Strawberry visits pop star with church group

Updated: December 22, 2003, 10:05 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Pop singer Michael Jackson has found a friend in another celebrity who's had his own brushes with the law: former baseball star Darryl Strawberry.

Strawberry, a member of the Without Walls International Church in Tampa, ministered to Jackson during a trip to the singer's Neverland Ranch this weekend, said Randy White, the church's head pastor, on Monday.

Jackson invited Strawberry, televangelist Paula White and associate pastor Rob Mallan after meeting members of the church at a birthday party earlier this year for his father, Joe Jackson, White said. Strawberry could not be reached for comment Monday, and others on the trip did not return calls for comment.

The trio attended a gathering titled "You Are Not Alone," after a Jackson song. The event drew about 600 people, including tennis star Serena Williams, rapper MC Hammer and comedian Eddie Griffin.

Strawberry, 41, has been making a new career for himself, sharing his experiences and talking about how his faith helped him turn his life around since his release from prison earlier this year.

The eight-time All-Star and member of two World Series winners was released a Florida prison in April after serving 11 months of an 18-month prison sentence for violating probation on cocaine possession charges.

Jackson, 45, was charged Thursday with seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent. He maintains his innocence.

Jackson has been free on $3 million bail since he turned himself in Nov. 20.

Randy White, who was not on the trip, said Strawberry also talked to Jackson about dealing with media attention. Whether Jackson is guilty of molestation wasn't an issue in the meeting, White said.

"If he is guilty, he needs some type of ministry and counseling," White said. "And if he's not guilty, he needs some kind of ministry and counseling with all he's been through. We are not the judge. We are waiting to see the outcome."

Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said Strawberry was at the event, but couldn't confirm he ministered to Jackson when the two met privately.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press