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Jackson's lawyers say star innocent

Michael Jackson’s legal team said the pop star will be fully exonerated when he goes to trial on child molestation charges.
/ Source: news services

Michael Jackson’s legal team said the pop star will be fully exonerated when he goes to trial on child molestation charges.

A source close to the case told The Associated Press on Thursday that Jackson was indicted, although authorities wouldn’t confirm it and the indictment handed up by a Santa Barbara County grand jury was sealed. NBC News and MSNBC TV reported Wednesday night that the grand jury had voted to indict.

Jackson’s publicist and his legal defense team issued a statement Wednesday that did not confirm an indictment but said: “Mr. Jackson and his attorneys are confident that after a trial on these charges Mr. Jackson will be fully exonerated and that the allegations contained in the indictment will be shown to be patently false.”

A judge has issued a gag order that prohibits attorneys on both sides from discussing the case with the media.

The court could not confirm an indictment or even that an arraignment for Jackson is scheduled for next week, said Darrel Parker, a Santa Barbara County court official in Santa Maria, where legal proceedings in the Jackson case are being held.

“None of it is public,” he said Thursday, citing laws governing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

The closed-door grand jury proceedings replaced a preliminary hearing, which is open to the public. Both proceedings are to determine whether there is enough evidence for a case to go to trial.

Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain told The Associated Press that she had spoken with Jackson on Wednesday, but would say only that the singer “is out and about.”

Four months ago, county prosecutors charged Jackson with seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. Jackson pleaded innocent in January to those charges and has been free on $3 million bail.

Jackson’s next scheduled court date is April 30. Officially, it’s listed as a pretrial hearing but is expected to be his arraignment on the indictment issued this week.

Jackson attorney Mark Geragos, reached by telephone, would not answer questions from The Associated Press.

The district attorney’s office also would not comment about the media reports, said Susan Tellem of Tellem Worldwide, hired to handle media inquiries for District Attorney Tom Sneddon in the case. Calls by The Associated Press to Sneddon and others in his office were not immediately returned.

A mother defends her son
“I had hoped that this wouldn’t happen, but now Michael will have to go to court to show the world that he is innocent,” Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, told MSNBC TV analyst and Jackson family friend Stacy Brown. “I think most people know that Michael couldn’t have committed this crime. People see Michael and all they think is money and they don’t care how they get his money but they are bent on getting it even if it means destroying his career and life with these horrible charges.”

Katherine Jackson also said she believes the media is biased against her family. “Look at Janet and what has happened to her,” Katherine Jackson said. “I hated what happened at the Super Bowl, but I think if she weren’t a Jackson, the FCC and others would not have made such a big deal about what happened at the Super Bowl.”

Transcripts of the secret grand jury proceeding will be provided to Jackson’s defense team within the next 10 days. The transcripts will then be made public 10 days after that unless Jackson’s attorneys can convince a judge doing so would prejudice a future jury pool.

The grand jury has spent the last three weeks hearing from witnesses, including a 14-year-old boy who claims the superstar sexually abused him.

On Wednesday, grand jurors were whisked from the proceedings to the downtown Santa Barbara courthouse in vans with darkened windows. There they met with Sneddon and presiding Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson.

Meanwhile, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges were being considered against several associates of Michael Jackson for allegedly threatening the family of the boy who has accused Jackson of child molestation, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

An unidentified source close to the case told the Times the charges were under consideration.

Attorney Joseph Tacopina said there had been speculation that two of his clients, Vincent Amen and Frank Tyson, would either be indicted by the grand jury or charged separately with alleged intimidation of witnesses. He denied the allegations and said the two former Jackson employees would not appear before the grand jury.

The attorney said the accusations came from the boy’s mother and were “patently false.”

Tellem said the district attorney would have no comment because of a gag order.