Jackson parents dismiss accusations

MICHAEL JACKSON’S parents yesterday insisted the pop star’s young accuser was simply after his money.

"I know my son, and this is ridiculous," his mother, Katherine Jackson, said before jury selection was set to begin in Santa Maria, California. She said people who believe her son is guilty "don't know him."

Jackson's father, Joe, said his son was beloved around the world but had trouble in the United States because of racism. He said the accuser's motives were clear: "It's about money."

California Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville summoned 300 people to court for the first round of jury selection yesterday. Another 300 are to follow today, with a final 150 scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. From that pool, the judge hopes to find 12 jurors and eight alternates.

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a cancer patient then age 13, now 15 after plying him with alcohol. On Sunday, Jackson issued a court-approved video statement on his website, predicting he would be acquitted.

"Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court," Jackson said, looking directly into the camera. "I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told."

Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain said the pop star's "spirits are great".

"He has the support of his family, his children, his friends," she said. "You're going to see a Michael Jackson who is going to be here today who is very serious very businesslike and very serious."

Jackson is opposed by Santa Barbara County district attorney Tom Sneddon, 61. Jackson has derided him in song as a "cold man" with a vendetta.

Ten years ago, Sneddon tried to build a child-molestation case against Jackson. But it fell apart when the singer's accuser reportedly accepted a multimillion-dollar civil settlement and refused to testify in any criminal case.

The judge, Rodney Melville, 63, is a veteran of the bench who has refused to tolerate tardiness or even, in one case, a bathroom break for the defendant.

Melville made it clear that a gag order stands.

As jury selection neared, competition for a scoop undermined Melville's efforts. The transcript of the case prosecutors presented to the grand jury that indicted Jackson was leaked to thesmokinggun.com and ABC News.

Jury selection could last a month or longer.

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