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Michael Jackson won't appear at next hearing

Friday's session is expected to be a sedate affair
/ Source: The Associated Press

Don’t expect any dancing at Michael Jackson’s next court date. The self-styled King of Pop is staying home.

Friday’s hearing is expected to be a sedate affair: Lawyers will discuss a date for a preliminary hearing where the first evidence will be presented, then will take up the issue of whether to open court records to the public.

“We don’t anticipate many fans coming,” Santa Maria police Lt. Chris Vaughan said. “There’ll really be nothing for them to see.”

Hundreds of fans packed the street after Jackson’s arraignment on Jan. 16, when he climbed atop his black SUV and danced as his songs blasted from speakers. Supporters — some from as far away as Japan — were rewarded with invitations to a party at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

The pop star’s absence from the hearing Friday might mean fewer fireworks inside the courtroom, as well.

At Jackson’s arraignment, where he pleaded innocent to child molestation charges, Judge Rodney S. Melville scolded the singer first for showing up late and later for requesting a bathroom break.

The judge has refused to unseal several search warrants. Friday’s hearing will include requests from news organizations that the records be unsealed.

The judge will also revisit the gag order imposed in the case. He may amend it to allow attorneys to respond to inaccurate reports.

The court date comes as the singer makes an effort to seize control of his public image.

“He’s going to be more proactive in speaking for himself on all matters outside the trial,” said his new spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain. “He is tired of the circus-like atmosphere surrounding him.”

Bain also said the Nation of Islam, which provided security at the arraignment, will probably play less of a role in Jackson’s life because he plans fewer public appearances. Jackson issued a statement last week denying a rift with the group.

In another development, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to drop its plan to charge broadcast media to park their satellite trucks on the courthouse grounds. At Jackson’s arraignment, broadcasters paid $250 per parking space and were able to set up equipment two days before the hearing.

The supervisors had considered raising the fee to $400 to cover security, sanitation and other costs. Instead, the board said there would be no reserved parking spaces, and trucks would not be permitted to stay overnight.

Media lawyers argued it was unconstitutional to treat out-of-town broadcasters differently from local TV outlets that normally do not pay to park at the courthouse.