[This story was updated on 11.18.03 at 7:50 p.m. ET.]
Authorities descended on Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California, just north of Santa Barbara County on Tuesday (November 18), prompted by allegations of sexual misconduct raised by a 12-year-old Los Angeles boy, according to Court TV.
Details of the allegations remain unclear, but 60 to 70 personnel from the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s department and district attorney’s office executed a search warrant around 8:30 a.m. PT. Law enforcement officers brought a special vehicle for forensic evidence collection and an ambulance, which left the scene shortly after arriving, according to reporters on the scene.
No arrest warrant has been issued, and Jackson was not home during the raid. The singer was in Las Vegas shooting an upcoming special for CBS, scheduled to air November 26. Also on Jackson’s shooting schedule was a video for his new single, “One More Chance,” penned by R. Kelly, who himself is no stranger to allegations of sexual misconduct (see “R. Kelly Pens Song For Michael Jackson’s Greatest-Hits LP” ).
Ten years ago, Jackson faced a similar investigation amid allegations that he molested a then-12-year-old boy. In February 1993, the boy claimed in court papers, he began staying over at Neverland, first in the guest house but eventually in Jackson’s bed. Gradually, the boy claimed, the singer initiated physical contact, and when the boy would refuse, Jackson would cry. The documents go on to detail alleged sexual encounters (see “Papers Detailing Jacko’s Molestation Allegations Surface” ).
The boy sued Jackson in Los Angeles Superior Court in 1994, claiming sexual battery, willful misconduct, emotional distress and other charges. The pop star settled out of court but maintained his innocence. Criminal charges were never filed, and terms of the suit were confidential but reportedly in the tens of millions.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who initially represented the boy, told MSNBC on Tuesday that she thought an investigation of Jackson was “long overdue,” while attorney Larry Feldman, who settled the suit brought by the boy, told CNN he couldn’t “confirm or deny” that he is currently representing anyone in a civil or criminal investigation pertaining to Jackson, because of possible violation of attorney-client privilege.
”I’ve seen lawyers who don’t represent me and spokespeople who do not know me speaking for me,” Jackson said in a statement Tuesday. “These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released.”
This latest search comes the same day that Jackson’s Number Ones greatest-hits collection arrives in stores.
The Santa Barbara district attorney’s office wouldn’t comment on the warrant but has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT. The sheriff’s department would not comment on the reason for Tuesday’s raid but said investigators had enough information to justify the action.
A spokesperson for the singer said, “Michael will, as always, cooperate fully with authorities in any investigation even as it is conducted, yet again, while he is not home.”
Meanwhile, the fallout has already begun. “The Michael Jackson Story,” which looks at the singer’s career via his music, videos and live performances, was scheduled to air in the U.K. on Tuesday but was pulled. A CBS spokesperson had no information on whether the scandal would affect their November 26 special.