Jackson Faces Arrest, $3 Million Bail
One day after investigators spent 15 hours searching the musician's Neverland Ranch, authorities announced Wednesday that the pop star was wanted on "multiple counts" of child molestation. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon and Sheriff Jim Anderson said the arrest warrant was for violation of Section 288 of the California Penal Code -- which prohibits lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14.
Anderson said his office in currently in contact with Jackson's legal representatives to negotiate his surrender to authorities. Bail will be set at $3 million.
Jackson is said to be in Las Vegas, preparing a new video. The arrest warrant has been sealed, and no other specifics of the case were cited during Wednesday's press conference.
Sneddon dismissed Jackson's claim -- made in a statement released Wednesday -- that his arrest was timed to coincide with the release of Jackson's new album, a compilation titled "Number Ones," featuring past hits and a new single, "One More Chance."
"As if the sheriff and I are into this kind of music," Sneddon quipped. "We've been ready to do this for some period of time," he said, explaining Wednesday's search was merely "operational" -- not done to coincide with any album.
A decision whether to take Jackson's children away from him would have to be made by a juvenile court, Sneddon also said, in response to a reporter's question.
A spokesman for Jackson, Stuart Backerman, told the Associated Press early Wednesday that the star was consulting with attorneys and planned to issue a statement later in the morning. He declined further comment.
In a statement to AP, Jackson, 45, said Tuesday: "These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released."
Court TV, citing unidentified sources, reported Tuesday that a 12- or 13-year-old boy brought the allegations. The TV program "Celebrity Justice" said a therapist reported disclosures by a boy who spent time at Neverland and began therapy several months ago. Asked about the condition of the child, Sneddon said at the press conference that, though that was a legitimate question, he could not comment.
Jackson faced a child-molestation investigation in 1993 in a case that never resulted in criminal charges. Jackson reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar settlement in that case but maintained his innocence.
Sneddon noted at the Wednesday press conference -- which oftentimes had a circus-like atmosphere -- that California child-protection laws had been altered since 1993, specifically as a result of the Jackson case. At that time, children could not be forced to testify in such cases.
Tuesday's search came almost exactly a year after Jackson made headlines by dangling his then-9-month-old son, Prince Michael II, from the third-floor balcony of his Berlin hotel room. The incident was promptly followed by more bizarre behavior, including a trip to a zoo with his two older kids (Prince Michael I, 6, and Paris Michael, 5) who were covered by veils. Then in February, Jackson revealed during a British TV documentary that he often shares his Neverland bedroom with children.