Warrant issued for Michael Jackson

LOS OLIVOS, Calif. – Authorities said Wednesday an arrest warrant had been issued for Michael Jackson in a child molestation case.

“There is an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson,” said senior Deputy Tim Gracey of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Gracey said Jackson was in Las Vegas and authorities were negotiating with Jackson’s lawyer for his surrender.

Gracey said the arrest warrant was for a violation of Section 288 of the California Penal Code – which prohibits lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14.

He said further details would be released at a late morning news conference in Santa Barbara.

Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for Jackson told The Associated Press he knew of no such warrant. Stuart Backerman said he spoke with the district attorney’s office late Tuesday “and they weren’t confirming or denying that at the moment.”

A raid on Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was linked to a child molestation allegation against the pop superstar, a Jackson family attorney said Wednesday.

“We know that a search warrant was executed at Neverland Ranch early yesterday morning and that the warrant stated that it was in response to a complaint of a male child, 12 years old, who claims that there was sexual molestation that took place at Neverland Ranch,” attorney Brian Oxman, who said he had represented the Jackson family for 14 years, told CBS’ “The Early Show.”

Oxman is not representing Michael Jackson, though he said he had spoken with members of Jackson’s family.

“It is very upsetting to them,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “They are just really very shocked by this entire incident and they go, ‘Here we go again. Michael is just a sitting target for people to take potshots at him.’ “

As many as 70 law enforcement officials served a search warrant at Jackson’s ranch Tuesday and searched for evidence through the night as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, Sgt. Chris Pappas said. He said no warrant had been issued for Jackson’s arrest.

The district attorney and sheriff planned to provide more details at a press conference Wednesday. The Santa Barbara News-Press reported in Wednesday’s editions that a county source confirmed the search stemmed from a child molestation allegation.

Jackson, who reportedly was in Las Vegas when the search warrant was served, denounced media coverage in a statement released to The Associated Press by spokesman Stuart Backerman.

“I’ve seen lawyers who don’t represent me and spokespeople who do not know me speaking for me. These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released,” the Jackson statement said, referring to Tuesday’s release of a greatest hits album, “Number Ones.”

Backerman refused to comment on any allegations and said neither he nor Jackson knew the details of the investigation.

The 45-year-old singing superstar faced a child molestation investigation in 1993 in a case that never resulted in criminal charges. Jackson reportedly paid a multimillion dollar settlement in that case but maintained his innocence.

The $12.3 million Neverland Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley has a mansion, its own zoo and amusement park, and has often been the site of children’s parties.

Steve Manning, a Jackson family spokesman, briefly talked to reporters outside a Las Vegas recording studio and said Jackson was “holding up” and had his family’s support.

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

Jackson caused an international uproar last year when he displayed his baby, Prince Michael II, to fans by dangling him briefly from a fourth-floor balcony in Germany. Jackson called the incident a “terrible mistake,” and Berlin authorities said the actions were not punishable.

The singer had international hits with the albums “Thriller” (1982), “Bad” (1987) and “Dangerous” (1991) saw his career begin to collapse after the 1993 allegations.

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.


Associated Press reporter Christina Almeida in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Copyright ©2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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