Jackson Booked on Molestation Charges

By Kimberly Edds and William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 21, 2003; Page A01

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Nov. 20 -- Michael Jackson surrendered Thursday to authorities to face multiple charges of child molestation. He was escorted by plainclothes detectives into the sheriff's office here in handcuffs.

Through his attorney, the 45-year-old pop star denounced the allegations, calling the felony charges "a big lie."

Michael Jackson waves outside the Santa Barbara County sheriff's headquarters after he was booked Thursday on charges of child molestation. (Robert Galbraith -- Reuters)

Timeline: Jackson's Career
_____From The Post_____
Michael Jackson Faces Arrest (The Washington Post, Nov 20, 2003)

Jackson spent about 45 minutes being booked, fingerprinted and photographed and posting a $3 million bail bond. He also relinquished his passport.

Sgt. Chris Pappas, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, would not release any information about restrictions placed on Jackson's movements. The singer's arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 9.

Jackson left the sheriff's headquarters waving two fingers in a V, blowing a quick kiss and then offering a thumbs-up to the cameras. He was whisked away in a black Chevrolet Suburban with tinted windows. Taken to the Santa Barbara airport, he boarded a chartered jet and flew back to Las Vegas, where he had been filming a music video and promoting a new greatest-hits CD when word of the charges surfaced Tuesday.

After his arrival in Nevada, his SUV was stalled in traffic and TV camera crews surrounded the vehicle. Jackson did not roll down the windows.

Later Jackson's four-car entourage did a two-hour-plus circuitous crawl around Las Vegas, followed by media on the ground and in helicopters. In a scene reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson slow-motion Bronco chase, fans and onlookers pulled over to wave and, as the Jackson vehicle slowed, someone in the car reached out to shake fans' hands. The singer apparently spent the night at the Green Valley Ranch hotel casino in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb.

The reporters and photographers who swarmed the sheriff's complex in Santa Barbara were joined by gawkers. As Jackson emerged from the building, a middle-aged woman squealed to her friends, "I saw him! I saw him!" A college student, invoking Jackson's famous 1980s dance move, held aloft a sign that read "moonwalk 2 jail." Others snapped digital images of the pop star's SUV with their cellular phones. There was also a Michael Jackson impersonator.

One TV cameraman suffered an apparent heart attack and was administered CPR at the scene. The cameraman, Bill Skiba, 43, of KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara, later died. Another photographer appeared to have been struck by a vehicle in Jackson's convoy.

Every step of Jackson's trip was followed by cameras on the ground and in circling helicopters, and then beamed around the world. His arrival in Santa Barbara by plane, the convoy of cars to the jailhouse and his surrender, carried live, dominated news channels throughout the day -- even as reporters sometimes followed the wrong airplanes and vehicles.

At one point, Jackson's brother Jermaine spoke with CNN and defended the troubled entertainer and decried what he called "nothing but a modern-day lynching."

Jermaine Jackson said that the Jacksons were "sick and tired" of outsiders speaking on behalf of the family and the pop singer. "My brother is not eccentric," he said. "We had an incredible, wonderful childhood. And what they're doing is bringing him down with the very thing that he loved."

In past interviews, Michael Jackson has described his years with the Jackson 5 singing group -- made up of him and his brothers, and managed by his father, Joe -- as troubled, and his father as a domineering and bullying figure.

In recent years, Jackson has surrounded himself with children, who are frequently invited to his Neverland Ranch property in Santa Barbara County. The 2,600-acre compound has amusement park rides and a zoo.

Jackson has acknowledged staging sleepovers with his young guests, and saying the children sometimes share his bed. He has described the sleeping arrangements as innocent and "very loving."

While his erratic behavior and bouts of plastic surgery and skin whitening have made him a constant presence in the tabloids, Jackson has devoted considerable time and money to children's causes, especially to children suffering from cancer and other ailments.

Jackson's surrender Thursday followed a 14-hour search Tuesday by law enforcement officials of the Neverland property in the foothills north of Santa Barbara and the announcement by the district attorney here on Wednesday that Jackson was being sought on multiple counts of "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child.

While Jackson was being booked, his attorney, Mark Geragos, stood before a phalanx of TV cameras and said: "Michael is here. He came back specifically to confront these charges head-on. He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges. He considers this to be a big lie. If these charges were true, I assure you Michael would be the first to be outraged. Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf, these charges are categorically untrue."

No criminal indictment has been filed against Jackson, though Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. promised Wednesday that formal charges detailing multiple counts of child molestation would be presented soon.

The specific statute Jackson is accused of violating describes molestation as "arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of [the accused] or the child." Each count carries a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of eight years in prison.

Sneddon has declined to describe the circumstances of the alleged molestation or to say whether the multiple counts involve one child or more. Brian Oxman, a lawyer for the Jackson family who does not represent the singer, said the allegations stem from one 12-year-old boy who has been a guest at Neverland.

A family friend, Steve Manning, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday that Jackson's family had come to Las Vegas to support him. "He feels he's been wrongly accused and he's going to fight this tooth and nail," Manning said. "He's at war right now and he's going to use any weapon he has to fight these charges."

Jackson has been dogged by allegations of molestation over the last 10 years. In 1993 and 1994, officials in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, including Sneddon, conducted a lengthy criminal investigation arising from allegations from a 13-year-old who claimed Jackson molested him. That boy's family settled a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against Jackson, and the Los Angeles County district attorney at the time said he could not proceed with a case because Jackson's accuser declined to cooperate.

In the current case, Sneddon said he has a cooperative witness who is not suing Jackson.

At Neverland Ranch, the gates to the compound were closed Thursday. The mansion and grounds are not visible from the roadside. Danielle Lara, a 19-year-old child care worker, drove to the scene in a car plastered with pictures of Jackson.

"I feel in my heart he's innocent," Lara said. "I was crying when I saw him in handcuffs. I watched it all day on TV."

Lara said she couldn't believe Jackson would harm a child. "He's spent countless dollars on kids," she said. "He loves kids to death."

Special correspondent Ryan Slattery in Las Vegas contributed to this report. Booth reported from Los Angeles.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company