in

Michael Jackson’s former attorney said Friday that, long before a family had accused the star of child molestation and false imprisonment, he viewed their relationship with Jackson as a “pending disaster” and suspected they were after his client’s money.

Michael Jackson’s former attorney said Friday that, long before a family had accused the star of child molestation and false imprisonment, he viewed their relationship with Jackson as a “pending disaster” and suspected they were after his client’s money.

“I thought they were going to shake him down,” attorney Mark Geragos testified as Jackson’s defense team worked to shred the accusers’ credibility.

Geragos, a high-profile criminal defense lawyer, began representing Jackson in early 2003 following the airing of a TV documentary that included Jackson’s now infamous admission that he shared his bed with children.

Geragos worked for Jackson for 16 months until the entertainer, citing Geragos’ commitments to other clients – including Scott Peterson – replaced him with Thomas Mesereau Jr.

Geragos met the eventual accusers, who at that time had not made allegations against Jackson, in early February 2003 during a visit to Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch.

After being warned that the mother and her three children may be trying to get too close to Jackson, Geragos said, he conducted an investigation of the family and feared they would try to take advantage of Jackson.

Several months later, the mother accused Jackson of molesting her 13-year-old son and of holding the family against its will to force them to make a video casting Jackson in a positive light.

Among other things, she has testified that Jackson’s business employees put them under surveillance to ensure they didn’t contact police. Geragos cast doubt on that, saying he ordered an investigator working for him to report on the family’s movements.

Like other defense witnesses, he also tried to downplay the possibility of a Jackson-led conspiracy against the family, saying Jackson’s powerful cohorts called the shots at Neverland and kept their boss in the dark about major decisions.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.

One of the authors claiming Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code copied his ideas has admitted he exaggerated his case in an interview with a journalist.