Jay Leno Testifies Michael Jackson's Accuser Was Suspicious, But Never Asked For Cash
(SANTA MARIA, Calif.) -- After cracking Michael Jackson jokes for months, Jay Leno played it straight for the most part Tuesday at the pop star's child molestation trial, testifying that the boy at the center of the case sounded scripted over the telephone but never asked for money.
The defense called the "Tonight Show" comic to the stand to support its claim that the boy's family schemed to get money from celebrities like Jackson. The boy was suffering from cancer when he telephoned Leno.
Later in the day, the defense called actor Chris Tucker to the stand and said he would be their last witness, indicating Jackson will not testify. Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. fueled speculation the pop singer might take the stand in opening statements, when he said jurors would hear from Jackson on certain issues.
Tucker remained on the stand at the end of the day and was scheduled to complete his testimony Wednesday.
Initially serious and understated on the witness stand, Leno warmed up during his testimony, occasionally smiling, and finished with a lighthearted promo: "We have Renee Zellweger on the show tonight."
Leno made a few other wisecracks that made members of the jury laugh.
"I'm not Batman," he joked as he explained why he thought it odd that a boy would be calling a comedian in his mid-50s to tell him he was the youngster's hero.
Leno -- who on Monday night's show joked that a heat wave had him "sweating like a Cub Scout" at Jackson's Neverland Ranch -- said that he grew suspicious when he began receiving repeated voice mail messages from the boy in 2000.
Leno said the boy left so many messages that he finally approached comedian Louise Palanker, a friend who had become acquainted with the boy.
"I said, 'What's the story here? This doesn't sound like a 12-year-old. This seems a little scripted,"' Leno testified. He said Palanker told him the boy wanted to be a comedian and writes out everything he says.
Leno testified he makes many calls to ill children, and at one point did an imitation of the mumbly way children usually speak to him -- not the kind of forceful, adult presentation he said he heard from Jackson's accuser.
But Leno said the boy never asked for money and he never gave him any, though he did send "Tonight Show" memorabilia and a picture.
The defense has said Leno was so concerned about the boy's calls that he called police, but Leno said Tuesday it was police who contacted him. He said he probably did tell police he believed the family was looking for money.
"In the business I'm in you hear from a lot of crazy people and I'm reluctant to follow up. But when it's a child I do follow up," he testified.
Later Tuesday, Tucker testified that he met Jackson's accuser after the boy's father introduced himself at a comedy club and asked him to take part in a benefit.
Tucker said that a few days after the benefit, the boy told him it hadn't made any money, so Tucker wired "probably $1,500 or more" to a foundation for the family.
Mesereau asked Tucker if he believed the money was for medical expenses.
"I was hoping it was for that," Tucker said.
Tucker, sidekick to Jackie Chan in the "Rush Hour" movies, said he also took the boy's family to an amusement park and on shopping trips to a mall.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary about the pop star.
The defense also called Mary Holzer, a paralegal at a law firm that handled a lawsuit by the accuser's family. The family accused guards at J.C. Penney of roughing them up after the boy left a store with clothes that had not been paid for. The family received a $152,000 settlement.
Holzer said the mother at one point told her the injuries she claimed to have received from the guards were inflicted by her then-husband. Holzer said she told the mother she could not lie, and the mother responded with a threat.
The mother claimed that her brother-in-law was is in the Mexican Mafia and "that she knows where I live and they would come and kill me and my 9-year-old daughter," Holzer said.
The accuser's mother previously testified that Holzer was dishonest and a huge Jackson fan.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)