In a move that could shake up the Michael Jackson trial, Judge Rodney Melville ruled on Monday that prosecutors may introduce evidence and testimony regarding five previous accusations of molestation against the singer, according to CNN and wire service reports. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon told the court that at least one former claimant, a 1990 accuser who received a $2.4 million settlement from Jackson, was prepared to testify on his own behalf. The accuser behind the most notorious claim, the 1993 boy who received a multimillion-dollar settlement from Jackson, was not expected to testify, the Associated Press reports.
The prosecution argued that the past allegations established a pattern, arguing that Jackson not only molested several other boys roughly the same age as the current accuser, but also made a practice of ”grooming” them beforehand, cultivating relationships with them by inviting them to sleep over at Neverland and lavishing their families with gifts. Judge Melville disallowed evidence about two of the seven boys named by the prosecution. He said he would allow prosecutors to tell the jury that Jackson paid settlements to two of the five remaining boys but that the amounts must remain untold unless the defense mentions them.
Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau had argued that introducing prior claims would be prejudicial. Jackson has long denied molesting any child and, until the current accuser stepped forward, he had never been charged with a crime in connection with any of the previous allegations. Mesereau also said the testimony of many potential prosecution witnesses would be second- or third-hand and described them as disgruntled former Jackson employees or others with ”axes to grind.” One of the alleged past victims on the prosecution’s list was Macaulay Culkin, said Mesereau, who added that the former child star ”has repeatedly said he was never molested.”