On the heels of last week's news that Michael Jackson had been secretly videotaped while flying from Las Vegas to turn himself in, over the weekend law-enforcement officials announced they'd been bugged as well.
Several wireless microphones were discovered outside the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department headquarters on November 20, the day of Jackson's surrender on charges of child molestation (see "Michael Jackson Surrenders To Santa Barbara Police"), according to sheriff's officials.
"Several microphones were observed by our personnel, in an outside area generally frequented by employees during their break times," Sgt. Chris Pappas said. "Once we were made aware of them, we removed them."
Pappas said there would be no further investigation regarding the planting of the microphones, which was believed to have occurred as hundreds of reporters and photographers gathered at the sheriff's department while Jackson was being booked at the nearby jail. He said no other microphones had been discovered.
Meanwhile, a reporter was arrested by Santa Barbara police that day for trespassing, after having allegedly ventured aboard Jackson's private plane, which was later discovered to have been rigged with hidden video cameras, sparking a lawsuit by Jackson against the charter plane company (see "Jackson Was Illegally Taped On Charter Flight, Lawyer Says").
According to Jackson's security team, the man — 27-year-old Lee Madden — was found hiding in the hangar and was handed over to authorities who were present at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport for Jackson's surrender. Madden had a video camera, digital camera, notepad and metal clipboard, and he claimed to be a reporter for the news and photo agency Splash, which has an office in Marina del Rey, California, and corporate headquarters in London. He was booked for investigation of misdemeanor trespassing and released.
A spokesperson for the Santa Barbara police said the district attorney's office is reviewing the case, and charges are pending. Any connection between Madden's alleged trespassing and the cameras found on the plane, however, is to be determined by the FBI, local authorities said.
"We spotted him and then we grabbed him," Jackson security chief Sean Morrison said. "There's a possibility that [the reporter] was the one [who planted the video cameras on the plane]. Law enforcement is looking into that."
Though some of the pages aren't working on the news agency's Web site this week, last week it displayed interior shots of an airplane cabin with a hat identified as Jackson's on one seat, and another photo showed an exterior shot of the aircraft in a hangar with someone identified as Jackson walking down its stairs, according to the Associated Press.
Splash News declined to comment Monday. When asked how the agency obtained the photos, the person manning the photo desk said, "Not going to tell you that" and hung up.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."