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Michael Jackson: prosecution plans secret grand jury sessions

Linda Deutsch | March 24, 2004

LOS ANGELES — A parade of witnesses detailing old and new child molestation claims against Michael Jackson will testify in a secret grand jury proceeding expected to stretch over two weeks.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon will seek to show that "a pattern of seduction" existed in a case 11 years ago that was never prosecuted and the current case, in which Jackson is alleged to have molested a 12-year-old boy, said a source close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sneddon is avoiding the spectacle of a public preliminary hearing by going to the secret grand jury for an indictment. But legal experts expressed surprise at the anticipated length of the proceeding.

"They're going to throw in the kitchen sink," Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson said Tuesday. "They will be bringing in every piece of evidence that might be relevant. They're casting a wide net. And it gives them a dress rehearsal for the trial." "Normally, the prosecution puts on a bare-bones case with as few witnesses as possible," said criminal defense attorney Steve Cron.

"The fact that they're putting out this much evidence means they may have a question of whether they are going to be successful." Jackson's accuser, now 14, will be the star witness, explaining to grand jurors why he and his family initially denied any wrongdoing by Jackson and later alleged sexual misconduct.

Candidates for the grand jury received summonses earlier this month instructing them to report Thursday. But the process of selecting 19 jurors from more than 100 prospects could consume several days before testimony begins.

Jim Thomas, the former Santa Barbara County sheriff at the time Sneddon first tried to prosecute Jackson in 1993, said the grand jury hearings could become a cloak-and-dagger operation with jurors being shuttled to different locations every day to elude the media.

"They have to provide security for the kid and protect the witnesses from media view," Thomas said.

A spokesman with Tellem Worldwide, which handles public relations for Sneddon, said the prosecutor could not comment because of a court-imposed gag order on everyone involved in the case.

The defense team, also bound by the gag order, is expected to say at trial that the child and his family belatedly made allegations of molestation because they were rebuffed in an effort to get money from Jackson.

Jackson was charged Dec. 18 with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child. A pretrial hearing is set for April 2.

Another source close to the case confirmed that Jackson received a letter inviting him to testify before the grand jury. Such invitations are routine, but few people who are targets of an investigation agree to testify.

Among witnesses receiving subpoenas are those who testified in 1993 before a grand jury looking into allegations against Jackson involving another boy. That grand jury never indicted and the case was abandoned when Jackson reached a financial settlement with the boy.

That accuser, who is now 23 and living in New York, could be called as a witness. – Sapa-AP

Related links stories
Michael Jackson's first accuser may testify against him: report [23/03/2004]




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