Michael Jackson has come face to face with his accusers.
The pop star’s private jet touched down at Santa Barbara Airport Thursday and Jackson was taken into police custody to face charges of child molestation. He was officially arrested just after noon PT, and was processed and posted $3 million bail less than an hour later. (Click for Michael Jackson’s mug shot .)
“Michael is here, and he’s come back specifically to confront the charges head on,” Jackson’s attorney Mark Geragos told reporters outside the Santa Barbara County Jail, where his client was processed on Thursday. “He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges, and he considers this to be a big lie. He understands the people are outraged, because if these charges were true, I can assure you Michael would be the first to be outraged. … These charges are categorically untrue. He looks forward to getting into a courtroom, as opposed to say any other forum, and confronting these accusations head on.”
“Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court,” Jackson himself added in a statement released later that day.
Sgt. Chris Papas of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department told reporters huddled outside the building that Jackson’s arraignment has been scheduled for January 9. Jackson, he confirmed, had been booked without incident, in a process that took 30-45 minutes, and had since left. Jackson returned to his private jet and flew back to Las Vegas late Thursday afternoon. There, the star’s black SUV was besieged by fans and curiosity seekers as it crawled through early evening traffic.
Jackson returned to Santa Barbara, California, from Las Vegas via private jet after a warrant was issued for his arrest on multiple counts of child molestation (see “Michael Jackson Wanted On Multiple Counts Of Child Molestation” ). Jackson’s plane arrived in Santa Barbara under a cloak of privacy, nosing into a hangar to block the airborne press cameras circling overhead trying to catch a glimpse of those inside.
At the airport, Jackson surrendered to representatives of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department who want to speak to him about allegations that he violated California penal code 288(a), which pertains to the molestation of a minor. Jackson calls the claims “scurrilous and totally unfounded” and denied any wrongdoing (see “Michael Jackson Releases Statement About Molestation Allegations” ). His arrest warrant set bail at $3 million.
The singer was then escorted — in handcuffs — to Santa Barbara County Jail where his fingerprints and mug shots were taken.
In a heated interview with CNN, Michael’s brother Jermaine Jackson said, “It’s a modern-day lynching. You wanted to see Michael Jackson in handcuffs, you got it. But I support him a thousand percent.”
Jackson had been in Las Vegas when authorities executed a search warrant Tuesday at his residence in Los Olivos, California, where property was seized during a 14-hour raid (see “New Allegations Spark Search Of Jackson’s Neverland Ranch” ). Jackson was in Vegas to shoot a CBS special, which has since been postponed, as well as a video for his latest single, “One More Chance.”
Search warrants were also served at two Southern California locations. While authorities would not provide details, FOX News reported that the locations were video-editing facilities, where still photographs and videotape of Jackson with children were found. The Santa Barbara district attorney and sheriff then held a press conference Wednesday, announcing that a warrant was out for Jackson’s arrest on multiple counts of lewd or lascivious contact with a child younger than 14. While they would not confirm specifics of the case, nor disclose how many counts Jackson faces, the alleged victim is reportedly a 12-year-old Los Angeles boy.
“While we appreciate the level of interest generated by this case,” Sheriff Jim Anderson said at the conference, “the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department is committed to maintaining the integrity of this investigation with respect to both legal and ethical considerations. We will not be commenting on issues specific to the investigation beyond what has already been released.”
This is the second child-molestation accusation brought against Jackson in the past 10 years. The previous criminal investigation in 1993, which was to be prosecuted by the same district attorney as this case, was stalled once the alleged victim settled an additional civil suit in 1994, affecting his willingness to cooperate with authorities. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed but were reported to be in the tens of millions.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon said financial gain would not be a factor in these latest accusations, since the alleged victim had already signed an affidavit, which would be sealed for 45 days. Also, Sneddon pointed out, no civil suit had been filed in conjunction with this criminal complaint, nor was one expected. “We have a cooperative victim in this particular proceeding,” Sneddon said.
While authorities compared the 1993 case to this one, they did not specify whether prior allegations would be a factor in this latest case. According to California law, prosecutors can introduce evidence of a defendant’s prior sexual conduct, which allows juries to hear even allegations in which charges were never brought.
Authorities have also not said whether a documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir, broadcast on ABC earlier this year, would be used as evidence. Some reports suggest that material from the documentary — as well as footage Jackson commissioned to shoot the filming of the documentary — could have motivated the additional searches outside Neverland. In that documentary, Jackson said he still invited children into his bed.
“When you say ’bed’ you’re thinking sexual,” he said in the interview. “It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in. … It’s very charming, it’s very sweet. … Whenever kids come here, they always want to stay with me. They never want to stay in the guest room. … They say, ’Can I stay with you tonight?’ And I go, ’If it’s OK with your parents, yes, you can.’ … The most loving thing you can do is share your bed with someone, you know?”
If convicted, Jackson could face three to eight years for a single count of molestation, and two years each for any subsequent count.
Jackson’s attorney, also the defense attorney for Scott Peterson in the Laci Peterson murder case, did not immediately return calls for comment.
[This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. ET on 11.20.2003]
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.”