Lawyers for Michael Jackson took a jab Monday at the man seeking to jail him for child molestation, suggesting in court papers that prosecutor Tom Sneddon had violated a “gag” order in the sensational case.
Jackson’s attorneys, in the court documents, made an issue of Sneddon’s remarks to a conference of district attorneys in Vancouver on July 20, which had already raised eyebrows among some legal experts.
Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, who has conducted the Jackson case under almost unprecedented secrecy, has largely barred case participants from discussing it in public without his permission.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported on July 21 that Sneddon, in speaking about the grand jury investigating Jackson for child molestation, told his fellow prosecutors: “We sent letters to some people saying we intended to call them as witnesses in order to keep them off TV.”
“Mr. Jackson respectfully requests the court for clarification as to whether the...statements by Mr. Sneddon violate the protective order,” Jackson’s lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, wrote in the court papers.
Some legal experts had already suggested that Sneddon’s remarks were inappropriate as they seemed to indicate that he was using the power of the grand jury to silence people who he did not intend to call as witnesses.
“Mr. Sneddon has said publicly that he has not violated the gag order,” the prosecutor’s spokeswoman, Susan Tellem, said in response to the court filing by Jackson’s attorneys.
Jackson is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 31 on a 10-count indictment that charges him with child molestation and conspiracy. He has pleaded innocent and Mesereau has vowed that the entertainer would be vindicated at trial.