Gary Susman
April 14, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Over the course of her testimony on Wednesday and Thursday, the mother of Michael Jackson’s accuser painted a picture of Neverland staffers as virtual jailers, all but imprisoning the woman and her sons in an effort to get them to praise Jackson in a damage-control video meant to rebut the unflattering Martin Bashir documentary that aired on ABC in Feb. 2003. According to CNN and wire service reports, she said Jackson associates had secluded the family at Neverland, whisked them to Florida and back, and had arranged for passports and international airline tickets to spirit them out of the country, telling her such measures were necessary to protect her son from unspecified death threats. As a result, she felt confused and coerced when she finally agreed to speak fondly of Jackson, both to his videographer and to social workers who came to interview the family after watching the Bashir film.

”Please don’t judge me,” said the woman, sobbing, as she described how she allegedly saw Jackson lick her son’s head during a flight from Miami but didn’t take any action in response. She’d had so little sleep, she explained, that ”I thought I was seeing things. I thought it was me.”

The mother’s testimony underscored the prosecution’s conspiracy charges against Jackson. (He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, as well as to charges that he molested the boy and gave him alcohol.) The defense has tried to portray her as a liar and grifter who targeted wealthy celebrities by exploiting her son’s cancer, but Judge Rodney Melville issued a ruling earlier in the week that allowed her to refuse on Fifth Amendment grounds not to answer defense questions about welfare fraud allegations against her, a ruling that made it harder for Jackson’s lawyers to impugn her credibility.

She said Jackson told the family ”that he’s going to protect us from those killers,” she said. “And you know what? They ended up being the killers.”

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