Originally created 05/25/05

Leno testifies Jackson's accuser was suspicious



SANTA MARIA, Calif. - "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno testified Tuesday that the boy who is now accusing Michael Jackson of molestation was "overly effusive" and sounded suspicious in phone calls to him, but never asked for money.

Jackson's defense called Leno, who regularly skewers Jackson in his monologues, to support its claim that the boy's family schemed to get money from celebrities.

"I wasn't asked for any money nor did I send any," Leno said.

Leno testified that he makes 15 to 20 calls a week to children who are ill, and he began receiving voice mail messages from Jackson's accuser, a cancer patient, around 2000.

Leno said the boy called him his hero, and he thought it was strange that a young boy would be such a fan of a comedian who is in his 50s.

"I'm not Batman. It seemed a little unusual," Leno said.

The defense has said that Leno became so suspicious that he called Santa Barbara police to say he believed the family was looking for a "mark." But Leno said it was police who contacted him, though it was unclear why.

The comic said he probably did tell police that it sounded like the family was seeking money.

"It sounded suspicious when a young person got overly effusive," Leno said. "It just didn't click with me."

The comic said he once heard a voice in the background but said he wasn't sure if it was the boy's mother, a nurse or someone else. Defense attorneys have suggested that Leno heard the mother in the background coaching her son.

Leno said the calls ended when he asked comedian Louise Palanker, a friend who had become acquainted with the boy, to intercede.

Before he left the stand Leno put in a plug for Tuesday night's show, saying, "We have Renee Zellweger."

He dedicated much of his "Tonight Show" monologue Monday night to the Jackson trial.

Noting he has often poked fun at Jackson's expense, Leno quipped: "I was called by the defense. Apparently they've never seen this program." Referring to the heat wave gripping Southern California, Leno said he's been "sweating like a Cub Scout" at Jackson's Neverland Ranch.

Defense attorneys say Leno was one of several celebrities - including Jackson - who the accuser's family tried to bilk out of money. Comedian Chris Tucker also is among remaining defense witnesses.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy in February or March 2003 when he was 13, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy's family captive to get them to rebut a documentary in which the boy appeared with Jackson as the entertainer said he let children into his bed for innocent, non-sexual sleepovers.

The defense also called a woman who was a paralegal at a law firm that handled a lawsuit by the accuser's family that led to a $152,000 settlement from J.C. Penney.

The lawsuit claimed store security guards physically abused the family and groped the mother after the accuser walked out of a store without paying for clothes.

Paralegal Mary Holzer said the mother once told her the injuries she claimed to have received from the guards were inflicted by her then-husband on the night of the store incident. Holzer said she told the mother she couldn't lie, but the mother then threatened her life.

"She told me that (her husband's) brother... is in the Mexican mafia... and that she knows where I live and they would come and kill me and my 9-year-old daughter," Holzer said.

She said she never reported what the mother said about her injuries because she was terrified. When the mother testified, she said Holzer was dishonest and a huge Michael Jackson fan.

AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.