A California judge Friday scolded Michael Jackson for violating a gag order by publicly responding to revelations about old child molestation allegations against him.
Jackson was not in court for the hour-long hearing, but his lawyer argued that the singer did nothing wrong by proclaiming his innocence in a 1993 civil lawsuit accusing him of molesting a young boy.
“The court’s gag order doesn’t prevent him from talking about an 11-year-old civil case,” lawyer Thomas Mesereau told California Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville. “Someone leaked documents in an 11-year-old case in an attempt to prejudice this case.”
Jackson issued a statement last month after details of the reported $23 million settlement of the old case were leaked to the media. The self-styled “King of Pop” now stands criminally charged with plying a 14-year-old cancer patient with alcohol and molesting him last year.
Jackson has denied all the charges, details of which have been kept secret through extraordinary and controversial measures imposed by the judge to secure a fair trial in the sensational case.
Melville said on Friday he had not yet ruled on whether evidence from the 1993 case would be admitted at trial, due to start in September.
“There is a thin line here,” Melville said. “I don’t want to prevent someone from speaking out and saying they are innocent, but the district attorney was right to bring this (issue) forward. From now on, follow the gag order.”
The judge delayed ruling on a defense motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment against Jackson on the grounds that prosecutors bullied witnesses and abused their power in the closed-door proceedings in April.
In court documents unsealed Thursday, defense lawyers also accused Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon of violating attorney-client privileges by raiding the Beverly Hills offices of a private investigator employed by Jackson’s then-lawyer, Mark Geragos.
The defense has asked Melville to throw out any evidence seized in that raid. The judge set a July 27 hearing on the motion.