Santa Barbara, California, District Attorney Tom Sneddon's cheerful smile at Wednesday's press conference announcing the latest child-molestation accusations against Michael Jackson said it all.
This case is personal.
With 33 years of experience as a district attorney behind him, Sneddon is certainly a professional, but he showed unusual satisfaction in issuing an arrest warrant for the pop star (see "Michael Jackson Wanted On Multiple Counts Of Child Molestation").
The apparent vendetta most likely stems from two events. Sneddon was the prosecutor on the child-molestation case against Jackson 10 years ago, only to find himself without a victim willing to testify when Jackson reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the alleged victim's family (that case led California to change its laws regarding witness testimony in child molestation cases). Secondly, Jackson later attacked the district attorney in his music.
Jackson's 1995 double album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1, includes a song called "D.S." featuring the chorus, "Dom Sheldon is a cold man," according to official lyrics. His pronunciation of the title character, however, sounds much closer to "Tom Sneddon is a cold man."
In the opening verse, Jackson sings, "They wanna get my ass/ Dead or alive/ You know he really tried to take me/ Down by surprise." Other verses includes the lyrics, "He out shock in every single way/ He'll stop at nothing to get his political way," and "You think he brother with the KKK?/ I know his mother never taught him right anyway/ He want your vote just to remain DA."
Sneddon addressed the song earlier this year in an interview with the National District Attorney's Association (NDAA). "I have not — shall we say — done him the honor of listening to it," he said.
Prior to releasing "D.S.," Jackson indirectly expressed his frustrations with Sneddon in a television announcement, noting the excruciating experience of being stripped naked and photographed during the 1993 investigation.
Before the accuser halted the investigation by declining to testify in court, Sneddon said the photographs were necessary to verify the boy's description of intimate parts of Jackson's anatomy.
The district attorney, a father of nine, is known for his take-no-prisoners courtroom demeanor, which earned him the nickname "Mad Dog" early in his career, according to the NDAA.
Sneddon served in the Vietnam War and worked at the Los Angeles district attorney's office but has been with Santa Barbara County since 1969. He was elected district attorney in 1982 and has been re-elected ever since, prompting the local newspaper to call him "arguably the single most powerful person in all of Santa Barbara County."
Aside from handling Jackson in 1993, the former Notre Dame boxer is most famous for a case that almost stalled when Israel refused to extradite two hit men accused of murdering a Santa Barbara couple. Sneddon eventually traveled to Israel and assisted prosecutors in convicting the men and then turned around and had Canada extradite the man who had hired the hit men and convicted him.
On Wednesday, Sneddon maintained a grin for most of the press conference and even made some jokes, such as when asked if the timing of the charges was connected to Tuesday's release of Jackson's Number Ones hits album. "Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music," Sneddon said.
For much more on Jackson, his life and the case against him, tune in to MTV for an MTV News Now special report, "Michael Jackson: Nightmare in Neverland," Thursday night (November 20) at 10 p.m. ET.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."