- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Santa Barbara County prosecutors said they will file charges in the molestation case against Michael Jackson tomorrow or Friday, and they have hired a public relations firm to handle the expected crush of news media inquiries.

The charges will be filed at the courthouse in Santa Maria, near the singer’s Neverland Ranch, District Attorney Thomas Sneddon said in a statement.

Mr. Sneddon’s hiring of a firm to deal with the media drew immediate criticism from Jackson family spokesman Brian Oxman. He said it was improper, because “a district attorney is supposed to try the case in court, not in the press.”

Mr. Oxman also repeated criticism of Mr. Sneddon for making jokes at a news conference last month when Mr. Jackson’s arrest warrant was announced.

“It is an affront to common sense, if not professional ethics, for a DA to have a celebrity crisis management team, which is what this new PR firm styles itself as being,” Mr. Oxman said. He added: “First, we had a press conference where the DA told jokes, and now we have a PR firm the DA has hired that also represents the Cartoon Network.”

A secretary at the district attorney’s office said Mr. Sneddon would have no further comment.

In his statement, Mr. Sneddon said reporters should call the firm, Los Angeles-based Tellem Worldwide, to “reduce the number of calls coming into the district attorney’s office at this busy time.”

Tellem Worldwide President Susan Tellem said she contacted Mr. Sneddon last month and offered to help with “media coordination” without pay. She said that the firm has a history of volunteering and that she felt it could help both Mr. Sneddon and the news media.

She said the company would help later this week when the office holds a news conference about the expected charges.

Among the clients listed on Tellem’s Web site are Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, Universal Studios Hollywood and Warner Bros. Online. The site includes a description of 10 services the firm offers. Among them are publicity, crisis management and Web-page design.

“Their ‘Celebs in Crisis’ service will directly, or in concert with other agencies, develop position statements, provide crisis-focused media training and work with lawyers, agents, managers and other entities to help turn a potentially damaging situation into a more positive one bringing the crisis to a more speedy solution,” the site says.

Mr. Jackson, who has proclaimed his innocence, is free on $3 million bail.

The charges will detail for the first time the charges against Mr. Jackson, who surrendered to authorities on Nov. 20 in a case involving a cancer-stricken boy who slept over several times at Neverland.

Charges are usually filed around the time of an arrest, but Mr. Sneddon said last month he was delaying the filing against the singer so the county could set up a Web site to release information to hundreds of news organizations following the case.

The site, designed for media access only, debuted Monday.

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