Neverland manager says search excessive
By LINDA DEUTSCH
AP SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The property manager of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch testified Friday that sheriff's deputies who came to search the ranch for evidence last year wanted to look in areas that were not specified in a search warrant.
Joseph Marcus took the witness stand during a pretrial hearing as the defense sought to prove authorities went overboard when they swept into the estate on Nov. 18, 2003.
Marcus said he initially cooperated when the battalion of investigators arrived.
"I worked with them all day," he said, adding that he studied the search warrant they presented to make sure he admitted them only to the areas specified.
He said he agreed to let them into Jackson's office and a few other areas that were not on the search warrant when they said they were doing so only to establish that the locations were secure and no one was there.
"I cooperated and opened the door, but then they decided they wanted to do a search," Marcus testified. "I objected because it was not in the scope of the search warrant."
A deputy told him he would call and have the search warrant amended, but Marcus said that was not done as far as he knows and added that he was also pressured to answer questions by authorities.
"I initially refused to and said I wasn't really interested," Marcus said. "I said, 'Do I have to answer questions?' and they said, 'No, if you have nothing to hide.' I said there's nothing to hide here. It is what it is."
Friday's testimony came at a pretrial hearing in which defense attorneys are trying to limit the evidence prosecutors can produce at the entertainer's Jan. 31 trial.
Defense attorneys argue that the search of Neverland, which lasted 15 hours and involved about 40 officers, was overly broad and unjustified.
A prosecutor asked Marcus about whether alcohol was served at Neverland and the witness said it was not. The judge halted questioning on the topic after the defense objected that it was off the point of the hearing.
Before Marcus took the stand, Cochran questioned sheriff's Detective Paul Zelis, who directed the search, and noted deputies seized a magazine on which was written the phone number of Mohamed Al Fayed.
"We had a person (by that name) involved in this investigation and it was in plain view," the deputy said.
Mohamed Al Fayed is the father of Dodi Al Fayed, who was killed in a car crash with Britain's Princess Diana. There was no further elaboration on how the elder Al Fayed may have been involved in the Jackson case.
Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.
On Thursday, Jackson's elegant home was placed on display in the courtroom as defense attorneys showed a judge videotapes of the November raid.
And the defense elicited testimony from the stepfather of Jackson's accuser that validated what had long been rumored - that the accuser's family sought payment from Jackson for appearing in a video designed to restore Jackson's reputation.
The stepfather, identified as "Mr. Doe" to shield his stepson's identity, portrayed himself as the moving force behind efforts to obtain payment from Jackson's people.
He said he told an unspecified "gentleman from Neverland" that his family "has nothing and you're making millions from this and what are you going to do for this little family?'"
He said the person offered to provide a college education and buy the family a house.
His testimony appeared to bolster defense contentions that the accuser's family tried to shake down Jackson for money. Lawyers for Jackson claim the molestation accusations came when no payment was made.
In another development Thursday, Jackson, with the judge's approval, released a brief statement on his Web site railing at critics he said have targeted him and his family with lies and ridicule. The statement did not mention the charges he is facing.
"We have watched as we have been vilified and humiliated," Jackson said. "I personally have suffered through many hurtful lies and references to me as 'Wacko Jacko' as well as the latest untruth about me fathering quadruplets."
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