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Jackson Indicted by Grand Jury
A grand jury examining child-molestation charges against Michael Jackson indicted the entertainer Wednesday, a source close to the case said.
Details of the indictment remained sealed, and neither Santa Barbara County prosecutors nor the singer's attorneys would comment. A court order bars attorneys on both sides from discussing the case with the media.
A statement released by Jackson's legal team said the singer would plead not guilty to the charges.
"Mr. Jackson and his attorneys remind the public that an indictment is merely a formal 'accusation.' We also remind the public that Michael Jackson, like any other person accused of a crime, is 'presumed to be innocent,' " the statement said. "Mr. Jackson and his attorneys are confident that after a trial on these charges, Mr. Jackson will be fully exonerated and that the allegations contained in the indictment will be shown to be patently false."
The indictment sets the stage for a trial that is expected to garner worldwide attention.
Prosecutors allege that Jackson committed sexual acts with a 12-year-old boy at his Neverland Ranch in northern Santa Barbara County in February and March 2003. He has been charged with seven felony counts of child molestation and two counts of using an intoxicant to seduce a minor.
If convicted, Jackson could face more than 20 years in prison.
Jackson's attorneys already have laid the groundwork for a legal challenge of the indictment. In an April 2 hearing, defense attorney Benjamin Brafman contended that prosecutors had failed to adequately present grand jurors with evidence favorable to his client, as the law requires.
The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury started its work March 29. To hand down the indictment, at least 12 of its 19 members had to agree that the evidence was convincing enough to warrant a trial.
As with all grand juries, the panel's meetings were closed to the news media and the public. Wary of a media circus, authorities ratcheted up customary grand jury secrecy by moving the panel from Santa Barbara's downtown courthouse to a sheriff's training center north of town.
Among more than two dozen witnesses was the boy himself, a former cancer patient whose leukemia was said to be in remission.
The boy was seen holding hands with Jackson in an ABC television documentary broadcast in February 2003. Questioned about his relationships with young boys, Jackson told interviewer Martin Bashir that he had shared his bedroom overnight with a 12-year-old boy. Jackson said he slept on the floor while the boy slept in his bed.
"Why can't you share your bed?" Jackson said. "The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone. It's a beautiful thing. It's very right; it's very loving."
The boy was introduced to Jackson in 2001 by another grand jury witness, Los Angeles comedy club owner Jamie Masada.
Undergoing cancer treatments, the boy had attended a comedy camp run by Masada, who said in interviews last year that he introduced him to Jackson and other celebrities.
Other witnesses included the boy's brother, his father, his mother, a psychologist who treated him, and Larry R. Feldman, his mother's Los Angeles attorney, according to sources close to the case.
In addition to acting as the mother's counsel, Feldman represented the family of a boy who in 1993 claimed Jackson had molested him.
Grand juries in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles heard accusations against the pop icon in that case.
However, Jackson's accuser, who was 13 at the time of the alleged crimes, refused to testify after his family accepted a multimillion-dollar settlement from Jackson. No charges were filed in that case.
Last November, scores of Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies searched Jackson's 2,600-acre Neverland Ranch. They hauled away truckloads of possible evidence and have since issued at least 18 additional search warrants.
Days after the Neverland search, Jackson was arrested. He has been free on $3-million bail ever since.
Times staff writer Holly J. Wolcott in Santa Barbara contributed to this report.