August 19, 2004 08:00 AM

The pretrial hearing of Michael Jackson continues Thursday, as the star’s defense lawyers are aiming to learn whether prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies violated his attorney-client privilege when they broke into the office of a private investigator hired by Jackson.

The Jackson team plans to call as a witness the stepfather – referred to in court as “Mr. Doe” to protect his identity – of the star’s 12-year-old accuser, the Associated Press reports.

Jackson’s side wants to know what knowledge the stepfather might have had about the relationship between the private investigator, Bradley Miller, and Jackson’s former attorney, Mark Geragos.

At issue is whether anyone told authorities that Miller was working for Geragos before breaking into Miller’s office and seizing evidence. The defense contends that if authorities knew the investigator and lawyer were working together, the search violated attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.

Seized during the raid was, among other evidence, the so-called “rebuttal video” that was intended to address negative publicity surrounding a British TV special on Jackson.

“Mr. Doe” is said to have been present when Miller supervised the making of the video, during which the boy and his family reportedly vouch for Jackson’s good character. Prosecutors say the family was coerced into making the video.

In another development in the case, Jackson has asked a judge to allow him to publicly react to the California attorney general’s conclusion that Jackson was not “manhandled” (as Jackson claimed on “60 Minutes”) by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies when he surrendered to authorities last year. Because of the gag order in the case, Jackson is not free to make a statement.

Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.

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