Witnesses detail estrangement between Michael Jackson and his accuser
By Harriet Ryan
SANTA MARIA, California (Court TV) -- A psychologist and an attorney testified Wednesday about the key roles they played in the estrangement of Michael Jackson from a young cancer survivor who once called him "Daddy Michael," but who now claims the King of Pop sexually molested him.
The emotional narrative, played out over the last three days, reveals the death of a strange relationship between a 46-year-old superstar and a 13-year-old boy, which began with the cruel taunts of the accuser's peers and ended with accusations of sexual mischief against Jackson.
According to several witnesses, when the teenage accuser was seen holding hands with Jackson in Martin Bashir's 2003 documentary, "Living with Michael Jackson," the boy was teased and humiliated by his friends, stung by their homosexual slurs.
The accuser's mother, who claims Jackson tried to isolate and silence the family to avoid fallout from the damaging documentary, sought help from Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, the same man who had helped introduce the family to Jackson.
Masada put the family in touch with his own civil attorney, Bill Dickerman. He was "greasing the wheels," Dickerman said Wednesday of Masada, characterizing his first meeting with the family in February 2003.
Jackson says he is innocent and has been targeted by the accuser's family and their greedy civil attorneys, but Dickerman told jurors that money was never an issue when he first was retained by the family.
Dickerman said he immediately began a two-pronged effort on his new clients' behalf: retrieve their personal property from Jackson after the relationship had soured, and prevent Bashir's people from re-airing the program, because the mother claimed she had never consented to her son's face being shown.
But he later began to realize, Dickerman said, that he needed a Jackson-savvy attorney on his side. He recruited Larry Feldman, the same attorney who, in 1993, secured a more than $20 million settlement from Jackson on behalf of a 13-year-old boy who accused Jackson of molestation. Jackson was never charged in the 1993 allegations.
"I knew that he was the go-to guy with regard to Michael Jackson matters," Dickerman said of Feldman.
Although Dickerman contends there is no current suit against Jackson, he and Feldman have a fee-sharing agreement in place should they pursue and win monetary damages against Jackson in a future civil suit on the family's behalf.
Feldman, who is expected to testify, met with the family and then hired noted psychologist Stan Katz to interview the accuser, his siblings and his mother in May and June 2003.
Katz is the psychologist who interviewed the 1993 accuser. The boy reportedly was able to identify Jackson by the distinctive splotches on his buttocks and penis.
Katz told jurors Wednesday that he was paid $300 an hour by Feldman to evaluate the family's claims of molestation.
But while the doctor testified in detail at a grand jury proceeding about the interviews he conducted, prosecutors gave a halting and brief direct examination Wednesday, never asking about the substance of the interviews and doing little more than establishing his presence in the narrative.
The jury did not hear about the lascivious details the accuser and his brother recounted to the doctor, which, according to grand jury transcripts, include watching Jackson allegedly simulate sex on a female mannequin, parade in front of the boys naked and erect, and ask them if they wanted to learn how to masturbate.
During a lengthy cross-examination, Jackson's defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, quoted to the doctor from his own book, "The Codependency Conspiracy," in which he states that as many as 40 percent of the cases of allegation of child sexual abuse are false.
However, the doctor clarified on redirect examination that his statement referred to preschool age children who allege abuse by someone in their family, and that, in his experience, there are very few false allegations made by preadolescent boys against nonfamilial perpetrators.
Mesereau also questioned Katz about his role in the McMartin Daycare case, the 1990 trial in which more than 350 children were diagnosed by the Children's Institute International (CII) in Los Angeles as having been abused by the proprietors of a county preschool. The trial lasted more than two years and ended without a single conviction.
The case, which Katz describes in his book, revealed that therapists and parents are often capable of making children believe they had been molested when no abuse occurred.
Katz was the director of training and professional education at CII, which conducted the interviews with the McMartin children.
"Are you aware that was the longest and largest criminal case in the history of Los Angeles County?" Mesereau asked. The witness confirmed he was aware.
Katz also conceded that his evaluation of Jackson's accuser and his family was cursory, and that he was not asked to do an in-depth psychological investigation to make a clear determination of whether abuse had occurred.
On June 12, 2003, Katz said, he and Feldman approached the Department of Children and Family Services with information about alleged sexual misconduct by Jackson. The next day, Katz spoke to a detective from the Santa Barbara police department about his interviews with the accuser.
"Clearly, it was your understanding that [the family] went to attorneys before they ever went to police," Mesereau asked. The witness agreed.
Jackson, who is out on $3 million bail, is accused of sexually fondling his now-15-year-old accuser and plying him with alcohol. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.