After executing a search warrant at Neverland Ranch, officials in Santa Barbara, California, have issued an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson on multiple counts of child molestation, setting his bail at $3 million.
At a press conference held Wednesday (November 19), Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon announced that Jackson was wanted under California Penal Code 288a: molestation of a child. Jackson was in communication with legal authorities, Sneddon said, to turn himself in. At that time, he will be required to surrender his passport. Jackson was last spotted Tuesday in Las Vegas, and CNN reports that he intends to surrender Thursday morning, according to a source close to the case.
Sneddon wouldn't specify who the victim was, how many counts Jackson faces, or whether there's the possibility of multiple victims, nor would he provide specifics of the case or a timeline of the investigation. However, he did reveal that more than one search warrant had been executed Tuesday (see "New Allegations Spark Search Of Jackson's Neverland Ranch"), and that two other locations in Southern California had been searched in addition to Jackson's residence at Neverland in Los Olivos. He would not specify if they were residences or businesses, nor would he detail what police found or were looking for.
A previous criminal investigation in 1993 had not been completed because at the time the victim had also filed a civil suit, which, once it was settled, affected the victim's willingness to continue cooperating with authorities, according to Sneddon. However, because of that case, the law has since been changed, Sneddon said. No longer do authorities need minor victims to be willing to testify; victims can now be compelled to testify should the prosecution require it. In this current case against Jackson, Sneddon said, the victim was willing to cooperate and had already signed an affidavit to that effect. That affidavit has been sealed for 45 days.
Also, Sneddon pointed out, this case was not motivated by money, as there was no civil suit filed in conjunction with the criminal complaint, as had been the case in 1993.
Jackson spokesperson Stuart Backerman released a statement on Wednesday, saying, "The outrageous allegations against Michael Jackson are false. Michael would never harm a child in any way. These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom. ... Michael, through his attorneys, led by Mark Geragos, has already made arrangements with the district attorney to return to Santa Barbara to immediately confront and prove these charges unfounded."
Despite Jackson's assertion on Tuesday that the timing of the search was suspect, since it happened the same day that his Number Ones hits compilation dropped, Sneddon said Jackson's music career wasn't a factor.
Sneddon also said the Department of Child Protective Services was not participating in his and the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department's ongoing criminal investigation and that it's not yet known how this investigation will affect the custody of Jackson's own children.
Jackson's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.
Meanwhile, CBS announced on Wednesday that it is postponing its "Michael Jackson Number Ones" special, which was to air November 26. On Tuesday, "The Michael Jackson Story," which looks at the singer's career via his music, videos and live performances, was pulled from a U.K. television channel.
[This story was updated at 4:40 p.m. ET on 11.19.2003]
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."