August 19, 2004 04:00 PM

The stepfather of the boy accusing Michael Jackson of molestation testified at a pre-trial hearing Thursday that he wanted money in exchange for the family’s participation in a video interview intended to restore Jackson’s reputation after a damaging British TV documentary about the star.

“I said, ‘This family has nothing, and you’re making millions from this and what are you going to do for this little family,'” the witness – named in court as “Mr. Doe” to protect his identity – said of a deal he discussed with a person he identified only as the “gentleman from Neverland,” the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Doe – an officer in the Army reserve for 22 years who married the mother of the accuser last May – said under oath that he also requested money from a British journalist who approached the family’s home for an interview after the TV documentary had aired.

“Two British journalists showed up and I talked to them,” the witness said. “They said they wanted to do an interview with (his wife) and the children. I said, ‘What are you offering?’ They said, ‘What do you want?’ And I said I didn’t know.”

Mr. Doe claimed that the money would be spent on his children’s education and a house.

In wide-ranging questioning, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked Mr. Doe about the man’s contention that the mother and family were coerced against their will to remain at Neverland.

In response, Mr. Doe testified that he called the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department in April 2003 after the woman and her children had gone to the ranch.

“I felt (my wife) and the family might be under duress,” he testified.

But after calling authorities, he said, the family returned and he told deputies everything was fine.

You May Like