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Jackson VP testifies; prosecutors keep photos

An executive for Michael Jackson’s entertainment company appeared Thursday before a grand jury investigating child molestation allegations against the entertainer. In a hearing after the grand jury recessed, a judge refused to order prosecutors to return to Jackson nude photos taken of him during a body search at his Neverland Ranch.

Norma Staikos, VP of Jackson’s MJJ Prods., appeared before the 19-member panel, which began hearing testimony Wednesday. Staikos, who kept the singer’s schedule, was among a close knit group of execs at the singer’s West L.A. company.

James DeBarge, who lived at the family’s Encino estate when he was married to Janet Jackson, also appeared. Neither would comment on what they told the grand jury.

L.A. deputy district attorneys William Hodgman and Lauren Weis, head of the D.A.’s sex crimes unit, arrived at the courthouse and met with Santa Barbara D.A. Thomas Sneddon Jr.

The hearing follows months of investigation by Santa Barbara and Los Angeles county authorities. The probe was sparked by a 13-year-old boy’s allegations that Jackson molested him.

Jackson’s accuser, now 14, settled a civil lawsuit against the entertainer last month for an undetermined sum, but Jackson has repeatedly denied the allegations and said the settlement was not an admission of guilt.

In a related matter, Jackson’s lawyers asked a Santa Barbara County judge to order prosecutors to return the nude photographs, fearing they would become public.

“Extraordinary measures are being taken to protect your client’s privacy,” Superior Court Judge James M. Slater told Jackson attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. The judge said the photos and negatives are being stored in a safety deposit box in a local bank.

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