Originally created 05/21/05

Judge considering sanction of Jackson attorney

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The judge in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial said Friday he may sanction lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. for misrepresenting the terms under which the pop star waived confidentiality with former lawyer Mark Geragos.

"I feel deceived by Mr. Mesereau and I am considering... sanctions of some sort against Mr. Mesereau," Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said in a hearing before Geragos resumed testifying.

Jackson waived attorney-client privilege only for the period up until his arrest in November 2003, but that limit was not disclosed until Geragos mentioned it while testifying last week.

The prosecution and the judge were surprised by the limitation, and at the time Mesereau apologized, saying he had not thought the period after arrest was relevant.

When testimony resumed, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen asked Geragos about surveillance conducted on the accuser's family by a private investigator, Bradley Miller.

Geragos said he hired the investigator because he was concerned the family might go to tabloids to sell a false story or to an attorney to try to sue Jackson.

"I told him, 'Find out who they're meeting with and what they're doing,'" Geragos said.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, plying him with wine and conspiring to hold the boy's family captive. Prosecutors said he wanted them to rebut a TV documentary in which Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed, but it was non-sexual.

Prosecutors have shown surveillance videotapes to suggest that Jackson and his associates were plotting to hold the family captive, and the mother has testified she feared her parents and her boyfriend would be in danger if she didn't cooperate with Jackson.

Zonen tried to link Miller to the alleged captivity conspiracy by asking Geragos if he knew that an employee of Miller threw rocks at the home of the accuser's grandparents, an incident that the accuser's grandmother and sister alleged in their testimony.

"I don't send people out to throw stones at people's houses," Geragos said.

Geragos' testimony was marked by snippy exchanges between him and Zonen, and the judge at one point chided the prosecutor for approaching the witness stand too often without permission.

Geragos began testifying on May 13 but was granted a one-week delay before returning because of his obligations to other cases.

Prosecutors argued that Geragos should be required to testify about the period after the arrest, but the judge ruled that Geragos would only have to testify about the period allowed by the waiver.

Although defense attorneys argued they had given a copy of the waiver to the prosecution and judge's clerk, Melville said he believed Mesereau misrepresented the waiver in his statements in open court.

The judge said he could have stricken Geragos' testimony from the record but didn't think that was viable because jurors had already heard it and were likely to remember it.

On Thursday, Jackson's legal team scored a victory as jurors were allowed to see a video tour of the singer's Neverland ranch that District Attorney Tom Sneddon called "propaganda."

Jurors saw idyllic scenes of amusement park rides, cheerful workers, zoo animals, blooming flowers, and statues of boys and girls at play.

The video also showed numerous clocks, apparently countering testimony by family members of Jackson's accuser that they were unable to keep track of time while allegedly being held captive at the ranch.

Melville permitted the viewing over the opposition of Sneddon, who argued that it was designed to make Jackson look good. He cited a scene of a chalkboard containing a note by one of Jackson's children that said "I love you daddy."

AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.


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