Michael Jackson was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury investigating allegations that the beleaguered King of Pop molested a boy at his Neverland estate, ABCNEWS has learned.
The panel met in Santa Barbara, Calif., for 13 days to consider whether there was enough evidence to charge Jackson, 45. The precise charges returned against the singer were not immediately known, but ABCNEWS has learned he will be arraigned on April 30 before Judge Rodney Melville in Santa Barbara Superior Court.
The grand jury reportedly has spent the last three weeks hearing from at least a dozen witnesses, including the 14-year-old boy who claims the pop superstar sexually abused him. Jackson's lawyers had said earlier Wednesday that their client would plead not guilty if he were indicted.
"Mr. Jackson and his attorneys are confident that after a trial on these charges, Mr. Jackson will be fully exonerated and that the allegations contained in the indictment will be shown to be patently false," they said in a statement posted on the singer's Web site.
"In this case, Mr. Jackson is not just 'presumed' to be innocent but is in fact innocent. Michael is looking forward to his day in court and wishes to thank the millions of fans throughout the world who continue to support him during this difficult period," the statement said.
Indictment Expedites the Case
The indictment means the grand jury concluded there is enough evidence to believe that Jackson has committed a crime and should face trial.
Jackson, 45, was arrested on Nov. 20 and booked on child molestation charges after a 14-year-old boy alleged the singer sexually abused him during visits to Neverland. The boy was 12 at the time of the alleged abuse.
In January, Jackson pleaded not guilty to seven counts of lewd acts upon a child and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent.
Jackson is already free on $3 million bail. While the district attorney could ask for a new bond hearing, the stipulations of his release will likely remain the same.
From Superstar to Just Bizarre
Long before news of this case first broke, Jackson's superstar image had been marred by increasingly eccentric behavior.
He shot to stardom when he was just 4 years old, singing with his older brothers in the Jackson Five. He released his first solo album in 1972, but he really began to define himself as a solo artist with the 1979 release of Off the Wall. He became an international phenomenon when Thriller — propelled by songs such as "Beat It" and "Billie Jean," as well as his unique "moonwalking" dance in music videos — sold 16 million copies worldwide in 1983. It is the second-greatest selling album of all time.
However, after Thriller, Jackson's physical appearance began to change drastically. The headlines didn't focus too much on it at the time, but when Jackson released Bad in 1987, he appeared to have much more feminine facial features. His complexion, once brown, was lightened. His once-flat nose was reshaped, his cheekbones were more defined and his hair — once a Jeri Curled Afro — was straightened.
Then his behavior appeared to become increasingly odd, with reports that he slept in a hyperbaric chamber and tried to buy the Elephant Man's bones. However, he was still recognized primarily for his talent and perhaps perceived as benevolently eccentric.