| Michael Jackson in Santa Maria, California. (Reuters)
Santa Maria (California), April 5: The son of Michael Jackson's former maid broke down on the witness stand yesterday during the singer's child abuse trial as he alleged that the entertainer molested him three times as a child and paid him to stop him from telling his mother.
It was the first time that Jason Francia, 24, has spoken publicly about the alleged events that led to a rumoured $2 million ('1.1 million) out-of-court settlement with the star in 1994.
Francia, a married salesman and probation service mentor, described how Jackson touched him inappropriately from the age of seven, once placing his hand directly on the boy's genitals.
The testimony came at the start of a critical phase in the trial ' the 'trial within a trial' ' as the prosecution introduced evidence about former accusations of abuse the star has faced.
Francia spoke falteringly as he related the incidents, which occurred while his mother was cleaning Jackson's apartment in Los Angeles and the singer's Neverland Ranch.
Pausing to bury his face in a bunch of tissues, Francia apologised for breaking down, saying: 'This took a lot of counselling to get over, just so you know. This is so much harder than I thought.'
Questioned by Ron Zonen, for the prosecution, about times he had felt 'uncomfortable' with Jackson, Francia related an incident when he was aged about seven at Jackson's apartment.
'I was sitting on his lap. I was watching TV and he was facing the TV as well, my back was to his chest.
'He started tickling me ' which was cool, I tickled him back. Then somehow we got on to the floor, and then I'm tickling and he's tickling. He moved down to my little private region, around my crotch area. Eventually it stopped.' He said that at the time he thought it was 'weird but not super weird because it was tickling'.
He related a second incident where he was watching cartoons at the Hollywood apartment while lying on a sleeping bag on the floor. Jackson lay down next to him and began 'spooning him', he said. 'He was tickling me from behind. I was laughing, trying to tickle him back.' Then the singer moved his hand down to touch the boy's genitals through his clothes. Asked how long the contact lasted, Francia said: 'About two cartoons' worth.'
After these two incidents Jackson stuffed $100 bills into the boy's trousers and told him: 'Don't tell your mum,' Francia claimed.