Mother of Accuser Said to Have Praised Jackson
The mother of Michael Jackson’s teenage accuser was eager to sing the pop star’s praises in a video tribute and looked forward to a family vacation in Brazil with the performer, according to a close family friend who testified Thursday at Jackson’s child-molestation trial.
The testimony contradicted the mother’s account. In her court appearances, she had said that Jackson’s associates forced her to appear in the video by issuing death threats and planned to have her and her children vanish in Brazil.
The testimony by Azja Pryor was yet another attack by the defense on the credibility of the mother, whom they have portrayed as a con artist trying to tap into Jackson’s millions with a phony molestation claim from her son.
Earlier in the day, the defense was thwarted in its effort to present testimony from TV personality Larry King.
In a hearing outside the presence of the jury, King said that Los Angeles attorney Larry Feldman had described the mother as “a wacko” over breakfast at Nate ‘n Al’s Delicatessen in Beverly Hills.
Feldman, whose firm has done some legal tasks for the mother and her children, said the woman “was in it for the money,” King testified.
However, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville ruled that jurors could not hear the testimony because King was merely relaying Feldman’s opinion rather than verifiable facts.
Despite the loss of King’s testimony, the defense scored a number of points with Pryor, a Hollywood casting assistant who has been romantically linked with comedian Chris Tucker.
In her testimony, Pryor described the mother as an emotionally needy woman who was “always either excited or sad.”
Pryor, the mother of a 6-year-old son with Tucker, said she and the comic got to know the woman and her three children after a benefit for the cancer-stricken boy, who eventually accused Jackson of molesting him at the singer’s Neverland ranch.
They took the family under their wing, treating them to an outing at Knott’s Berry Farm and a trip to Oakland for a Raiders game, and inviting them to a relative’s wedding. Pryor said she became the mother’s confidante, acting as a sympathetic listener in countless phone conversations.
At one point in her testimony, Pryor broke into tears, explaining, “It’s hard for me because I really love the kids a lot.”
In February 2003, Pryor said the mother called her from the video shoot where she and her children lavishly praised Jackson as a warm, wise, humble, loving, father-like presence.
The so-called rebuttal video was meant to counter a damaging British TV documentary in which Jackson admitted to being fond of non-sexual sleepovers with young boys. One of those boys was the 13-year-old recovering cancer patient, who was pictured holding hands with Jackson and resting his head on the singer’s shoulder.
The mother “seemed happy” at the video session, Pryor testified, saying the woman was eager to tell the world that the relationship between Jackson and her son “was nothing more than a beautiful friendship.”
A few weeks later, Pryor said, the mother also seemed happy over plans for the trip to Brazil. She said that she, Jackson and their respective children would be attending Carnival, the Brazilian holiday celebration, and asked Pryor if she would like to come along.
About a month later, though, the mother changed her mind, citing her children’s extended absence from school and uncertainty over just where the family would stay in Brazil, Pryor testified.
The mother also told Pryor in a conversation in March 2003 that two Jackson aides were rude to her and tried to keep her and her children from seeing the singer, the witness said.
“They won’t let us around him because they know the children tug at his heartstrings,” the woman said, according to Pryor.
The March conversation took place during the period when prosecutors allege the molestations occurred, between Feb. 20 and March 12.
In addition to child molestation, Jackson is charged with conspiring to hold the family members against their will in order to force their participation in the rebuttal video.
In his cross-examination, Dist. Atty. Tom Sneddon acknowledged that some people who encountered the woman and her children were put off by their habit of hugging strangers when they first met.
He painted the mother as naive and reminded jurors that she was a deeply religious woman from an impoverished background who had been regularly beaten by her husband of 17 years.
However, Pryor was certain that the mother never had mentioned her alleged imprisonment at Neverland while it was happening.
Asked by defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau whether the mother ever told her that “Michael Jackson was in a conspiracy to commit crimes against her family,” she replied swiftly.
“Absolutely not,” Pryor said.