Ten years after a sex-abuse scandal sent Michael Jackson's career and reputation into a downward spiral, authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest on multiple counts of child molestation in a new case. The self-proclaimed King of Pop vowed through a spokesman to prove the "outrageous allegations" false.
Jackson's lawyers, led by Mark Geragos — who is also representing Scott Peterson, the Modesto, Calif., man charged with murder in the deaths of his wife and unborn son — are negotiating his surrender to California authorities.
"We encourage Mr. Jackson to turn himself in and cooperate with law enforcement authorities," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson told a news conference today.
Anderson said bail would be set at $3 million. He said the entertainer has been asked to surrender his passport.
"I am sad that there is another victim out there. I feel bad for the family," Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon told reporters. "I feel bad for the victim. Beyond that, I feel it is a sad thing for all those involved."
Officials said they are giving Jackson, 45, a specific period of time to turn himself in. They would would not say what that deadline was, but Sneddon said, "Within a very short period of time there will be charges filed against Mr. Jackson."
Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman issued a statement saying the allegations against the pop superstar were false and that the singer would prove his innocence.
"The outrageous allegations against Michael Jackson are false. Michael would never harm a child in any way," the statement said. "These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom. … When the evidence is presented and the allegations proven to be malicious and wholly unfounded, Michael will be able to put this nightmare behind him."
Authorities did not reveal the age or gender of Jackson's alleged victim. Brian Oxman, an attorney who has represented Jackson family members in the past, said Tuesday the alleged victim was a 12- or 13-year-old boy.
Asked if authorities believed there could be other victims, Anderson said, "There is that possibility and we would encourage the public to come forward" if they had any information.
Jackson was not in California when the arrest warrant was announced. Backerman said Tuesday that he was in Las Vegas, shooting a video. Sneddon and Anderson said they did not know Jackson's whereabouts, but that they were dealing with his legal representatives.
Asked whether investigators believe Jackson is a flight risk, Anderson said, "There's always that possibility, but I believe he's willing to cooperate and turn over his passport at this point."
Case Details Remain Sealed … For Now
On Tuesday, investigators from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office executed a search warrant at Jackson's ranch, known as Neverland. Anderson said searches were conducted at two other locations in Southern California simultaneously but would not reveal those locations.
Approximately 70 investigators conducted a 14-hour search at the Neverland Ranch. Anderson said investigators were looking for "items of evidence that would corroborate the victim's allegations."
The warrant alleges violation of a California law that prohibits lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14. A conviction carries three to eight years in prison on each count.