General News

Michael Jackson Court Date Set

Nov 21, 2003 | 10:57am EST

The self-proclaimed King of Pop was ordered yesterday to appear in court Jan. 9 for arraignment on charges of child molestation, The Associated Press reports. Authorities are expected to file charges sometime after Thanksgiving.

Sporting a black suit, white shirt, white tie and a pair of handcuffs, Michael Jackson surrendered to authorities in Santa Barbara, Calif., Thursday to face allegations of "lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 14." The arrest warrant was served after Santa Barbara authorities spent all day Wednesday searching his Neverland Ranch.

After checking in at the Santa Barbara jail Jackson, who was released on $3 million bail, waved to crowds of reporters and flashed a V-sign before getting into a waiting vehicle and heading to the airport to return to Las Vegas, where he has been shooting the video for his latest single, "One More Chance." The video was set to debut Nov. 26 on CBS in a one-hour special chronicling the 45-year-old singer's career that has since been pulled from the schedule.

Security tried to block the TV cameras' view by holding up sheets as Jackson, along with several smaller figures assumed to be his children covered with blankets, boarded the plane, but the singer was visible to helicopter cameras hovering above.

"He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges," Jackson's attorney, Mark Geragos, said outside the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department. "He considers this to be a big lie."

"He understands the people who are outraged, because if these charges were true, I assure you Michael would be the first to be outraged," Geragos added. "I'm here to tell you today, Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf these charges are categorically untrue. He looks forward to getting into a courtroom as opposed to any other forum and confronting these accusations head on."

But while allegations of child molestation swirl around Jackson, friends and family of the pop oddity are speaking up on his behalf.

Steve Manning, a friend who was in Las Vegas with Jackson when the warrant for his arrest was issued, told ABC's Good Morning America that the singer was ready to face the music.

"He feels he's been wrongly accused and he is going to fight this tooth and nail, Manning said. "He is at war right now and he will use every weapon he has to fight these charges."

Manning, who described Jackson's mood as upbeat, said Jackson's family flew into Las Vegas to offer moral support.

"He was joking around, talking to his brothers, his parents and his sisters and looking forward to getting these charges behind him," Manning said.

Meanwhile, Jackson's older brother, Jermaine, condemned the allegations in a CNN interview.

"At the end of the day, this is nothing but a modern-day lynching," Jermaine Jackson said. "This is what they want to see: him in handcuffs. You got it. But it won't be for long, I promise you."

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