Mother of Jackson’s accuser takes ‘Fifth’ on payouts

THE mother of Michael Jackson’s accuser took the stand outside the jury’s presence yesterday and immediately invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify about welfare payments she has received.

Judge Rodney S Melville instructed jurors that the woman had invoked her right for protection from self-incrimination.

She began describing how the family met the singer while her son was battling cancer.

She said after two visits to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch estate in 2000 and many phone calls between Jackson and her son, she began to feel “uneasy” about their contact and tried to limit it.

She said she allowed her children to return to Neverland in 2002 because they were invited by comedian Chris Tucker, who had also befriended the family and whom she trusted deeply.

The mother became tearful when Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen asked her about her past residences.

She said she had lived from 1998 to 2003 in a small bachelor-style apartment with only one main room. She said her son and husband sometimes stayed at her mother’s house because the boy had a special sterile room there.

Defence attorneys contend the family kept the bachelor apartment to make celebrities believe they were poor, but actually spent much of their time at the home of the boy’s grandmother.

Defence attorneys have raised questions about the woman’s credibility, accusing her of bilking celebrities and committing welfare fraud.

During a break before the mother began testimony before the jury, Jackson fans outside the courthouse shouted her name and called her a liar.

The mother’s testimony came after the judge heard arguments from attorneys about whether she should be allowed to testify despite invoking the Fifth Amendment on the welfare issue.

The judge refused Defence attorney Robert Sanger’s request for a mistrial and said the defence could raise questions about the mother’s credibility through other testimony.

Yesterday’s hearing came as the prosecution shifted from witnesses who alleged past improprieties by Jackson back to the current allegations that the singer molested a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, gave him alcohol, and conspired to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary.

Earlier in the day, defence attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr questioned the woman’s husband at length about her use of welfare payments during a time when he was also giving her some support.

He also denied that he once told police he did not believe the boy’s mother was in danger as she left Neverland. He testified that the she seemed distressed when she called from Neverland several times in February 2003.

He said that after one call, he told police the woman would be leaving Neverland and wanted to know if officers could intercept the car that was bringing her back to the Los Angeles area. Police told him they couldn’t do that, he said.

Mesereau said a police report said he told an officer he did not believe the mother was in any danger.

“I am denying saying that,” the stepfather said.

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