'Children ran wild at Neverland'
A former housekeeper for Michael Jackson testified at the entertainer’s molestation trial that she called his Neverland ranch “Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island” because children were allowed to run wild without adult supervision.
Kiki Fournier said on Thursday that on several occasions she saw children who appeared to be intoxicated, and that many young guests became rowdy and unruly. She said they included Jackson’s accuser and his brother, who trashed their living quarters toward the end of their stay.
Only motions were to be heard in court on Friday and the judge said Jackson did not have to be present.
Fournier named nine boys between the ages of 10 and 14—including actor Macaulay Culkin—who became close friends of Jackson and spent lots of time at the ranch during her intermittent tenure from 1991 until she left in September 2003.
Under questioning by deputy district attorney Gordon Auchincloss, the witness said children became wilder when they were allowed “free rein” at Neverland, which has an amusement park, arcade, trains and a zoo.
The former housekeeper said she saw Jackson at the dinner table with some children who appeared to be intoxicated, and another time she saw him at an outbuilding with local children, including some who appeared intoxicated. She said, however, that she never saw Jackson give alcohol to a minor.
She described Jackson as an indulgent host and suggested children took advantage of him.
“With the absence of an authority figure, these children became wild, and without their parents there, this became like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island,” she said.
Jackson (46) is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient in late February or early March 2003.
He also is accused of giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold him, his brother, sister and mother captive to get them to make a video rebutting a February 6 2003 documentary in which Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed but that it was innocent.
On cross-examination by Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jnr, Fournier gave a vivid description of how the boy and his brother wreaked havoc in the guest quarters assigned to them. She said the destruction increased just before the family left Neverland for the last time on March 12 2003.
But even before that, she said, the boy and his brother had “become demanding”.
She said they never seemed to like what was being served for dinner and would demand something different.
“There was no respect,” she said.
She also said she once summoned another maid to see the mess in the room where the two boys stayed.
“They were always sloppy,” she said. “But toward the end, things were broken and it was a mess. ... There were things spilled, the refrigerator was a mess. It was like someone had gone in there like a tornado.”
Mesereau asked if it appeared to her that in the two weeks before the family left Neverland, the boys had been sleeping in their own quarters.
Fournier said she assumed they were, given how the place looked.
The prosecution contends the accuser was molested by Jackson in the pop star’s bedroom during the family’s last weeks at Neverland.
The defence contends the boy and his family were evicted from Neverland, where they planned to stay indefinitely, and alleges the boy made up a story of molestation to get even.
Fournier also testified that the boy’s brother once held a knife to her back in the kitchen.
That incident was not fully explained, but she indicated she didn’t know whether the brother was serious. She said she told him, “You’re going to have to catch me first,” but that the boy did not chase her.—Sapa-AP
AP special correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this story