May 10, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The property manager at Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch testified that the family now accusing the singer of molestation was never mistreated or held against their will.
Joe Marcus said the family members appeared to be "excited to be there." He testified that they were never treated as captives during shopping trips or a visit to a dentist, but rather seemed eager to return to Neverland.
"Did (the mother) seem to you to want to leave the ranch and she was not allowed to do so?" asked defense attorney Robert Sanger.
"No," said Marcus.
"Did she ever complain to you about anything?" Sanger asked.
"Never," said Marcus.
Marcus, who was expected to return to the stand Tuesday, was among several current and former Neverland employees called by the defense to counter former ranch employees who testified against Jackson during the prosecution case.
Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient in February or March 2003, giving him wine and conspiring to hold the family captive to get them to rebut a documentary in which he appeared with the boy and said he let children sleep in his bed, though he said it was non-sexual.
The ranch manager testified that he gave the family rides when they wanted to leave the property.
"Were you there to guard them?" asked Sanger.
"No," said Marcus.
When they went on a shopping trip in nearby Solvang, Marcus said, he stayed at the car while they wandered around the popular Danish-style tourist town shopping for an hour.
Sanger asked if there was ever a time during that shopping trip and others when the mother was followed by a "positive PR film crew," something she described on the witness stand.
"Not to my knowledge," Marcus said.
He said he met the family one day at an orthodontist's office where the accuser and his brother went to have work done on their teeth. He said it was raining and he found the family anxious to get back in the car and return to Neverland when the appointment was over.
The mother has said she made up dental needs as a ruse to try to escape.
Marcus, an 18-year employee, said he never saw Jackson do anything inappropriate to children and never saw anything that would have caused him to report an illegal act to authorities.
Jackson left the court hastily after the testimony. His spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain, said he was in pain from a persistent back problem. She said Jackson's spirits remain high because of his defense team's efforts, though the trial in general has made him unhappy.
Asked if he would testify, she said, "He would not be opposed to testifying if his attorney says he should."