18 December 2003
Prosecutors in California have filed charges of child molestation against pop star Michael Jackson. The singer, who was arrested last month, remains free on bail and his lawyers say he will fight the charges.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon filed nine charges against the singer Thursday. "Seven counts of [section] 288-a in violation of the California penal code, commonly known as child molestation, and two counts of violation of penal code section 222 that involves administering an intoxicating liquor to a child for the purpose of committing a felony," he said.
The incidents involve an unidentified child under age 14, which allegedly took place in February and March this year. News reports say the boy, who is now 14, is a cancer victim who visited the Jackson estate near Santa Barbara, California, and spent nights in the singer's bedroom.
The charges come nearly a month after authorities raided the estate, and arrested Michael Jackson on suspicion of molestation. He was released on $3 million bail.
The singer was forced to give up his passport, but the prosecutor says it will be returned to him so he can travel to Britain to meet two contractual agreements.
Michael Jackson has denied the charges, which he says are based "on a big lie." His lawyer, Mark Geragos, says the singer's accusers are after his money.
"I can tell you right now categorically that based upon this complaint that has been filed that Michael Jackson is unequivocally and absolutely innocent of these charges," he said.
Michael Jackson avoided prosecution following similar allegations 10 years ago. He reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the accusing family.
He will be permitted to travel to Britain from December 20 to January 6, but must appear in court in Santa Maria, California, January 16.