SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Michael Jackson's defense called a parade of the pop star's former employees to the witness stand yesterday to counter testimony from prosecution witnesses who said they saw Jackson molesting children at his Neverland ranch.
Defense attorneys, beginning the first full week of their case, sought to use the witnesses to portray Jackson's young accuser and his brother as destructive and to characterize Jackson as a gracious host to his guests.
''The emphasis at Neverland was on hospitality. That was our primary duty, to make them feel welcome," said Violet Silva, who has worked there since 1991 and been security chief since 1997.
Former ranch employee Francine Contreras testified that while working with former maid Adrian McManus she never heard the woman say anything bad about the singer. McManus was a prosecution witness who claimed she saw Jackson inappropriately touch child actor Macaulay Culkin and other boys.
Contreras did not address that testimony, but cast doubt on McManus' character, saying the maid had a display in her home of hats, pajamas, watches, shirts, and other items pilfered from Neverland. She also said McManus took some toys that were intended to be gifts for needy children.
After the prosecution rested last week, the defense presented two young men, Wade Robson and Brett Barnes, who as children repeatedly slept with Jackson but insisted they were not molested.
Prosecutors allege that Jackson molested a 13-year-old cancer patient in February or March 2003, gave him wine, and conspired to hold him and his family captive to get them to rebut the ''Living With Michael Jackson" TV documentary in which Jackson appeared with the boy.
Jackson stated in the documentary that he allowed children to sleep in his bed but asserted that the practice was innocent.
Silva said she had only minimal contact with the mother of Jackson's current accuser but described her behavior as somewhat unusual.
She said the accuser and his brother were usually cared for by their sister, not the mother, and only the sister would remind them to take showers and to be neat.
Silva said she did not know of any children drinking alcohol or appearing intoxicated at the ranch. She said liquor was kept in the ranch wine cellar, which was locked.
The accuser and his siblings have claimed they were served wine in the cellar.
The Neverland security chief described the accuser and his brother as ''rambunctious."
''They were pretty reckless," Silva said. ''They'd get in a ranch vehicle and we had stop them. They were young. They couldn't drive. . . . They were pretty destructive."
Silva also testified about a Feb. 19, 2003, directive on a log at the Neverland guard gate that said the accuser and his brother were not allowed to leave. She said it meant they could not leave without adult supervision, not that they were to be held against their will.
During cross-examination, District Attorney Tom Sneddon asked Silva if she had told an investigator that as a mother she wouldn't want her children to participate in activities at Neverland.
Silva, who has daughters and granddaughters, acknowledged saying that.
Under redirect questioning by Jackson attorney Robert Sanger, she said she would bring her children for ''family fun day" but not at other times.
''Some of the activity was beyond my comfort level," she said without explanation.