Macaulay Culkin is considering taking the stand as a character witness for his friend MICHAEL JACKSON - because he's convinced the troubled pop superstar is innocent of child molestation.

The former child star, who spent years hanging out with Jackson at his Neverland home in California, has steered clear of the latest scandal surrounding his pal, because he doesn't want to get sucked in to what he calls "a circus".

But Culkin admits he would consider defending his friend in court if he was asked to.

Speaking candidly to CNN chat show host Larry King last week (ends28MAY04), he said, "I try my best to keep a distance... It's crazy and I don't really want to be a part of it.

"I like him, he's a friend of mine. I'm not saying I wouldn't do something like that. It just hasn't been brought up to me, and I don't think he'd want me to either."

Culkin is convinced his friend is innocent because he was close to him when Jackson fought his first child molestation charges a decade ago.

Back in 1993, the family of JORDY CHANDLER accepted a huge cash settlement to drop their case against the reclusive superstar.

The HOME ALONE star, now 23, recalled, "Look what happened the first time this happened to him. If someone had done something like that to my kid, I wouldn't just settle for some money. I'd make sure the guy was in jail.

"It just goes to show; they got the money and they ran. That's really what happened the first time."

30/05/2004 10:26