On Wednesday, Santa Barbara, California, District Attorney Tom Sneddon and Sheriff Jim Anderson addressed reporters to discuss their investigation into allegations of child molestation levied against Michael Jackson. Below, you'll find a transcript of their comments and answers to select questions from the press:
Santa Barbara Sheriff Jim Anderson: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Yesterday morning at around 8:30 a.m., investigators from the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department served a search warrant at Neverland Ranch. Simultaneous to the service of the warrant at Neverland Ranch two search warrants were also served in southern California. Approximately 70 investigators from the sheriff's department and district attorney's office were involved in the service of this warrant at Neverland Ranch. The operation was concluded around 11 p.m. PT last night. The service of the warrants was part of an ongoing investigation alleging criminal misconduct on the part of Michael Jackson.
The basis for this investigation regarding Mr. Jackson involves allegations of child molestation, 288(a) of the California penal code. Additionally, an arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation. The bail amount on the warrant has been set at $3 million.
At this point in time, Mr. Jackson's been given an opportunity to surrender himself to the custody of the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department within a specified period of time. We are currently working with Mr. Jackson's legal representation on this matter. Mr. Jackson has also been directed to surrender his passport when he's taken into custody.
While we appreciate the level of interest generated by this case, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department is committed to maintaining the integrity of this investigation with respects to both legal and ethical considerations. We will not be commenting on issues specific to the investigation beyond what has already been released.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon: Thank you, Jim.
Let me just add a few things to what the sheriff has said from the perspective of the district attorney's office, and we do have some releases in writing that you can get — either they've been passed around already or you can get them afterward. Commonly, in these kinds of cases — let me clarify something, because some of you are not lawyers, and I don't want you to get it wrong. There's a 288 and a 288(a) ... which is the child-molesting section. ... Just so we all understand, we're talking about a violation of 288(a), child molesting, not oral copulation of an adult — or of children. OK, so I want to clarify that so that you understand that.
Secondly, ordinarily, sometimes either myself or my staff are asked in cases like this what the penalties are. In California, we have a determinant sentence. Determinant sentence, meaning the legislature set a time frame upon conviction if, worst-case scenario, the judge decides to send a person to state prison. In this particular case, the triad is three years, six years and eight years. So minimum would be three, the maximum would be eight for the single count. We are filing multiple counts.
So ... if we get to the point where there is a conviction and sentencing, the judge would have the discretion at that point to give multiple consecutive sentences, and the limits on the judge at that point are one-third of the middle term, which would be an additional two years. You can do the math. For each additional one consecutive, and it's not mandatory, it's discretionary. I'm not suggesting to you any of this could happen, but I'm asked routinely what is the outside worst-case scenario. I don't want anybody to imply from anything that I've said or any remarks I've said that any one of those things is going to happen, but that's just what the sentencing time frames are.
One thing I want to emphasize, and I'm saying this because I couldn't resist the temptation to watch a little bit of some of this coverage last night on TV. And I heard a lot of apologists for Mr. Jackson saying some things that I think we can — the sheriff and I — can talk about that I think are important for you, as the media, and for the public, who is going to hear these things, to be told.
And, in fact, we were going to execute these warrants several weeks ago but had to put it off because of all the visitors we had come up here, the 50,000 people who came in for Halloween.
So it really has nothing to do with his album or whatever else he's doing in his life. ... We don't track him. So I think it is important for people to know that we've been ready to do this for some period of time and it was just an operational thing within the sheriff's department because of the tremendous manpower, person-power, that they had to put out for the Halloween thing.
And the last question, before we'll open it up, is I know you'll probably ask some questions about child protective services. Both in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Child protective services at this point in time is not involved in these investigations. There were some previous contacts by folks in the Los Angeles child protective services involving some other things that came out — don't assume from that I'm talking about the same family. I'm just telling you there was child protective services involved in other allegations involving Mr. Jackson in Los Angeles.
There has been no involvement on either one of those departments and any one of those things — involving any of that information. This has solely been an operation run by the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, and I've been advising them and members of my staff have been advising them on the legal issues involved in the investigation.
Whether they will get involved, obviously, there's going to be — at least the local Santa Barbara people, where it's pertinent, will be notified of it and what they do, they do. ...
We will not be involved. There will be separate counsel appointed to represent the Department of Child Services in Santa Barbara. Sheriff, do you have anything to add, before we open it up?
Anderson: Just that we have copies of the news release this morning to provide to you, both from the sheriff's department and district attorney's office. Now we'll open it up for questions.
Q: Could Michael Jackson's children be taken away from him?
Sneddon: That's a decision that would be made by a juvenile court. ...
Q: In general terms, sir, can you just talk about in general what you all were looking for?
Anderson: Items of evidence that would corroborate the victim's statements.
Q: Is there a possibility of any other victims?
Anderson: Yes, there is that possibility, and we would encourage the public to come forward if they have any information whatsoever that would lead us to believe there are other victims in the community to contact us so we can follow up on that information.
Q: Are you confident your victim's willing to testify this time?
Q: Does the law call for [his children] to be taken into protective custody as a matter of course if his father's under arrest for molestation charges if he returns to California?
Sneddon: Not necessarily. Not at this point in time, no.
Q: Wait a minute. You can have a father charged with sexual abuse of a minor and leave the children in the home with that father?
Sneddon: Everyone is innocent until convicted.
Q: If Michael Jackson's watching this right now, or his people, it's your opportunity to tell him what you'd like — should he contact authorities immediately? What's your message to him?
Sneddon: Get over here and get checked in.
Anderson: We would encourage him to turn himself in and cooperate with law enforcement. Yes.
Q: Did you get a phone call? Did someone tip you off? You've been investigating this for two or three months. What led to this enormous, massive investigation and search yesterday?
Sneddon: Well, like in any other criminal investigation, we have to have someone who's a victim come forward and present the information to law enforcement. That's what begins the process for the investigation to start.
Q: What's the next step after — after he turns himself in. When is the arraignment? What's the time frame?
Sneddon: I'll talk to you generically because there is some give-and-take in these things. So I don't want anybody to take this as an absolute thing that's set in concrete.
Ordinarily — let's just put this case aside and talk generically about situations where we've allowed people to surrender themselves before with their lawyers and get booked and fingerprinted — is that they're given — and if they make the bail that's set by the judge. Then they are cited to appear in court on a certain date in the future and that citation date can be anywhere from probably 30 days to 45 days.
At that point, then, the district attorney's office must have on file a formal criminal-charging document at the time the individual's brought — or comes to court pursuant to that citation released. That is the initial date for appearance for arraignment.
And as many of you who cover other notorious cases in the past or that are going on in future know, that in many instances the defendant and his attorney will appear for the first time and continue and not enter a plea immediately, but do so at a subsequent date.
That's generic. That's what happens generically. I cannot tell you what's going to happen at this point because Mr. Jackson is not in custody.
Q: Is the investigative work basically completed, or is there a possibility we may see other search warrants executed?
Anderson: It's not completed at this point. It's an ongoing investigation. We're following up on information as we speak.
Q: What do you say to parents who let their children go to Neverland Ranch on sleepovers? ...
Anderson: My advice is don't do it.
Sneddon: None of our kids were there. Thank you very much.
Anderson: Thank you.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."