Mother of Jackson's accuser pleads no contest to welfare fraud

The mother of a boy who claimed Michael Jackson molested him, leading to last year's trial at which the singer was acquitted, pleaded no contest to welfare fraud.

The 38-year-old woman, whose name by marriage is Janet Jackson, was ordered Monday to perform 150 hours of community service and repay more than $8,600 (Ђ6,700) to the county social services department.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson told the woman her charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor if she pays restitution and completes the community service. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 27, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Patricia J. Hattersley said her client "always felt that she had a viable defense" but chose to plead no contest to "move on with her life."

"She doesn't want to put her family and her children through a major trial," Hattersley said outside court.

Prosecutors say she accepted more than $8,000 (Ђ6,200) in fraudulently obtained assistance and committed perjury four times on welfare applications. She is accused of hiding the fact that she received a substantial settlement in a lawsuit against J.C. Penney before she filed for welfare.

"Her position is she never misrepresented anything intentionally," her lawyer Patricia Hattersley said in June.

During Jackson's trial last year, the woman invoked her constitutional protection against self-incrimination and refused to testify about welfare questions from Jackson's defense team.

The singer was found not guilty of child molestation. Many jurors said a lack of credibility on the part of the woman and her children were major factors in the verdicts. The defense portrayed her as a con artist who schemed to get money from celebrities and through fraudulent legal claims.

The Associated Press has withheld the identities of the accuser and his siblings, who have a last name different from their mother's.

A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is usually treated as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.

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