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Jackson Feuds May Taint Latest Testimony

Times Staff Writer

A familiar theme played out for jurors in the Michael Jackson child-molestation trial Tuesday: significant prosecution witnesses’ personal feuds with the pop star could damage their credibility.

First up for the Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office was Cynthia C. Montgomery, a travel agent who said a Jackson aide told her to book one-way tickets to Brazil for the family of the cancer survivor who alleges the singer molested him in 2003, when he was 13.

The testimony seemed to support the prosecution’s contention that Jackson conspired to hold the family members against their will and hide them from the media after a British documentary raised questions about his relationship with the teenage boy.

But within moments, Jackson lawyer Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. pointed out that Montgomery is being investigated by the FBI for apparently making a secret videotape of Jackson on a chartered flight.

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Montgomery conceded that she agreed to testify only after the prosecution granted her immunity, meaning nothing she said in court could be used against her.

“If you did not receive a grant of immunity, you wouldn’t testify, correct?” Mesereau asked.

“Um, per my lawyer’s instructions,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery acknowledged that she and Jackson were suing each other over a November 2003 flight from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara, where he surrendered to sheriff’s deputies.

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In an effort to shore up the conspiracy charges, Hamid Moslehi, Jackson’s former photographer and videographer, testified that a Jackson aide told him in February 2003 that the accuser and his family were not allowed to leave Jackson’s Neverland ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.

But jurors learned later that Jackson fired Moslehi, who went on to sue to collect more than $250,000 that he said the entertainer owed him for past work.

Three earlier witnesses who testified to seeing Jackson in compromising situations with young boys also were forced to concede on the stand that they had unsuccessfully sued him, ending up owing him $1.4 million.

Mesereau suggested they were seeking revenge by testifying against the singer. He used the same tactic Tuesday on Montgomery, insinuating that if Jackson is convicted, she stands to benefit in her civil lawsuit. Montgomery countered that a guilty verdict would hurt her lawsuit, but she didn’t explain how.

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The testimony came in what is expected to be the final week of the prosecution’s case. Jackson, 46, is charged with four counts of molestation, four counts of giving a minor alcohol, attempted molestation and conspiracy. If convicted, he could face more than 20 years in prison.


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