April 25, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Prosecution and defense attorneys in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial argued Monday over whether the mother of two of Jackson's children should be allowed to testify.
Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville did not immediately rule on the admissibility of testimony by Debbie Rowe, the mother of Jackson's children Paris and Prince Michael.
During the arguments, prosecutor Ron Zonen revealed that Rowe's parental rights had been restored. Rowe once gave up her those right, but Zone said she sought to get them back and a family court proceeding under way in Los Angeles involves Rowe's efforts to "compel visitation" with the children.
Zonen said prosecutors want Rowe to testify about a videotape she made praising Jackson at about the same time the family of his young accuser made a videotape praising Jackson as a father figure.
He said Rowe was offered visitation rights with her children in return for her appearance.
The prosecution contends Jackson conspired to hold the accuser's family captive to force them to make the videotape in order to rebut a damaging television documentary about Jackson.
Zonen said Rowe and the family gave scripted interviews for the video, and that in both cases children were used as "pawns" to get their mothers to speak in Jackson's favor.
Jackson attorney Robert Sanger said the videos were not scripted.
He said interviewers prepared questions but there were no prepared responses. He noted that at one point in Rowe's interview she used salty language that would not be allowed on television, suggesting her remarks were spontaneous.
Prosecutors plan to wrap up their case against Jackson this week, the ninth week of testimony in the trial, clearing the way for Jackson's attorneys to begin presenting their case.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon told the court Monday he will not present testimony by a former Jackson security guard who faces robbery, kidnapping and other charges. He did not say why prosecutors will not call Christopher Carter, 25, who was recently arrested in Las Vegas.
Prosecutors also told the court they were offering immunity to Cynthia Montgomery, a travel agent who booked flights for Jackson, including a Nov. 20, 2003, flight on which Jackson was allegedly secretly videotaped as he traveled to Santa Barbara to surrender on the child molestation charges.
Montgomery told the court last week she would refuse to testify about anything that happened on that flight.
Sanger said Jackson was a victim of criminal activity involving the taping but did not say what Montgomery's alleged role in the taping was. Sanger said the FBI is investigating the taping.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a TV documentary in which Jackson appeared with the boy and said he allowed children to sleep in his bed. Jackson called the sleeping arrangement an innocent, non-sexual practice.