Ex-Jacko Flack A Key Witness

Defense blasts woman as "bit player" eager to please prosecutors

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Ex-Jacko Flack A Key Witness

JULY 26--A Las Vegas woman who worked briefly as a spokesperson for Michael Jackson was a key prosecution witness whose grand jury testimony linked the King of Pop to a criminal conspiracy targeting the singer's teenage accuser and the boy's family, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Ann Gabriel, 43, appeared earlier this year before a Santa Barbara grand jury and testified about Jackson's finances and his "crisis management" style in the wake of the February 2003 broadcast of Martin Bashir's controversial documentary. In a heavily redacted court filing docketed Friday, Jackson's attorneys unloaded on Gabriel (pictured right), saying that she was a "peripheral, bit player who, after the fact, was willing to give testimony about anything to be important."

While Gabriel's name was redacted from the filing (excerpts of which you'll find below), TSG sources identified her as the "key" witness for District Attorney Thomas Sneddon referred to in court motions. In a brief interview this afternoon, Gabriel declined to answer questions about her grand jury testimony, citing a gag order imposed by Judge Rodney Melville.

The defense filing contends that prosecutors used Gabriel to establish that possible "economic loss" and damage to the performer's image were motivating factors that triggered Jackson and his underlings (Sneddon terms them "henchmen") to allegedly hatch a plot to abduct, falsely imprison, and extort the accuser, now 14, and his family. According to prosecutors, the Bashir documentary "galvanized" Jackson and five coconspirators "to do something to mitigate the disastrous effect it promised to have on defendant's personal reputation and financial future." That effort allegedly included Team Jackson holding family members at Neverland Ranch against their will and arranging to ship them off to Brazil for safekeeping.

Defense lawyers argue that Sneddon presented Gabriel's testimony in an "attempt to show economic loss and damage to a client's image," though she was unqualified to speak about the financial condition or state of mind of Jackson, whom she has never met. As an example of Gabriel's vamping, attorney Robert Sanger pointed to how she testified, "without any foundation," about how Jackson cellular phone ring tones "could be worth $500-$700 million."

Gabriel was employed by the so-called Michael Jackson Working Group for about three weeks in early-2003 to prepare press releases, monitor media response to the Bashir documentary, and help with the preparation of the "reply video," which aired on Fox Television two weeks after the Bashir broadcast. In her grand jury testimony, Gabriel acknowledged that she was terminated by the Jackson camp after only three weeks, a firing that one TSG source attributed to Gabriel's overstepping her authority by trying to appear on TV as a Jackson mouthpiece.

According to one source, Gabriel was brought into the Jackson Working Group (a consortium of lawyers, financiers, and other advisers) by David LeGrand, a Las Vegas attorney who began representing the singer in January 2003 (and who knew Gabriel via their mutual involvement in Internet broadcasting issues). Gabriel is the president of Webcaster Alliance, a not-for-profit trade group representing small online broadcasters. She also runs Gabriel Media, which specializes in "public relations, marketing and promotional tools and services tailored for the entire webcasting community."

While introduced to grand jurors as "Ann Gabriel," the witness's real name is Ann Kite. Referring to the Gabriel surname as her "professional name," she told TSG that she began using the handle after a divorce, when she wanted a "name I could call my own." Noting her career in streaming media, she added that horn-toting Gabriel was the "patron saint of broadcasting." (3 pages)