Michael Jackson isn’t the only one contributing to the drama at his child-molestation trial. On Tuesday (March 22), a fan had a breakdown inside the Santa Maria, California, courthouse, where a comedian took the stand to testify about her encounters with the accuser’s family, painting the estranged father as a grifter.
The fan fainted during a session break, came to, and started screaming her head off, according to observers. She was wheeled out on a gurney out to a private ambulance, which had been on standby for the singer because of the back problems that had delayed his arrival to court twice in two weeks (see “Michael Jackson Sobs After Arriving Late To Court Again” ). Jackson spokesperson Raymone Bain said the singer “continues to suffer from excruciating back pain” ever since his back gave out on him on March 10, sending him to the emergency room (see “Pajama-Clad Jackson Late As Accuser’s Lurid Testimony Resumes” ).
Bain said Jackson went back to the hospital Monday, that he had been prescribed medication for the pain, and that his doctor had done tests on the singer’s back. “There is no quick fix for back pain, but it is Mr. Jackson’s hope that he will begin experiencing some relief soon,” Bain said.
Meanwhile, comedian Louise Palanker testified about helping the accuser’s family after meeting them through a comedy camp for underprivileged youth that the boy had attended. She said she became “very close” with the boy while he was in the hospital for cancer, and that after asking if they had enough medical coverage and learning they didn’t, she gave his father a check for $10,000.
“I was in a position where I could help this family,” she said. “I didn’t want [the boy] ever to be alone in the hospital. And there were no strings attached.”
Within two weeks of giving the family the first check, she said, the father started hitting her up “very often” for more money, asking for help paying rent and other necessities. “He would tell me that [the mother] had spent the money, that she was going crazy and spent the money on votive candles,” Palanker said.
She agreed to help but felt she had to “put boundaries” on the situation, informing the father that for tax reasons she could only give each parent $10,000. “I was concerned that they weren’t managing their money very well,” she said. “[But] it became very difficult to keep saying no. He would say, ‘Is there anything else you can do for us? We’re having a tough time.’ ”
A comedy club organized two benefits for the family, but on the night of the second benefit, there was a problem with a wallet gone missing, Palanker testified. Fellow comedian George Lopez and his wife “were becoming very aggravated” with the boy, who had apparently left his wallet at their home. His father claimed there had been $300 in the wallet, but when Lopez found it, there was only $3 in it.
Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada tried to help sort it out, she said, but the father became upset at Lopez, who started screaming at him. The accuser tried to intervene, telling his dad, “I have a couple of wallets, Dad, I don’t know what you mean,” but his father only became more enraged, and threw money collected at the benefit back at Masada. “We never solved the mystery of the wallet,” Palanker said.
Later, when the Martin Bashir documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” aired, Palanker tried to get back in touch with the family by leaving a message with the boy’s grandparents, and said the mother called her back, crying, “because she was in trouble.”
“I felt they were being held against their will,” Palanker said, so she called her attorney to see if she could help. She said the mother never asked her for money, but she did feel like the mother exhibited signs of hostage syndrome. “It reminded me of when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped,” she said. She also characterized the accuser as being “honest in the face of others not wanting him to be.”
On cross-examination, she admitted telling the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department that the family can be “as wacky as they wanna be.” She also said she felt the children were coached to ask her for presents, and that Jay Leno asked her to tell the family to stop calling him. She also said she was exaggerating when she called Masada “a pathological liar.” He just “confuses incidents,” she said. “He cares very deeply for them and he wants to do the right thing.”
(CBS News contributed to this report.)
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see “Michael Jackson Accused.”