'Three key witnesses in Michael Jackson case'

Three independent witnesses will be used to support the accusation that Michael Jackson gave alcohol to his alleged sex abuse victim, it was reported tonight.

Three independent witnesses will be used to support the accusation that Michael Jackson gave alcohol to his alleged sex abuse victim, it was reported tonight.

The report came as a court in California set a tentative trial date of September 13 for Jackson’s trial.

Jackson, 45, has denied abusing the teenage cancer patient after plying him with wine at his Neverland Ranch, calling the claims a “big lie”.

According to ABC News, two air stewardesses have said Jackson asked them to serve him alcohol in Coca Cola cans during a flight on a private plane.

The news network said the self-styled King of Pop then gave his alleged victim and the boy’s younger brother alcohol from the cans.

It was also reported that a security guard for Jackson has said he once saw the alleged victim drunk and stumbling around Neverland, although Jackson was not said to be present at the time.

There were further claims that the accuser was so drunk on two of the four occasions the abuse is alleged to have occurred, he passed out in the pop star’s bed.

But the ABC report added that there was no physical evidence of abuse and that Jackson’s accuser and his younger brother have been vague regarding dates when the alleged crimes occurred.

Among the latest claims are that the teenager had to give a urine sample to a doctor who was examining his cancer recovery.

Jackson’s camp feared that alcohol would be detected and urged the boy’s mother to cancel the appointment, but she refused, it was reported.

An aide to the pop star was said to have offered to drive the family to the hospital for the appointment and during that time the sample “disappeared”, ABC said.

There were additional claims that the family of the alleged victim was put under surveillance for two months by Jackson aides.

A lawyer for the family said in a letter to the Jackson camp, seen by ABC, that the aides had been “surveilling and photographing the children’s school ... throwing rocks at (the mother’s) parents home ... leaving disturbing notes ... and stalking the family by auto and otherwise”.

A spokesman for Jackson was not available to answer the claims.

Earlier, a court set a September 13 trial date for Jackson’s case.

The court, in Santa Maria, also heard arguments on whether to reduce the pop star’s bail but did not issue an immediate ruling.

Jackson was not in court for the proceedings.

The pop star’s lawyer Thomas Mesereau objected to setting the trial date, saying the prosecution had not supplied the defence with all the evidence in the case.

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville called the date “a bull’s-eye that we’re shooting at here”.

In arguing for the lowering of Jackson’s £1.64 million bail, Mr Mesereau noted his client’s charitable contributions, lack of criminal record and substantial non-moveable assets in Santa Barbara County, including his Neverland Ranch.

He said the severity of the alleged crime coupled with bail precedents for other crimes suggest Jackson’s bail should be £237,000 at most.

Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen noted that bail for a criminal defendant usually is many times greater than his total assets.

He noted that Jackson is a self-declared billionaire and his bail amounted to only three-thousandths of his assets.

Mr Zonen said the bail amount was “roughly comparable to what he would spend in a weekend in Las Vegas”.

The prosecution has said in court documents that a large bail amount was necessary to be sure Jackson does not flee the country.

“Mr Jackson is known and adored – ’adored’ is not too strong a word – in many of the countries of Europe, the Near East and Africa,” the prosecution said in a motion.

“Several of those countries do not have extradition treaties with the United States.”

Jackson, 45, has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

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