After deliberating in secret for 13 days, a grand jury investigating allegations of molestation against Michael Jackson concluded there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against him and issued an indictment Wednesday.
The exact charges handed down by the Santa Barbara Superior Court grand jury were not immediately known, but Jackson will be arraigned on April 30, when his lawyer Mark Geragos said he will plead not guilty. A trial date is expected to be set at the arraignment.
Jackson was originally arraigned in Santa Maria District Court in January, where he was charged with seven counts of lewd acts upon a child and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent (see "Michael Jackson Pleads Not Guilty To Child-Molestation Charges").
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon Jr. has said the grand jury's charges might include special allegations that could make Jackson ineligible for probation if convicted. Sneddon could ask for a new bond hearing, but the conditions of Jackson's release will likely remain the same. Jackson is out now on $3 million bail.
The grand jury proceedings were held privately, but according to unnamed sources cited in a variety of news outlets Wednesday, the 19 jurors heard from more than a dozen witnesses, including the alleged victim, his brother, his mother and father, and the mother's two attorneys, Larry Feldman and William Dickerman.
In 1993 Feldman represented another boy, 13 at the time, who accused Jackson of molestation before resolving the case out of court in a multimillion-dollar settlement. Witnesses from that case have also appeared before this grand jury, according to the sources.
Psychologist Stan Katz — who reported the current child-molestation allegations to law-enforcement officials and also saw the boy at the center of the 1993 case — testified before the grand jury, as did Jamie Masada, the Laugh Factory nightclub owner who introduced the latest alleged victim to Jackson (see "Jackson Wanted Boy To Leave The Country, Family Friend Says").
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday reported that prosecutors were threatening to bring charges against two former Jackson employees for allegedly intimidating the family of the boy at the center of the current case, hoping it would encourage the ex-employees to testify before the grand jury. A lawyer for the former employees said they declined to appear before the jury and called the latest accusation against Jackson false.
"Mr. Jackson and his attorneys are confident that after a trial on these charges, Mr. Jackson will be fully exonerated and that the allegations contained in the indictment will be shown to be patently false," Geragos and Jackson's other attorneys said in a statement on the singer's Web site. "In this case, Mr. Jackson is not just 'presumed' to be innocent but is in fact innocent. Michael is looking forward to his day in court and wishes to thank the millions of fans throughout the world who continue to support him during this difficult period."
Los Angeles police said earlier this month they were investigating new allegations of child abuse against Jackson from the 1980s (see "Michael Jackson Faces New Allegations Of Child Molestation").
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."