland as the ultimate pervert's lair, plying boys with booze and porn. Prosecution witnesses described other bizarre behavior by Jackson: They said he licked his accuser's head, simulated a sex act with a mannequin and kept dolls in bondage outfits on his desk.

Defense lawyers described Jackson as a humanitarian who wanted to protect kids and give them the life he never had while growing up as a child star.

The defense said the family exploited the boy's battle with cancer to shake down celebrities, then concocted the charges after realizing Jackson was cutting them off from a jet-set lifestyle.

Jackson was cleared of 10 charges in all, including four counts that he molested the boy in early 2003. Jackson also was charged with providing the boy with wine — "Jesus juice," the pop star called it — and conspiring with members of his inner circle to hold the accuser and his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary.

Jurors also had to consider four lesser charges related to the alcohol counts, forcing them to render 14 verdicts in all.

The case was set in motion by the 2003 broadcast of the British TV documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" that Jackson had hoped would actually improve his image. In the program, Jackson held hands with the boy who would later accuse him, and he acknowledged sharing his bed with children, a practice he described as sweet and not at all sexual.

After the verdict, a weary Jackson retreated to Neverland where, according to his family, he went straight to bed. The entertainer, who appeared exhausted as he shuffled out of court, is "trying to get back his strength," said his father, Joe Jackson.

Emily Smith, 24, of London, one of the few fans who got courtroom passes to hear the reading of the verdicts, said: "I believe justice has been done today. I can't tell you how good it feels."