After 15 months of legal wrangling, both Michael Jackson and his young accuser finally got their day in court on Monday, as both prosecution and defense delivered their opening statements. According to reports of the trial from CNN and the Associated Press, Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon detailed the charges against the singer, saying that Jackson had molested the boy and threatened to kill his mother if he told anyone. Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. called the accuser’s mother a grifter who had tried to exploit her cancer-stricken son to scam money from numerous other celebrities before targeting the erstwhile King of Pop.
Sneddon gave a three-hour opening statement in which he said that the boy, now 15, would testify as to how Jackson plied him with alcohol, showed him pornography, and molested him. Sneddon also said that Jackson and his associates were so desperate to undo the public-relations damage from Martin Bashir’s 2003 documentary Living With Michael Jackson (in which the accuser and his brother appeared as Neverland guests, as Jackson acknowledged sharing his bed with visiting children) that they schemed to imprison the boy and his family in return for his appearance in the Jackson camp’s video rebutting the Bashir film.
Mesereau said that the singer’s involvement with the family was motivated solely by altruism, and that the boy’s mother had tried to extort money from such celebrities as Jay Leno, George Lopez, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Mike Tyson, and Jackson pal Chris Tucker. The defense attorney said she decided to extort money from Jackson as well after the family received no money in return for participating in the rebuttal video. Mesereau spoke for two hours before the court recessed for the day, with his opening statement set to resume on Tuesday.