Grand Jury Convening in Jackson Case?

03/11/2004 AT 10:56 AM EST

Tom Sneddon, the Santa Barbara County prosecutor who charged Michael Jackson with child molestation, is convening a grand jury to hear evidence in the case, a move apparently designed to sidestep a public preliminary hearing, according to a report in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

A spokesman for Sneddon's office tells the Associated Press that a grand jury is being convened but declined to say whether this would be for the Jackson case. Jackson's lawyers said Wednesday they could not comment due to a judge's gag order.

Loyola University Law School Professor Laurie Levenson tells AP, "It doesn't surprise me if (Sneddon) has decided to go to the grand jury. It avoids the media spectacle and it gives them a chance for a dress rehearsal" before a possible trial. She also says a grand jury hearing would allow prosecutors to question Jackson's young accuser behind closed doors and see how well he would stand up as a witness.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He's free on $3 million bail. In other Jackson news, an unusual statement has been released by Michael's recently hired new publicist, Raymore Bain, who said on Wednesday that the Jackson Family spokesperson, Dr. Firpo Carr, who has appeared on several TV shows, no longer has Michael's authorization to speak on his behalf.

Bain's statement said: "Mr. Jackson sent a letter to Dr. Carr, dated February 12, 2004, which states in part, 'I am respectfully requesting that you please refrain from discussing me, or participating in any discussions regarding me in the media. It does not matter to me whether it is on behalf of my family, if the subject matter is Michael Jackson, you should refrain from making any statements.'

"He continues, 'My family has the right to select anyone they so choose to speak on their behalf, and I am sure that they feel you are an effective and loyal spokesperson, who has articulated very clearly their feelings and concerns. However, these interviews are being conducted without my prior approval, and I want them to stop.' "

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