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Jackson employee struggles to list boss's female friends

Star's relations, orders a focus at molestation trial

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The property manager at Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch testified yesterday that the pop star had special relationships with girls and women as well as boys. But the witness struggled to come up with examples.

''Besides his wives?" asked Joe Marcus, a witness for the defense. ''He has friends. Elizabeth Taylor. . . . I'm drawing a blank on a few of the names. . . . There were -- other women."

When prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss pressed him for names, Marcus said: ''Liza Minnelli has been there -- they seem to be good friends."

''OK, so we're up to two," Auchincloss said, raising an objection from the defense.

Marcus, an 18-year employee, was called by the defense to counter former ranch employees who testified against Jackson. Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a boy and conspiring to hold the youngster's family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary.

The prosecution has alleged that Jackson and some aides conspired to keep a teenager, the youth's brother, and their family at Neverland so they could appear in a video rebutting a British documentary showing Jackson holding hands with his accuser. On the video, Jackson said he slept with boys but did not have sex with them.

Marcus said that he was never ordered to hold the family members captive and that they seemed excited to be there.

He said an order in the ranch log instructing guards not to allow the boy or his brother to leave was for safety reasons, because the boys often drove vehicles around the property. He said he did not want them taking the vehicles onto the open road.

''Did you ever receive any instructions from anyone to hold the [family] against their will?" Jackson attorney Robert Sanger asked.

''No," Marcus said.

Under cross-examination, Marcus conceded that he lied to law enforcement officials during a 2003 search of Neverland when he said he had no knowledge of Jackson sharing his bed with children.

At one point, Auchincloss said to the witness, ''You keep looking at Mr. Jackson. Why is that?"

The defense raised an objection and the judge sustained it. Auchincloss then asked Marcus if he was a loyal employee to Jackson. He answered ''Yes."

Auchincloss also asked whether Marcus knew that Jackson had adult materials at the ranch. Marcus said no, but acknowledged that dolls in bondage attire were kept on Jackson's desk. He called them artwork.

''Do you think it's appropriate for children to be exposed to these?" Auchincloss asked.

Marcus paused and quietly said no.

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