April 20, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A former security guard at Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch testified in the pop star's child molestation trial Wednesday that there was once a notice posted in a guard station that the boy who is now the singer's accuser not be allowed to leave the estate.
But the witness, Brian Barron, also said under defense questioning that it would have been appropriate to keep child guests on the estate if their parents weren't present and that they probably would not let any children leave if they were unsupervised.
Barron, a police officer for the town of Guadalupe, moonlighted at Neverland for about three years until leaving after the ranch was raided by Santa Barbara County sheriff's investigators. He said his superiors in Guadalupe suggested he not work there any longer because of the criminal investigation.
The witness also said that after the Nov. 18, 2003, raid - for which he was not present - the Sheriff's Department asked him to go back to work at Neverland as a law enforcement informant but that he refused.
The witness said the directive concerning the boy was written on a guard station greaseboard for a weeklong period in January or February 2003. Barron said he did not know who wrote the directive.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Sanger, Barron acknowledged that as a police officer he would have been required to report anything illegal he saw at the ranch and that he never had grounds to do so.
Sanger asked whether the directive might also have appeared in a log of activity at Neverland's gate. The attorney produced a page of the log dated Feb. 19, 2003, that stated, "The kids are not to leave per Joe."
The notice said "kids" referred to the boy, his brother, "etc." The name Joe referred to a ranch manager.
The Feb. 19 date has surfaced previously in the trial as the day when the accuser, his brother, sister and mother were taken to Los Angeles to record a so-called rebuttal video in which they praised Jackson as a father figure.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to make the rebuttal video after the airing of a TV documentary in which the boy appeared with Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed but that it was non-sexual.
Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss, Barron was asked whether there was a difference in attitude of employees when Jackson was present at Neverland.
Barron agreed, describing the mood as "tense."
Asked to elaborate, Barron said, "He's like a perfectionist. Everything has to be right. There was a lot of work to be done. Everyone was walking on pins and needles a little more to make sure everything was right."
Auchincloss also asked Barron to identify pictures of three boys from the community of Los Olivos who were frequent visitors to the ranch and to describe their conduct.
"Destructive," Barron said. "Whenever they were there we would have broken golf carts. They egged my security chief's car, and I mean a lot of eggs."
The prosecution informed the court Tuesday that it planned to rest its case next week.
The announcement followed the end of testimony by the accuser's mother, who underwent a final around of vigorous cross-examination Tuesday that sought to undermine her credibility by raising questions about the authenticity of photographs showing her covered with bruises after an alleged beating by store guards in 1998.
The photos were made in connection with a lawsuit that resulted in a settlement of more than $150,000 for the woman's family. Jackson's defense suggested that the woman exaggerated claims against the guards as part of a history making false allegations to get money.