The Smoking Gun Web site on Friday published 1,903 pages of what it said were the sealed grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment of pop star Michael Jackson on charges of child molestation last year.
The Web site, which frequently breaks legal stories, did not say where it obtained the documents — only that it believed them to be genuine.
“We know where we obtained them,” Smoking Gun co-founder and editor William Bastone said, adding there was no question the papers were authentic.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has gone to unusual lengths to keep details of the case sealed until the trial starts.
He ordered the grand jury indictment sealed, including the specifics of the allegations listed against Jackson to protect what he said was the pop star’s right to a fair trial. He also has imposed a gag order on lawyers in the case.
Several media outlets have gone to court to get the transcripts unsealed. They have so far been unsuccessful. An appeals court is considering their case.
News organizations have said the judge’s actions have thrown a nearly unprecedented veil of secrecy over a high profile case.
Jackson’s lawyers and prosecutors operate under a gag order in which they cannot comment on the case without the prior permission of the judge.
In an interview with Reuters, Bastone said the Smoking Gun was not under any legal constraints that would prevent it from publishing the transcript, which includes testimony from Jackson’s now 15-year-old accuser, his mother, sister and brother, as well as staff members at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
“Reporters are not subject to a gag order,” Bastone said, adding it was important for the public to know what the case against Jackson is like so they can judge whether the pop star is being fairly treated.
Jackson is charged in a 10-count Santa Barbara County grand jury indictment with sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, who was seen with the entertainer in a 2003 documentary by journalist Martin Bashir. The singer is also charged with conspiring to commit false imprisonment, extortion and child abduction. He has pleaded not guilty.
ABC News, amid protests from Jackson and his lawyers, recently aired what it said were key portions of the boy’s grand jury testimony in which the youth described being molested by Jackson.