Santa Barbara County, California, Sheriff Jim Anderson said on Wednesday that he's treating Michael Jackson's claims of police brutality as a formal citizen's complaint. If Jackson's claims prove groundless, he could be charged with giving a false report against a peace officer.
Anderson called a press conference to debunk Jackson's assertions on "60 Minutes" that when he surrendered on November 20, authorities handcuffed him too tight, causing bruising and swelling, and that deputies dislocated his shoulder. The singer also claimed he had been locked in a feces-smeared bathroom for 45 minutes and taunted about the smell while he was in there (see "Michael Jackson Accuses Sheriff's Department Of Brutality").
The sheriff, who said he was "shocked and troubled" by the allegations, categorically denied them, describing the arrest, transport, booking and release of Jackson as "professional" and "courteous."
Jackson was booked and released in 63 minutes, including a space of about 15 minutes during which Jackson was placed alone in a holding cell so that he could use a bathroom, Anderson said. The holding cell, normally meant to house seven people, was equipped with a toilet, sink and bench, and it had been scrubbed prior to Jackson's use, the sheriff said, noting that Jackson thanked the detective who escorted him there.
"The entire booking process was supervised, and at no time did Mr. Jackson complain of any injury or mistreatment," Anderson said. "And we observed no injuries."
Anderson played for the press a videotape that showed Jackson being handcuffed upon his surrender and uncuffed upon his arrival at the jail. The handcuffs were "double-locked," Anderson said, to minimize discomfort. Anderson also played an audiotape recorded during Jackson's ride to the jail, in which the singer can be heard whistling and singing softly to himself.
Though Jackson complained that the handcuffs were tight and hurt, the officer is heard making helpful suggestions to Jackson, telling him to "scoot forth a little bit, there you go," so that he can sit with less discomfort, and offering to turn on the air conditioning. Twice during the recording a police officer asks Jackson how he is doing, and both times the singer replies positively. "It's wonderful," he says at one point, and he replies, "Yes, fine," at another.
"This case is not about police misconduct," Anderson said. "This is about being advocates for child and adult victims of a crime. I think Mr. Jackson has seriously hurt his credibility."
Late Wednesday, the Jackson family responded to Anderson's news conference with a statement saying, "What the tapes the Santa Barbara sheriff released show is interesting, but what it conceals is vital. The tapes do not address any of the allegations that Michael made but only paint a portrait of what the sheriff's men did when the cameras were on them, not what they did when no one was looking."
Jackson's arraignment on charges of child molestation and providing intoxicating agents to a child is scheduled for January 16.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."
For a full explanation of the charges, see "Michael Jackson: The Charges Against Him."