Jacko trial postponed amid new revelations. Prosecutors say he tried to imprison the boy to force him to help with PR damage control

By Gary Susman
July 28, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

There’s so much new detail to be sifted through in the Michael Jackson case that Judge Rodney Melville has postponed the trial date by four months, from a projected September date until Jan. 31. Reuters reports that he issued the postponement on Tuesday in response to a defense motion to delay the trial because Jackson’s team claimed it needed more discovery time to study the prosecution’s evidence against the singer, though the judge said in his decision that he believed both sides needed the extra time to prepare their cases. In arguing against the delay, prosecutors revealed some new details about the child-molestation and conspiracy case, including a claim that Jackson made hostages of his young accuser and his family in order to secure his participation in public-relations damage control efforts.

Jackson is accused of committing lewd acts on the boy, who appeared in the notorious ”Living With Michael Jackson” documentary that aired on ABC in February 2003, some weeks after the broadcast. Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss told the court that Jackson had imprisoned the boy, referred to in court proceedings as ”John Doe,” at Neverland after the documentary turned into a P.R. disaster for Jackson. ”Jackson felt that if he could get John Doe on film explaining what a wonderful person he is, this would help quell the outrage,” Auchincloss said.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau said that to use the word ”imprisonment” to describe stays at Neverland and flights on private jets to luxury destinations, where the family hobnobbed with famous Jackson pals like Chris Tucker, was ”absurd on its face” and ”would be laughed out of court by a jury.” He called again for a dismissal of all 10 counts against Jackson, to which the singer has pleaded not guilty.