Looking distressed, the star shows up after the judge threatens arrest

By Stephen M. Silverman
March 10, 2005 12:00 PM

Michael Jackson, looking distressed and wearing pajamas under a blazer, showed up in court one hour and 40 minutes late Thursday morning after the judge threatened to arrest him.

The late arrival capped a dramatic turn of events in Jackson’s child-molestation trial in which his lawyer initially said he would not be making an appearance at all because he was suffering from back problems.

Showing that nothing is to stop the legal proceedings from moving forward, Judge Rodney Melville immediately issued a bench warrant calling for Jackson’s arrest if the star did not appear on time for the trial to resume. Jackson arrived several minutes past the judge’s one-hour deadline, but rather than deal with the issues immediately, Judge Melville ordered testimony to continue, with Jackson’s accuser returning to the stand.

Should Jackson indeed be ill, say legal experts, the focus of the issue will be why the court was not given sufficient notice. At the time court was set to begin Thursday, Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., dropped his bombshell.

“Mr. Jackson is at Cottage Hospital in Santa Ynez with a serious back problem. He does plan to come in,” Mesereau told the judge, the Associated Press reported.

The jurist had given Jackson only one hour to appear, saying: “I’m issuing a warrant for his arrest. I’m forfeiting his bail. I will hold the order for one hour.” Jackson’s bail has been set at $3 million.

Once the judge deals with the issues of Jackson’s late arrival, which could conceivably result in Jackson’s incarceration for the remainder of the trial, testimony from his accuser is expected to continue. On Wednesday, the 15-year-faced Jackson in person for the first time since leaving the singer’s Neverland Ranch in March 2003 and alleging he was sexually victimized.

Though the boy was not yet asked about the molestation allegations, he did testify about surfing adult Internet sites with Jackson on his and his brother’s first visit to Neverland in 2000.

He also said Jackson had invited him to appear in a documentary being produced by British journalist Martin Bashir and coached him on what to say. “He took me in the library and said, ‘Hey, you want to be an actor, don’t you?’ And I said yes. He said, ‘Hey, I’m going to put you in movies and this is your audition.’ … And he said, ‘Tell them you call me Daddy and Daddy Michael.'”

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting the boy, then 13, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the family captive on order to get them to rebut a damaging documentary in which Jackson said he allowed children to sleep in his bedroom.