Santa Barbara County authorities confirmed Wednesday that multiple charges of child molestation will be brought against pop star Michael Jackson, and that a warrant calling for his arrest has been issued, AP reports.
In a press conference held in Los Olivos, Calif., Wednesday morning, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson said the arrest warrant for the singer accuses him of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and multiple charges would be filed.
“An arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation…in a very short period of time there will be charges filed against Mr. Jackson,” Anderson said. Two additional search warrants have been issued in Southern California as well, he stated. Bail has been set at $3 million.
They would not comment on further details or say how many charges would be filed. If convicted, Jackson could face as many as eight years’ imprisonment for each count.
At press time, Jackson‘s whereabouts were unknown, although he was last seen in Las Vegas Tuesday while in town filming a video in preparation for the release of his new greatest hits album, Number Ones. Jackson has been in Las Vegas for the past two and a half weeks shooting a video, according to his spokesman, Stuart Backerman.
When asked by reporters what he would like to say to Jackson if the singer was watching TV, Sneddon smiled and said, “Get over here and get checked in.”
Anderson said Jackson had been “given an opportunity to surrender himself to Santa Barbara authorities within a specific period of time” and he had every reason to believe that the self-styled King of Pop “is willing to cooperate with us.” Jackson‘s legal representatives have reportedly been in contact with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office to negotiate his transfer into custody.
The charges come on the heels of Tuesday’s massive search of Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara, where roughly 70 officials from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. descended upon the 2,600-acre estate for 14 hours combing it for evidence.
Cable channel Court TV reported on Tuesday that a 12-year-old boy who had stayed at Jackson‘s fairy tale-like estate made allegations against Jackson. Officials call the alleged victim “cooperative” and said they had been conducting the investigation for several months.
The officials would not comment on what police were looking for, nor would they disclose what was or was not recovered during the search.
Sneddon pointed out that this investigation is very different from the one involving Jackson in 1993 in which there were no criminal charges filed against him. The family of the then-13-year-old victim settled outside of civil court for a multimillion-dollar amount.
The D.A. added that since then, the law stating victims of child molestation could not be forced to testify in a court proceeding had been changed specifically because of that ’93-’94 case, and now such victims can be made to take the stand in such a trial.
On Tuesday, Jackson denounced the media coverage of the raid and noted that “dreadful allegations” always seem to surface “just as another project, an album, a video is being released.” Tuesday also marked the release of his new greatest hits album, Number Ones.
Johnnie Cochran, who represented the pop legend 10 years ago, remarked on Larry King Live, “I think it’s more than coincidence. I think it was planned.”
District Attorney Sneddon countered these claims, saying that his office had hoped to bring the charges against Jackson much sooner, but was delayed until now as a result of increased work that stemmed from the Halloween season.