- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Authorities issued a warrant for Michael Jackson’s arrest on charges of molesting a child and asked the pop superstar yesterday to turn himself in and surrender his passport.

“Get over here and get checked in,” District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. said at a news conference.

Mr. Jackson, 45, was believed to be working at a Las Vegas recording studio.

Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman issued a statement saying the singer “has already made arrangements with the district attorney to return to Santa Barbara to immediately confront and prove these charges unfounded.”

“Michael would never harm a child in any way. These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom,” Mr. Backerman said.

The district attorney would not say when or where the suspected crimes took place or how old the child was. He said an affidavit outlining the details will be sealed for 45 days.

But Brian Oxman, an attorney who has represented the Jackson family over the years, told CBS that the case involves the suspected molestation of a 12-year-old boy at Mr. Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, the estate where the singer has been known to hold sleepover parties with children. Mr. Oxman is not representing Mr. Jackson.

On Tuesday, as many as 70 law-enforcement officers spent 12 hours searching the Neverland Ranch for evidence. The $12.3 million estate has a mansion, its own zoo and an amusement park.

The arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson accuses him of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, an offense punishable by three to eight years in prison. Mr. Sneddon said the warrant charges multiple counts; he would not say how many. Bail will be set at $3 million, authorities said.

Sheriff Jim Anderson said authorities have been in contact with the singer’s attorneys and that Mr. Jackson has been given the chance to surrender “within a specified period of time.” Mr. Anderson refused to say how long that would be.

“I believe he’s willing to cooperate with us,” the sheriff said.

Mr. Jackson’s spokesman said he will be represented by attorney Mark Geragos, who is defending Scott Peterson against charges he murdered his wife, Laci, and their unborn child.

In 1993, Mr. Jackson faced a child-molestation investigation that never resulted in charges because the child refused to testify. Mr. Jackson reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar settlement in that case but maintained his innocence.

California law was rewritten because of that case, and now a child victim can be forced to testify, Mr. Sneddon said. However, he said the youngster in this case is cooperating.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Mr. Jackson denounced the media coverage of the raid and said “dreadful allegations” always seem to surface “just as another project, an album, a video is being released.” Mr. Jackson’s greatest-hits album, “Number Ones,” came out Tuesday.

The district attorney said the investigation had been under way for some time, and he ridiculed any connection to the CD’s release: “Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music.”

In a documentary broadcast on ABC earlier this year, Mr. Jackson said he had slept in a bed with many children. “When you say bed, you’re thinking sexual,” he said in the interview. “It’s not sexual; we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in. … It’s very charming, it’s very sweet.”

Mr. Jackson caused an international uproar last year when he showed his baby, Prince Michael II, to fans by dangling him from a fourth-floor balcony in Germany. Mr. Jackson called the incident a “terrible mistake.”

The singer had international hits with the albums “Thriller” (1982), “Bad” (1987) and “Dangerous” (1991), but saw his career decline after the 1993 accusations.

His last studio album, “Invincible,” sold about 2 million copies in the United States — great for most artists, especially veteran stars, but only so-so for the man who bills himself as the King of Pop.

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