The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case has given the star permission to make a televised statement responding to leaks of potentially damaging grand jury testimony given by his teen-age boy accuser.
After unconfirmed media reports that Jackson would be permitted to speak out about last week’s leaks, Fox News Channel confirmed Wednesday that the judge had approved a statement Jackson gave to Fox correspondent and host Geraldo Rivera.
However, a Fox News spokeswoman said executives for the News Corp.-owned cable TV network had not yet reviewed Jackson’s prepared statement and an accompanying interview he gave Rivera and that no decision had been made as to when and how the material would be aired.
A source said the interview dealt with Jackson’s “personal life and family relationships” and not the criminal case.
ABC’s “Primetime Live” program last week carried a report on the Jackson case that included verbatim grand jury quotes from Jackson’s teen-age accuser describing Jackson masturbating him when the boy was 13 years old. ABC said it obtained the quotes from its review of more than 1,900 pages of transcripts, but did not say how those documents were revealed to the network.
Grand jury testimony in the case has been sealed under a strict lid of secrecy that Santa Barbara County Superior court Judge Rodney Melville has clamped on the case.
Melville has occasionally allowed Jackson to issue brief statements that were approved by the judge in advance. But the court-sanctioned statement Jackson gave Rivera would mark the first time the judge has permitted Jackson to go on national television to comment on the case.
News that Jackson had spoken to Rivera about the case was first reported by ABC News. A court official and the singer’s lead defense lawyer, Tom Mesereau, declined comment.
Jackson has been indicted on 10 counts of child molestation and conspiracy stemming from accusations leveled against him by a now 15-year-old cancer survivor, who appeared with Jackson in a 2003 TV documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir.
Bashir filed a motion Wednesday asking the judge to bar prosecutors from calling him as a witness in the trial. He cited California’s “shield law” protecting journalists from being compelled to testify about their news sources.
Bashir said his documentary, which aired on ABC and on British television in February 2003, “speaks for itself.”
Rivera joined Fox News as a correspondent at the outset of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. He currently hosts a weekend news program, “At Large with Geraldo Rivera.”