SANTA MARIA, California — It was a more subdued scene outside the courtroom than last time as Michael Jackson was arraigned yet again on Friday, but inside the courtroom the pop icon was hit with 10 felony charges, including a new conspiracy charge added to the child-molestation charges previously levied against him.
Jackson faces multiple felony charges related to lewd acts with a minor, an attempted lewd act on a child and administering an intoxicant to a minor. He will also face one felony charge of conspiracy related to 28 individual acts including child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.
Specifically, Jackson faces four counts of committing a lewd act on a child, four counts of administering an intoxicant to assist in commission of a felony and one count of attempting to commit a lewd act on a child. All of the incidents related to those charges are alleged to have happened between February 20, 2003, and March 12, 2003. He also faces one count of conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, and extortion stemming from incidents alleged to have happened between February 1, 2003, and March 31, 2003.
The singer pleaded not guilty to all charges and has maintained his innocence since the accusations first surfaced.
Jackson sat quietly in the courtroom during the proceedings, which rolled on with a more businesslike tone that his previous trip to court. His team is due back in court May 28 for a procedural date, but Jackson himself will not be required to attend.
The conditions of Jackson’s bail remain unchanged.
Jackson was back in court to face the music after a grand jury indicted him two weeks ago determining that there was sufficient evidence to charge him (see “Grand Jury Indicts Michael Jackson” ). Jackson had already been arraigned on child-molestation charges in Santa Maria Superior Court, but the grand jury indictment paves the way for the case to move quickly to trial without preliminary hearings (see “What Does Jackson’s Indictment Mean? A Lawyer Explains” ).
After a January arraignment that saw Jackson arrive late, greet fans on a long walk into the courthouse and later dance for them on top of an SUV (see “Michael Jackson Pleads Not Guilty To Child-Molestation Charges” ), Jackson and his team seemed determined to keep the energy lower this time around. Jackson arrived at the courthouse around 7:45 a.m. and kept a relatively low profile when entering the courthouse. Once inside, his security detail blocked news cameras that rolled while Jackson passed through a metal detector and entered the building.
Upon leaving, Jackson and his team struck a respectful note. Jackson — flanked by his family — thanked his fans and the community of Santa Maria, saying, “I will always love this community from the bottom of my heart.” There was no showmanship, no dancing, just a brief comment to the press and a wave from the window of his SUV.
Once again, Jackson’s fans came out to show their support, though the crowd was smaller than the one for his January arraignment. Again, the singer bussed supporters in from Los Angeles free of charge as part of his “caravan of faith.” The hundreds of Jackson supporters who were on hand erupted at each fleeting glimpse of their embattled icon as he entered and left the courthouse.
The court date marked the first outing for Jackson’s new legal team, which no longer includes Benjamin Brafman and Mark Geragos (see “Michael Jackson’s Legal Team Undergoes Shake-Up” ). Jackson is now represented by former Robert Blake attorney Thomas Mesereau.
Speaking briefly following Friday’s hearing, Mesereau said, “This case is not about lawyers or anyone else becoming celebrities. We’re going to conduct this case with professionalism and dignity at all times. This case is about one thing only: the dignity, the integrity, the decency, the honor, the character, the innocence and the complete vindication of Michael Jackson.”
Friday’s court date was also Jackson’s first outing with his new security team. Jackson had been employing members of the Nation of Islam to handle security for him, but he has severed his ties with the organization.
During Friday’s proceedings, it was also determined that the grand-jury ruling that was handed down two weeks ago (which paved the way for Friday’s arraignment) will not be made public. However, an abbreviated version of that ruling will eventually be released.
The subdued demeanor of Jackson and his legal team seemed to carry over outside the courthouse. The throng of fans who came out to support Jackson (while still in the hundreds) seemed roughly one-quarter the size of the crowd at his last hearing, and where more than a dozen food vendors set up shop to serve the crowds in January, only one showed up on Friday. Industrious souls still peddled “Free Michael Jackson” pins, posters and T-shirts, but they were met for the first time with a pocket of supporters of Jackson’s alleged victim, armed with signs reading “What if it was your kid?”
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see “Michael Jackson Accused.”
[This story was updated on 04.30.2004 at 1:25 p.m. EST]