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It's been two years in the making. Potential guest-star appearances by Elizabeth Taylor and Macaulay Culkin. A showdown between a pair of old foes.
Even in a media age flush with celebrity trials, and trials that make celebrities of its defendants, the Michael Jackson case stands alone.
Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday in Santa Maria, California, in the music legend's child-molestation trial.
Here's a synopsis of the drama and its players.
The Defendant: Michael Joe Jackson, 46, father of three, ex-husband of two, winner of 13 Grammys, including one for Best Recording for Children in honor of his narration for the storybook album E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
The Accuser: A boy, identified in court documents as John Doe, now 15, from Los Angeles, who, at age 11, had his left kidney and spleen removed because of cancer.
The Charges: A 10-count grand-jury indictment was handed down against Jackson on Apr. 21, 2004. In it, the singer was accused of committing lewd acts with the boy, then 13 (five counts), serving him alcohol (four counts) and conspiring to hold the child and his family against their will (one count). The indictment superseded a nine-count criminal complaint filed against Jackson on Dec. 18, 2003.
Jackson's Charge Against the Charges: The singer and his team have branded the allegations a "big lie," "disgusting," "totally false" and the criminal probe the result of a D.A. "blinded by zeal." Jackson formally pleaded not guilty to the indictment on Apr. 30, 2004, and pleaded innocent to the earlier criminal complaint on Jan. 16, 2004. He is free on $3 million bail.
Jackson's Most Metaphorical Charge Against the Charges: "Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons," as excerpted from a Jackson statement of Nov. 20, 2003.
The Stakes: If convicted on all 10 counts, Jackson faces upward of 20 years in prison.
The Prosecutor: Thomas W. Sneddon Jr., 63, married father of nine, district attorney of Santa Barbara County, California, since 1983. Known as "Mad Dog" to courtroom adversaries, "Snuffy" to friends and "Dom Sheldon" to Jackson, who serenaded the D.A. in the 1995 song, "D.S.," featuring the lyrics "Dom Sheldon is a cold man," although as sung, the refrain sounds suspiciously like, "Tom Sneddon is a cold man."
The Bad Blood Between Jackson and Sneddon Explained: Sneddon led the 1993-94 child-molestation investigation against Jackson. That case was based on allegations made by a 12-year-old boy. Sneddon dropped the case when the child stopped cooperating with his office.
The Defense Attorney: Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., 54, namesake partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Collins, Mesereau & Reddock. At Harvard, boxed and earned his undergraduate degree. Previously helped pugilist Mike Tyson fend off a 2001 rape allegation and represented murder defendant Robert Blake for three months before parting ways with the actor in February 2004 and signing up with Jackson, who parted ways with Mark Geragos in April 2004.
The Judge: Rodney S. Melville, 63, presiding over Department SM2 in the Cook Division of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria. The anti-Judge Ito, Melville has ordered all participants in the Jackson case to shut up or be held in contempt, banned cameras from the courtroom, sealed grand-jury testimony and resisted releasing documents to the public and press until they've been Sharpie'd beyond comprehension.
The Jury: Eight women, four men, ranging in age from 79 to 20. The majority of the jurors are white and Hispanic. There is one Asian and no blacks, although an African-American man is among the eight alternates. (Santa Barbara County, where Jackson's Neverland Ranch is located, is predominately white, with just a five percent African-American population.) Work-wise, Jackson's designated peers include a pair of store clerks, a pair of retirees, a horse trainer, a wheelchair-bound man who once visited Neverland as a child and an employee with the county's Social Services Department.
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The Guest Stars: Names broached as potential defense witnesses include: Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker, Rush Hour director Brett Ratner, Thriller producer Quincy Jones, Jay Leno, basketball star Kobe Bryant, illusionist David Blaine, 60 Minutes stalwart Ed Bradley and former child stars Macaulay (Home Alone) Culkin and Emmanuel (Webster) Lewis. Corey Feldman, a former child star in his own Goonies right, has been subpoenaed by the prosecution. Feldman told ABC News that Jackson showed him naked pictures of women when he was a teen. In the courtroom seats, look for a sizable number of Jacksons, from parents Joseph and Katherine to siblings Janet and Jermaine.
The Bystanders: The Santa Maria courthouse is flanked most days by reporters and a hard-core mix of Michael Jackson fans, Michael Jackson impersonators, Michael Jackson button-selling entrepreneurs and children's-book author and anti-child-abuse activist Diane Hansen, of Redondo Beach, California, who wears a yellow rain slicker and shouts, "Those are my private parts!" over and over again thereby vexing Michael Jackson fans, impersonators and button-selling entrepreneurs.
Trial Moment to Watch For: The day Jackson's accuser takes the stand. Per Judge Melville's ruling, the boy must testify in open court and face the man he once called "Daddy Michael."
Trial Moment to Possibly Skip Altogether: The day Jackson's accuser takes the stand. If his trial testimony is anything like the grand-jury testimony, it will be full of squirm-inducing details. According to documents posted by the Smoking Gun, the boy has said Jackson got him drunk, masturbated him and then showed him the hamper in which to deposit his stained Hanes.
The Comedy Club Connection: Jackson and his accuser were hooked up by Jamie Masada, owner of Los Angeles' Laugh Factory. Masada was trying to bolster the spirits of the then ill child by introducing him to celebrities. Jackson first spoke to the boy by telephone while the child was hospitalized and undergoing chemotherapy, the accuser told the grand jury.
The TV Special That Started It All: Living with Michael Jackson, a British-produced documentary by journalist Martin Bashir. The two-hour program aired on ABC on Feb. 6, 2003, and attracted an audience of 27.1 million. In it, Jackson holds hands with his future accuser and talks of how he sleeps with children--in an innocent and nonsexual way.
The Allegation Timeline: Within a week of its broadcast, social workers in Los Angeles launch a Jackson investigation. The case is closed and charges of sexual abuse declared "unfounded" when the boy and his family insist Jackson has done nothing wrong. The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, which later led the charge against Jackson, initially reaches a similar conclusion, according to Celebrity Justice. But then, per the indictment, the molestation and under-age-alcohol-imbibing occurs between Feb. 20 and Mar. 12, 2003--weeks after Living with Michael Jackson first aired. The conspiracy plot allegedly was carried out from Feb. 1 to Mar. 31, 2003.
The Day All Hell Broke Loose: On Nov. 18, 2003, police swarmed Jackson's Neverland Ranch, seizing 300 items. A day later, Santa Barbara County authorities issued a warrant for Jackson's arrest.
The Underpants Raid: Items reputedly seized at Neverland and other locations for potential use as evidence include: adult magazines, books and DVDs, which, per a ruling by Judge Melville, must be referred to as "sexually explicit" and not pornographic during trial; two pairs of Jackson-worn Calvin Klein briefs; and letters from Jackson to members of his Rubberhead Club for boys.
The Porn, Sorry, Sexually-Explicit Connection: The prosecution is expected to argue that Jackson enticed the boy at the center of the case by showing him pictures of naked women.
The Libation Allegation: According to the accuser's grand-jury testimony, Jackson got him woozy on "Jesus Juice" (white wine in a Diet Coke can), Skyy vodka and Jim Beam. A former Jackson flight attendant told the grand jury that the entertainer indeed preferred his vino served in soda cans and his vineyard of choice was "yucky Kendall Jackson."
The Mugshot: After flying in from Las Vegas (a chartered excursion that resulted in lawsuits and a criminal probe when it was discovered a hidden video camera had been rolling), Jackson surrendered to police on Nov. 20, 2003. He was handcuffed, fingerprinted and seated for a booking photo that quickly proved itself a must-click and helped crash the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department's Website.
The Matter of "Doo-Doo": In a Dec. 28, 2003, interview on 60 Minutes, Jackson told Ed Bradley he was "manhandled" by sheriff's deputies and locked in a "doo-doo"-smeared restroom on the day of his arrest. Later, California's attorney general's office said Jackson's claims couldn't be proved.
The Distinction Between "Doo-Doo" and "Doo-Doo Head": Per Jackson, "doo-doo" is bad when smeared on walls. According to his accuser's grand-jury testimony, "doo-doo head" is a term of endearment as used by Jackson toward the boy and others. The phrase was coined by Macaulay Culkin.
The Arraignment-a-Go-Go: Jackson's first courtroom appearance, on Jan. 16, 2004, was more party-like than procedural. In rock-star fashion, Jackson arrived 20 minutes late and, after pleading innocent to the original criminal complaint, boogied atop his stretch SUV. Later, he bussed fans to Neverland for "refreshments."
Something You Didn't Know About the Santa Maria Courthouse: It's adjacent to a children's ball field.
Potential Prosecution Problem: The accuser, his family--and their credibility. The singer's camp has long portrayed the Does as being on the make for money. Items the defense seem certain to mention in court: the 1999 lawsuit against JC Penney in which the accuser's mother alleged she was fondled by a security guard while being investigated for shoplifting (the $3 million case was settled out of court); and the 1996 claim by the accuser, then seven, that his mother beat him--an allegation MSNBC reported later was recanted by the boy.
Potential Defense Problem: The $25 million Jackson paid out in the 1990s to "buy peace" and settle two molestation claims. Under California law, jurors can be informed of prior child-abuse allegations against a defendant, even if the allegations were never proved. Items the prosecution seem certain to mention in court: the $23 million settlement with the family of the boy from the 1993-94 case; and the $2 million offered to the family of a former Neverland worker whose son said Jackson touched him.
What Geraldo Thinks: Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who conducted a TV interview with Jackson this month, said he believes the entertainer is "innocent" and the case against him "fatally flawed." Rivera is so certain Jackson will be cleared that the fair and balanced telejournalist has vowed to shave his mustache if his pal is convicted.
Where LaToya Stands: Like Rivera, LaToya Jackson thinks her sibling is "innocent." Per an interview with 20/20, she also thinks he's "sweet" and "misunderstood."
What the Former Mrs. Jacksons Have to Say: Ex-wife number one, Lisa Marie Presley, told an Australian talk show in 2004 that she ended their 1994-96 marriage because she was "seeing things going on that I couldn't do anything about." She later clarified her remarks, noting she was not referring to Jackson acting inappropriately with children. Meanwhile, ex-wife number two, Debbie Rowe, has declined all comment on the case. The mother of two of Jackson's three children, though, is said to be gearing up for a custody battle with her former husband and is on the list of potential prosecution witnesses.
Why R. Kelly Probably Won't Be Spotted in Court: In January 2004, R&B singer R. Kelly, facing his own child-pornography case, was granted court approval to go to Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards--provided he didn't meet up with Jackson while he was in town. Kelly and Jackson collaborated on a song for Jackson's Number Ones release, "One More Chance," but Kelly's attorney said his client had no intention of trading notes with the pop star at the awards show.
Why Edward Moss Will Be Spotted in Court: Moss is the 27-year-old actor and Michael Jackson stand-in hired by E! and British Sky Broadcasting to portray the entertainer in a series of trial reenactments, beginning with opening arguments. The Michael Jackson Trial, brought to you in part by Judge Melville's no-cameras-in-the-courtroom edict, is scheduled to air on E! on weeknights at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT), with a weekend wrap-up show airing each Saturday. (E! Online is a division of E! Networks.)