Sources close to the Michael Jackson sexual molestation investigation said Friday that prosecutors and Jackson's attorneys are negotiating terms for his return to the United States, and one of the entertainer's lawyers said he expects him to be back by Christmas.
Meanwhile, Jackson's lawyers took steps to seek a gag order in the case, which has attracted international publicity. The lawyer for a 13-year-old boy who says that Jackson molested him said Jackson's attorneys notified him late Friday that they want to prevent him from sharing information with the media and with law enforcement officials.
"I received a letter from his lawyers saying that they're seeking an order to prevent me from talking to any person . . . in order that Jackson's constitutional rights under the 5th Amendment not be violated," attorney Larry R. Feldman said. The letter, he added, informed him that Jackson's lawyers will make that request Monday and may ask the court to delay further action in the civil case until the judge rules on their request for a gag order.
Howard Weitzman, one of several lawyers representing Jackson, was unavailable for comment about the gag order request, but earlier in the day confirmed that he and Johnnie Cochran Jr., another Jackson lawyer, met Wednesday with Los Angeles County district attorney's office representatives. Weitzman declined to comment on the discussion.
A source close to the investigation said the meeting dealt at least in part with the issue of whether Jackson would be arrested if he returned and whether he would agree to a body search.
Meanwhile, there was a frenzy of news media activity around the Santa Barbara airport, near Jackson's Neverland Ranch, amid rumors that the pop star had slipped back into the country Friday afternoon. After a private 727 landed at the airport, reporters descended on the facility by land and air, chasing unconfirmed reports that Jackson was on the airliner. One airport source cautioned that large private and corporate jets frequently use the facility.
Authorities investigating allegations that Jackson molested a 13-year-old boy are eager to conduct such a search to see if a physical description provided by the boy matches that of the entertainer.
At one point, police secured a search warrant to examine Jackson, and they later served warrants on a Santa Monica plastic surgeon and a Beverly Hills dermatologist. At least one of those doctors, sources said, was questioned about whether Jackson was undergoing treatment to alter his appearance.
Later, one of the physicians treating Jackson released a statement that he was only being treated for drug addiction.
Feldman said that he too had heard that the meeting between Jackson's lawyers and prosecutors was called to discuss conditions for Jackson's return and his cooperation with authorities.
"From information I have been able to piece together, I think they are attempting to work out an agreement to do a body search," said Feldman, who did not attend the meeting and would not divulge the source of his information.
Although he has not ruled it out directly, Weitzman has previously hinted that he would oppose a body search, which he said would be "about as intrusive as could be."
The source said Jackson's lawyers indicated that the singer might be willing to agree to the search if he could be assured that police would not arrest him as he entered the country. The source added that Jackson's lawyers and prosecutors expect to continue meeting to discuss possible arrangements for the singer's return.
Although he would not comment on the meeting with prosecutors, Weitzman said he expected Jackson to be back in the country soon.
"His treatment is going very well," Weitzman said, a reference to drug rehabilitation treatment that Jackson's entourage says the entertainer has been undergoing at a secret European location.