Jackson defense loses bid to ban past allegations
Judge allows testimony related to 5 boys
SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- In a setback for Michael Jackson's defense, prosecutors will be allowed to present witnesses who will testify that the singer had a pattern of grooming young boys for sexual abuse, the judge ruled Monday.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he will allow testimony related to five boys who were between 10 and 13 when Jackson began paying attention to them.
Melville agreed with prosecutors that the evidence is relevant to proving "an alleged pattern of grooming" young boys to abuse them. He called his decision "one of great importance."
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon said the witnesses would prove a pattern of "very similar, if not identical" behavior to the charges Jackson is facing. He said that the pattern of alleged misconduct "increases credibility" for Jackson's teenage accuser in the current case.
Sneddon said only one alleged previous victim -- who reached a civil settlement with Jackson over allegations made in 1990 -- will testify.
Prosecutors will call third-party witnesses to testify about inappropriate conduct between Jackson and four boys groomed for abuse, including former child actor Macaulay Culkin, Sneddon said.
Culkin has denied that anything inappropriate happened between him and Jackson. During an interview with CNN's "Larry King Live" in May 2004, Culkin, now 24, said: "Nothing happened."
Culkin's publicist, Michelle Bega, said Monday that the actor has no plans to testify in the case.
"[He] is not involved with the proceedings at this time, and we do not expect that to change," she said.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. argued against allowing the evidence, insisting it would "easily reduce the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence and render an unfair trial." He said prosecutors were trying to rescue a troubled case with weak witnesses by bringing up past allegations.
Mesereau also said that some of the purported victims would testify that nothing improper happened with Jackson. He argued unsuccessfully that if they are not alleging abuse, evidence relating to them should be excluded.
Also Monday, comedian George Lopez testified that he befriended the family of the accuser in the current criminal case when the boy and his siblings attended a comedy camp in Los Angeles in 1999. He said he later visited the boy in the hospital when he was diagnosed with cancer the next year.
The comedian characterized the boy as a "great kid" with "a lot of spirit," although he also said the boy pressured him to buy him things when he took the family on a shopping trip.
Lopez said his relationship with the family soured when the boy's father began constantly asking him for money, finally leading to a "heated exchange" in which the comedian called the father "an extortionist." The father also accused Lopez of stealing $300 out of a wallet the boy left at Lopez's home, he said.
"(He) was more interested in the money than his son," Lopez said.
Lopez's wife, Ann, who was helping her husband plan a fund-raiser to benefit the accuser's family, also testified that the father became angry after she informed him that the proceeds would go directly to the family's creditors, rather than to him. The Lopezes decided not to go through with the event after his outburst, she said.
Jackson's accuser and his father became estranged after his parents split up in 2001, about two years before he says Jackson molested him when he was 13.
The defense has been trying to paint the boy's mother as the greedy and vengeful force behind the molestation allegations, but prosecutors have countered with testimony that it was the father, not the mother, who pestered celebrities for money as the boy battled cancer, which has since gone into remission.
Michael Jackson faces 10 felony counts surrounding allegations of molestation in February and March 2003.
Jackson is charged with four counts of committing a lewd act on a child; one count of conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion; one count of attempting to commit a lewd act on a child; and four counts of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.