LOS ANGELES : Michael Jackson Probe Nearing End, Garcetti Says

The Michael Jackson child molestation investigation is nearing an end and prosecutors expect to decide this month whether to file criminal charges, Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said Wednesday.

Authorities in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties have been investigating the child sex allegations since Aug. 17, 1993, in what Garcetti described as an exhaustive probe "that is not that unusually long."

"We're nearly there," Garcetti said during his monthly office meeting with reporters. "I think we will have a decision on the Michael Jackson case by the end of the month, that's my hope."

Garcetti again dismissed reports that prosecutors in both counties had already decided not to prosecute the pop star. Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Thomas Sneddon Jr. said Monday that the investigation is active.

The investigation began last summer when a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson, 35, of seducing him into having sex during a five-month relationship. The teen-ager filed a civil suit against the pop star. It was settled out of court for a reported $15 million.

The teen-ager was scheduled to meet with Sneddon this week, and the current session of the Santa Barbara County grand jury, scheduled to expire this week, was extended to hear more evidence in the Jackson case.

Jackson defense attorney Howard Weitzman has condemned the lengthy investigation, saying his client is innocent. "I'm confident there is no evidence that indicates Mr. Jackson has committed any crimes," he said.

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