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Sealing of Jackson Case Search Warrants Is Urged

From a Times Staff Writer

Saying they are worried about witnesses being intimidated, Santa Barbara County prosecutors asked a judge Thursday to seal recent search warrants in the Michael Jackson case.

Issued Jan. 22, the warrants seek billing records from seven unnamed “providers of telephone service to subscribers in California and elsewhere,” according to the motion filed with Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville. In the court filing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gerald McC. Franklin suggested that people whose telephone numbers are revealed might flee or refuse to talk. Representing Dist. Atty. Tom Sneddon, he said in the motion that “the prior experience of investigators in this matter” led him to believe that prospective witnesses “have sometimes been subjected to intimidation and have become reluctant to be forthcoming and candid.”

The motion asks that records related to the warrants be withheld from the public until the investigation of the entertainer on child molestation charges is completed. Ordinarily, affidavits supporting the request for search warrants are made public 10 days after the search, along with a listing of items that were seized. A judge, however, may seal those materials or release them in an edited form.

Last week, Melville ruled that portions of court records related to the search of Jackson’s estate would become public after references identifying Jackson’s alleged victim were removed. Those documents have not yet been made available.

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