Authorities in Santa Barbara County are considering security changes for Michael Jackson’s next court date after hundreds of fans surged into the street last week to watch the pop star dance on top of his SUV after his arraignment.
Police were frustrated by the scene along Miller Street in Santa Maria, a well-traveled, mostly residential street outside the courthouse in the small central California town.
“The whole event could have been prevented if he’d just gotten in his van and driven away,” police Lt. Chris Vaughan said. “It was like a beckoning to come forward. We’re hoping he does not do that again.”
The mob scene occurred on Jan. 16 after Jackson pleaded innocent to child molestation charges and was scolded by the judge for arriving 20 minutes late to court. Jackson’s attorneys said he had been delayed by the crowd.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13, but it was unclear whether Jackson would attend. A statement posted Friday on a fan Web site said supporters would be advised of court dates so they could plan to attend.
About 1,500 people converged on the courthouse for the arraignment, including fans and news media from around the world. Barricades held back crowds and formed a long walkway that Jackson used to move between the street and the building.
Jackson entered and left safely, and no fans or members of the media were hurt.
Nevertheless, authorities from several law enforcement agencies handling security could meet next week to discuss possible moves that include changing the way Jackson enters the courthouse, Vaughan said.
“Obviously we’re going to do our best to extend the barricades a little further,” he said.
Santa Maria police and the Sheriff’s Department are the main agencies handling courthouse security, with help from the California Highway Patrol and the FBI.
FBI spokeswoman Vickie Hampton-Franklin said the bureau was involved in part because of the risk of terrorism. “We are present for security reasons just as we are present for any other large gathering, such as the Rose Bowl,” she said.
Jackson also brought his own security to the arraignment, including members of the Nation of Islam.