Michael Jackson’s prosecutors rested their case on Wednesday, after two and a half months of testimony and some 85 witnesses, several of whom claimed Jackson had molested five boys a decade or more before the current accuser leveled his allegations. According to wire service reports, the defense began its case Thursday by calling two of those young men, both of whom denied on the stand that Jackson had ever molested them or even touched them while sharing a bed during Neverland sleepovers.
One was Wade Robson, 22, best known as a choreographer who used to work with Britney Spears. Like the second witness, 23-year-old Brett Barnes, Robson said he met Jackson when the singer toured Australia in the late ’80s. Both told similar stories of Jackson inviting them to visit him in America, and of enjoying many boyhood sleepovers at Neverland, often in Jackson’s bed. In fact, Barnes said he had quit his job as a casino dealer in Australia to come to California to refute the testimony of witnesses who said they’d seen Jackson touching him inappropriately, and that during the trial, he is staying at Neverland. For his part, Robson also said he’d never showered with Jackson, refuting the testimony of a former Neverland maid who said she’d seen the pop star and the young Robson in the shower together.
Prosecutor Ron Zonen cross-examined Robson, showing him two books of nude photos seized at Neverland. The first showed naked pictures of boys, the second pictures of men having sex with each other. Asked if he’d have qualms about a 10-year-old boy sharing a bed with a man who owned the first book, Robson said no, but the second one prompted him to say, ”Yes.”
Jackson has denied the current charges against him and has denied that he ever molested anyone, though he paid multimillion-dollar settlements to two of the five boys to ward off lawsuits. One of those two testified on his own behalf, the only one of the five boys to do so. Family members of the other boy who received a settlement said he wouldn’t testify. The remaining boy is former child star Macaulay Culkin, who has said in the past that Jackson never molested him, and who may testify for the defense. Until the current case, no allegations of molestation had ever led to criminal charges against Jackson.
The defense began its turn by filing a motion for acquittal on the grounds that the prosecution hadn’t proved its case, and it also filed a motion questioning the authenticity of 22 documents the prosecution entered into evidence. Opening with a motion to dismiss is a common tactic of defense lawyers, though it’s usually no more successful than it was here. Judge Rodney Melville dismissed the motion, saying that he would leave a determination of the prosecution witnesses’ credibility up to the jury.