Leno Takes Michael Jackson Stand

Late-night host characterizes accuser's phone calls as "suspicious"

May 24, 2005 12:00 AM ET

Jay Leno, host of NBC's Tonight Show, was called as a defense witness Tuesday in Michael Jackson's trial for child molestation.

Leno, who has mocked Jackson throughout the trial in the opening monologue of his late-night talk show, quipped on air Monday night, "I was called by the defense. Apparently, they've never seen this program." Nevertheless, Leno's testimony may be the trial's breaking point, tipping the jury in favor of Jackson.

The host makes approximately twenty phone calls to sick children each week and began receiving voicemail messages from the accuser, then a ten-year-old cancer patient, in 2000 (the boy alleges that he was molested by Jackson in 2003). According to Leno, the child called the comedian his hero. "I'm not Batman," Leno said, according to reports. "It seemed a little unusual."

The comedian stated that he was contacted by the Santa Barbara police and questioned about the boy, and Leno admitted his misgivings. "It sounded suspicious when a young person got overly effusive," he said. "It just didn't click with me."

Leno also said that, during a phone call from the boy, he once heard a voice in the background, but he was uncertain who it belonged to. Jackson's attorneys argued that it was the accuser's mother telling her son what to say.

Although Leno stated that the boy never explicitly asked him for money, the defense is arguing that Jackson is merely one of a line of celebrities the accuser's family sought to profit from. Comedian Chris Tucker is also expected to testify this week.

On Monday, the defense called a welfare worker who stated that the accuser's mother had failed to disclose her receipt of a $152,000 J.C. Penney lawsuit settlement her family had received just days before filling out a welfare application. A paralegal also testified that the woman had lied to win that lawsuit, claiming that bruises caused by her then-husband had been caused by J.C. Penney security guards.

Jackson, 46, is accused of child molestation and may serve approximately twenty years in prison if convicted. Defense testimony at the Santa Maria, California, courthouse is expected to wrap up as early as this Friday.

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