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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK
Jackson employees defend singer
Michael Jackson waves as he arrives at the court in Santa Maria, California
Mr Jackson's lawyers began their first full week of their case
Staff at Michael Jackson's ranch have testified in defence of the singer at his child molestation trial.

They said they had never seen the star behave inappropriately with young boys at the Neverland ranch in California.

Witnesses also said a family that had accused Michael Jackson of holding them captive had showed no signs of being at the ranch against their will.

Mr Jackson denies 10 charges, including molesting a boy, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family.

If convicted, Mr Jackson, 46, could face 20 years in jail.

'Parade' of witnesses

The defence team began the first full week of its case in the court in Santa Maria, California, by calling several witnesses to undermine the testimony of earlier prosecution witnesses.

Francin Contreras, who worked at Neverland as a maid in 1991-93, testified that while working with another former maid Adrian McManus she never heard the woman say anything bad about the singer.

Some of the activity (at Mr Jackson's Neverland ranch) was beyond my comfort level
Violet Silva
Neverland's employee

Ms McManus was a prosecution witness who claimed she saw the singer indecently touch child actor Macaulay Culkin.

Ms Contreras described Ms McManus as a liar and a thief, who had stolen items from Mr Jackson.

Also on Monday, a former head of housekeeping at the ranch, Gayle Goforth, told jurors that Janet Arvizo, the mother of Mr Jackson's accuser Gavin Arvizo, had once asked her for a job because she was desperate for money.

"I told her that the rents were very expensive in the area," Ms Goforth said. "But she said: 'I'll come and I'll sleep in the car if I need to."'

KEY PROSECUTION WITNESSES
Gavin Arvizo, accuser - testified that he was twice molested
Star Arvizo, accuser's brother - said he had twice seen Mr Jackson abuse Gavin as he slept
Janet Arvizo, accuser's mother - said she and her sons had been held captive at Neverland
Debbie Rowe, Mr Jackson's ex-wife - described Mr Jackson as generous and kind, and manipulated by his aides

Another witness, Violet Silva, said she had never seen Mr Jackson behaving inappropriately towards children.

Ms Silva - a former security chief at Neverland and a current safety co-ordinator there - also said Gavin and his older brother Star were "pretty destructive" when they stayed at the ranch in 2003.

She said the brothers ran wild, driving around the estate in golf carts without permission and dropping litter.

Ms Silva also said the boys - along with their sister and mother - were never prevented from leaving the ranch.

Ranch manager Joe Marcus agreed, saying the family members "were excited to be there" and anxious to get back when he took them out going out shopping.

Mr Jackson's lawyers began their defence last Thursday by calling Wade Robson, 22, and Brett Barnes, 23, as witnesses.

Both rejected claims by the prosecution that they had been sexually molested by Mr Jackson.

The prosecution says Mr Jackson molested Gavin Arvizo on more than one occasion.

It also says there was a plot to kidnap the boy's family, in an attempt to force them to speak in his defence following a critical TV documentary aired in 2003.


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