The sheriff of Santa Barbara County strongly denied Wednesday that Michael Jackson was roughed up by jailers during his arrest, and threatened to press charges against the pop star for making a false accusation against an officer.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson said he asked the state attorney general to investigate the allegations Jackson made in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Jackson was treated “with the utmost respect and courtesy” during his arrest Nov. 20 on suspicion of child molestation and was “in no way manhandled or abused,” Anderson said at a news conference.
The sheriff said that Jackson raised no complaints during the process, thanked authorities when it was over, whistled and sang during the ride to jail, and replied “Wonderful” when asked at one point how he was doing.
Anderson said he considers Jackson’s allegations in the interview to be a formal citizen’s complaint. He said that if the attorney general finds Jackson’s accusations to be groundless, he will file a misdemeanor complaint against the singer for making a false report.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a statement saying he had ordered an investigation. He said he did not know how long it would take.
Jackson said during the interview that he was bruised and his shoulder dislocated because of jailers’ rough treatment, and that he was locked in a feces-smeared restroom for 45 minutes after he asked to use the facilities.
The sheriff said it was not a bathroom but an empty holding cell big enough for seven people, and it had been cleaned just before Jackson asked to use it.
Jackson attorney Mark Geragos said after the sheriff’s news conference that his client “absolutely” stands by his allegations, and that the idea of seeking criminal charges of a false report “shows another serious flaw in their knowledge of the law.”
Jackson, 45, is charged with repeatedly molesting a boy who had stayed over at his Neverland estate. He is free on $3 million bail and has said he is innocent.
Jackson was arrested at Santa Barbara Airport. He was then driven to the county jail, booked and released.
Polite conversation with deputiesThe sheriff Wednesday played video- and audiotapes of part of the 63-minute booking process. One tape made in a car while he was being taken to jail recorded polite conversation and Jackson whistling. At one point Jackson asked for air conditioning and said “thank you” when it was turned on.
In an audio recording from the car Jackson did complain that his handcuffs hurt. “They’re tight,” he said. An officer advised him to “scoot forward a little bit.”
The handcuffs were quickly removed at the jail, where staff noted the positions of the handcuffs “were consistent with proper handcuffing procedures,” Anderson said.
“I think Mr. Jackson has seriously hurt his credibility,” Anderson concluded.
A legal expert questioned Anderson’s plan to pursue false-report charges against Jackson if the state investigation finds Jackson was treated properly.
“I think it’s a stretch to say that his verbal complaints in an interview are the same as a formally filed complaint that would expose him to criminal liability,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Loyola University Law professor.
Levenson said a recent state Supreme Court ruling found that the state law against filing false reports doesn’t apply to casual speech.
CBS denies making paymentAlso Wednesday, CBS denied a published report that the company paid Jackson for the “60 Minutes” interview.
The New York Times, quoting an unidentified Jackson associate, said Wednesday that Jackson was paid $1 million to reschedule an entertainment special that had been postponed in November. The special, “Michael Jackson Number Ones,” will air Friday.
The source said the extra $1 million meant that “in essence,” CBS paid for the interview.
But Jack Sussman, CBS vice president for specials, said the fee for Jackson’s participation in the special was negotiated in September and was not increased.
Separately, Jackson’s brother Jermaine confirmed that members of the Nation of Islam were providing security for the pop star.
“There is some security that works with Michael from the Nation,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday. “We didn’t ask them to pray. We asked them to secure him.”