Santa Barbara County is facing bills for security and related costs for Michael Jackson’s trial that could soar to as much as $40,000 a day.
Estimates of overall costs for the county range up to a high of about $4 million for the trial. And those estimates don’t include the costs to the city of Santa Maria, to the Superior Court or for investigation and prosecution of the case.
Jury selection has gotten under way for what is expected to be a five-month trial. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy.
The sheriff’s department is in charge of security on the courthouse grounds, while city police handle the surrounding streets. On the busiest days, as many as 35 deputies and 30 or so Santa Maria police officers are assigned to watch the sometimes rowdy crowds of fans.
One estimate puts the cost of security and other needs around the courthouse on a single day at about $40,000, Jason Stilwell, a special projects manager in the county administrator’s office, told the Santa Barbara News-Press.
A consortium of news organizations is paying $7,500 a day for access to the courts, security, trash service, toilets and other items. But with more than 1,000 members of the media credentialled to cover the trial, county officials say they are recovering only a fraction of the actual costs.
Officials said Jackson’s arraignment on Jan. 16, 2004, cost the county $157,985, including everything from $35,331 in staff time to $23,577 for things like fences, toilets, added trash pickup and consulting.