Jackson's Ex-Maid Takes Stand

Times Staff Writers

A former housekeeper for Michael Jackson testified Tuesday that the pop star regularly slept with a young Australian boy and that she once found the two showering together.

The woman, who worked as Jackson's personal maid from 1986 to 1991, said she also saw Jackson share his bed with child actor Macaulay Culkin and that she once found Jackson and her son, who was about 8, together in a sleeping bag. She said she never saw Jackson inappropriately touch any of the children.

The testimony came as prosecutors continued to present evidence of past conduct by Jackson, which they hope will persuade jurors to believe a cancer survivor who alleges Jackson molested him in 2003, when he was 13.

The Australian boy, who met Jackson as part of a prize for winning a dance competition at age 5, became a frequent visitor to Jackson's Neverland ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley and appeared in three of the singer's music videos by age 9. The boy stayed at the ranch for weeks at a time and slept in Jackson's bedroom while his mother slept in a guest room, the woman said.

Once, when she was cleaning Jackson's bedroom, she said, she saw Jackson and a child she believes was the Australian boy in the shower. The boy's neon-green Spider-Man underwear was on the floor near Jackson's white briefs, she said. She said she was familiar with their undergarments from doing their laundry.

On two other occasions, she saw Jackson and the boy in bed together watching television. They were partially under the covers and "both were nude from the waist up," she said.

Now a successful choreographer, the young man is expected to testify as a defense witness and say that Jackson did not touch him inappropriately. The Australian boy appeared on a Los Angeles news broadcast in 1993, when Jackson first faced allegations of sexual molestation, and said he and the pop singer had slept in the same bed but that nothing sexual had happened.

Culkin, star of the "Home Alone" movies, also regularly visited Neverland, sometimes with his parents and siblings and sometimes by himself, the woman said. She said Culkin would sleep in Jackson's bedroom and that his siblings would join them when they came along for visits.

In an interview with CNN's "Larry King Live" last year, Culkin said Jackson had never touched him inappropriately. The actor is also expected to testify for the defense.

In court, the former maid said she became concerned about the pop star's behavior with her own son, whom she often took to work at Jackson's request. The son, now 24, testified Monday that Jackson had sexually fondled him three times when he was a child, the first time about 18 years ago.

In 1986, the former maid said, she saw her son sitting on Jackson's lap watching television while she was cleaning the singer's Encino home. She said she lifted her son off of Jackson. Another time, while working at Jackson's Wilshire Boulevard condominium, she found her son in a sleeping bag with Jackson.

Once, she said, her son showed her two $100 bills that he said Jackson had given him. The son testified that Jackson had twice given him a $100 bill after molesting him.

"He said: 'Michael said it's for me and not to tell you,' " she said.

Jackson, 46, is charged under a grand jury indictment with four counts of molesting the 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, four counts of furnishing alcohol to the boy to aid in a crime, attempted child molestation and conspiracy. If convicted of the 10 felony counts, he could face more than 20 years in prison.

Jackson's lawyer, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., tried to portray the former housekeeper as an unreliable employee with a penchant for petty larceny. He asked her about being late to work numerous times, about rummaging through a fellow employee's purse and about her taking a watch from Jackson's room.

She said the watch, bearing Jackson's image, was a promotional item worth about $10. When the singer noticed it on her wrist, she said she told him she had picked it out of a pile of similar items in his room. He said that was OK, she added.

She acknowledged going through the employee's purse -- not to steal, she said, but to peek at her paycheck to find out how much she was being paid.

Under questioning, the former maid also acknowledged that Jackson had occasionally given her extra money -- as much as $5,000 in gifts, a few hundred dollars at a time. Despite financial problems from back taxes and aggressive creditors, she said she had never asked the singer for assistance.

Two years after she left Neverland, the woman received $20,000 for an interview with the tabloid-television show "Hard Copy." She said she was surprised and upset by the interviewer's questions about Jackson's fondness for young boys.

"I thought it was going to be about me working" at Neverland, she testified.

Mesereau pointed out that the woman had destroyed the contract she signed with the show's producers, and suggested that she was advised to do so by Los Angeles attorney Larry Feldman. The woman had met with Feldman in connection with a deposition she gave supporting a lawsuit by one of his clients, a 13-year-old Los Angeles boy who alleged that Jackson had molested him in 1993.

That lawsuit resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement for the alleged victim. The maid and her son reportedly received about $2 million from Jackson for agreeing not to sue.

In her 1993 deposition, she told investigators that she had never seen Jackson improperly touch or molest anyone and did not mention the shower incident. But in court Tuesday, she held firm to her account of seeing Jackson and the Australian boy in the shower at Neverland.

"At the time I guess I was tired and nervous," she said of the deposition.

While she admitted that she saw only Jackson through the fogged glass shower door, she said he and the boy were inside.

"I heard the laughing and the talking and the playing," she said. "I heard two voices."

Throughout his questioning, Mesereau conveyed to jurors a vision of Jackson as a surrogate big brother who enjoyed hours of innocent horseplay with boys and young teenagers.

He noted that seriously ill children on trips sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation would "crowd and climb all over Mr. Jackson" on outings to Neverland.

"You've seen him tickling and playing with lots of children, right?" Mesereau asked the former maid.

She agreed -- but only partly.

"Playing," she said. "Not tickling."

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