Michael Jackson surrenders to face molestation allegations

Friday, November 21st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ Setting the stage for what could be one of the most sensational celebrity court cases ever, pop superstar Michael Jackson, his wrists bound in handcuffs, surrendered to authorities to face allegations of child molestation.

Jackson was booked, fingerprinted and photographed Thursday, and was ordered to appear in court Jan. 9 for arraignment. Authorities said they expected to file charges after the Thanksgiving holiday.

After being released on $3 million bail, the self-styled King of Pop returned by private jet to Las Vegas, where he had been filming a music video Tuesday _ the day authorities swarmed his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

``He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges,'' said his attorney, Mark Geragos. ``He considers this to be a big lie,'' Geragos said.

Wearing a black suit, white shirt and white tie, Jackson waved to reporters and flashed a V-sign before leaving the jail in a vehicle that returned him to the airport.

``Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court,'' the entertainer said in a statement issued by spokesman Stuart Backerman.

Jackson dominated popular music in the 1980s with his catchy dance music, but his career has been in decline. His reputation was damaged in part by a similar allegation 10 years ago that never resulted in charges because the alleged victim declined to cooperate with police.

Jackson, who reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar settlement in that case, has maintained his innocence.

The district attorney has said the youngster in the latest case is cooperating with investigators and has no plans to sue. He also said prosecutors could be helped by a law, passed since the earlier Jackson investigation, that was designed to keep civil suits from interfering with criminal cases.

Authorities would say little about the most recent allegations beyond referring to the arrest warrant, which alleges violations of a law prohibiting lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14. Such a crime is punishable by three to eight years in prison.

``District Attorney Tom Sneddon has announced that no charges will be filed until after Thanksgiving,'' said Sgt. Chris Pappas, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

Media reports have said the alleged victim is a 12- or 13-year-old boy who visited Jackson at his Neverland Ranch, a storybook playland where the singer was known to hold sleepovers for children and share his bed with youngsters.

Pappas characterized Jackson and his representatives as being cooperative during the 30- to 45-minute booking process. His booking photo, released by authorities, showed a wide-eyed and pale Jackson with bright red lips and arched eyebrows staring into the camera.

As Jackson left jail, his assistants tried to shield him from a phalanx of TV cameras by holding up sheets, but he was visible to helicopter cameras. Groups of people on roadsides waved at his passing motorcade and some ran up to the car whenever it stopped.

In a scene reminiscent of O.J. Simpson's infamous slow-speed chase in a white Ford Bronco, television helicopters followed the motorcade's roundabout, two-hour, 30-mile route to the Green Valley Ranch hotel-casino in Henderson, where Jackson has been staying.

One person along the route held up a homemade sign proclaiming ``Moonwalk 2 jail,'' a reference to the entertainer's signature dance moves.

``I love his music, but I don't know if I can support him now. This is his second time. I can't believe him anymore,'' said college student Cesar Mendoza, 22, of Isla Vista.

After leaving California, the entertainer, who has three young children, arrived at a Las Vegas-area airport, where what appeared to be three children covered by blankets were carried aboard his plane by assistants. They were then carried off, and Jackson exited the plane as well.

Michael X. Dean, deputy director of Santa Barbara County Social Services, declined to say whether there were plans to take Jackson's children into protective custody, citing confidentiality rules. He said that generally, criminal charges can prompt a child welfare investigation, but added that such an investigation is not automatic.

Geragos, who is also defending Scott Peterson of Modesto in the high-profile Laci Peterson murder case, had arranged Jackson's return from Las Vegas.

``He understands the people who are outraged, because if these charges were true, I assure you Michael would be the first to be outraged,'' Geragos said outside the jail.

``I'm here to tell you today, Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf these charges are categorically untrue. He looks forward to getting into a courtroom as opposed to any other forum and confronting these accusations head on,'' Geragos said.

Jackson's brother, Jermaine, denounced the allegations in a CNN interview.

``At the end of the day, this is nothing but a modern-day lynching, ``Jermaine Jackson said. ``This is what they want to see: him in handcuffs. You got it. But it won't be for long, I promise you.''

Even beyond the molestation allegation in 1993, Jackson's unusual lifestyle has often drawn ridicule, occasionally outrage.

He has slept in a hyperbaric chamber, tried to buy the Elephant Man's bones, gone through a pair of quickie marriages that befuddled many, and utterly transformed his face through plastic surgery. His skin tone has changed from dark to a pale white, a change Jackson blames on vitiligo, a disorder marked by pigment loss.

While Jackson's career has faded as his behavior has gotten increasingly bizarre, his last album, 2001's ``Invincible,'' sold about 2 million copies _ great numbers for most artists but far below his once phenomenal sales.