D.A., sheriff discuss Jackson allegations
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon at Wednesday's news conference
CNN's Daryn Kagan talks with Harvey Levin of 'Celebrity Justice' about the Jackson investigation.
CNN's Gary Tuchman on the issuance of an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson.
CNN's Frank Buckley on the search of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
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From the California Penal Code Section 288(a):
Any person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, including any of the acts constituting other crimes provided for in Part 1, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years.
SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) -- Authorities said Wednesday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Michael Jackson on multiple counts of child molestation, and called on him to turn himself in immediately and hand over his passport.
At a news conference Wednesday, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon and Sheriff Jim Anderson said Jackson's bail was set at $3 million. The pop star will be charged under Section 288(a) of the California Penal Code that prohibits "lewd and lascivious acts" with a child under the age of 14, Santa Barbara County officials said.
A statement issued on Jackson's behalf said he allegations are false and criticized the "levity of the environment surrounding the announcement of these very serious charges."
This is an edited transcript of the news conference.
ANDERSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Yesterday morning at around 8:30 a.m., investigators from the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department served a search warrant at Neverland Ranch. Simultaneous to the service of the warrant at Neverland Ranch two search warrants were also served in southern California. Approximately 70 investigators from the sheriff's department and district attorney's office were involved in the service of this warrant at Neverland Ranch. The operation was concluded around 11 p.m. PT last night. The service of the warrants was part of an ongoing investigation alleging criminal misconduct on the part of Michael Jackson.
The basis for this investigation regarding Mr. Jackson involves allegations of child molestation 288(a) of the California penal code. Additionally, an arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation. The bail amount on the warrant has been set at $3 million.
At this point in time, Mr. Jackson's been given an opportunity to surrender himself to the custody of the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department within a specified period of time. We are currently working with Mr. Jackson's legal representation on this matter. Mr. Jackson has also been directed to surrender his passport when he's taken into custody.
While we appreciate the level of interest generated by this case, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department is committed to maintaining the integrity of this investigation with respects to both legal and ethical considerations. We will not be commenting on issues specific to the investigation beyond what has already been released.
SNEDDON: Thank you, Jim.
Let me just add a few things to what the sheriff has said from the perspective of the district attorney's office, and we do have some releases in writing that you can get -- either they've been passed around already or you can get them afterward. Commonly, in these kinds of cases -- let me clarify something, because some of you are not lawyers, and I don't want you to get it wrong. There's a 288 and a 288(a) ... which is the child-molesting section. ... Just so we all understand, we're talking about a violation of 288(a), child molesting, not oral copulation of an adult -- or of children. OK, so I want to clarify that so that you understand that.
Secondly, ordinarily, sometimes either myself or my staff are asked in cases like this what the penalties are. In California, we have a determinant sentence. Determinant sentence, meaning the legislature set a time frame upon conviction if, worst case scenario, the judge decides to send a person to state prison. In this particular case, the triad is three year, six years and eight years. So minimum would be three, the maximum would be eight for the single count. We are filing multiple counts.
So ... if we get to the point where there is a conviction and sentencing, the judge would have the discretion at that point to give multiple consecutive sentences, and the limits on the judge at that point are one-third of the middle term, which would be an additional two years. You can do the math. For each additional one consecutive, and it's not mandatory, it's discretionary. I'm not suggesting to you any of this could happen, but I'm asked routinely what is the outside worst-case scenario. I don't want anybody to imply from anything that I've said or any remarks I've said that any one of those things is going to happen, but that's just what the sentencing time frames are.
One thing I want to emphasize, and I'm saying this because I couldn't resist the temptation to watch a little bit of some of this coverage last night on TV. And I heard a lot of apologists for Mr. Jackson saying some things that I think we can -- the sheriff and I -- can talk about that I think are important for you, as the media, and for the public, who is going to hear these things, to be told.
And, in fact, we were going to execute these warrants several weeks ago but had to put it off because of all the visitors we had come up here, the 50,000 people who came in for Halloween.
So it really has nothing to do with his album or whatever else he's doing in his life. ... We don't track him. So I think it is important for people to know that we've been ready to do this for some period of time and it was just an operational thing within the sheriff's department because of the tremendous manpower, person-power that they had to put out for the Halloween thing.
And the last question, before we'll open it up, is I know you'll probably ask some questions about child protective services. Both in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Child protective services at this point in time is not involved in these investigations. There were some previous contacts by folks in the Los Angeles child protective services involving some other things that came out when the -- don't assume from that I'm talking about the same family. I'm just telling you there was child protective services involved in other allegations involving Mr. Jackson in Los Angeles.
There has been no involvement on either one of those departments and any one of those things -- involving any of that information. This has solely been an operation run by the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, and I've been advising them and members of my staff have been advising them on the legal issues involved in the investigation.
Whether they will get involved, obviously, there's going to be -- at least the local Santa Barbara people, where it's pertinent, will be notified of it and what they do, they do. ...
We will not be involved. There will be separate counsel appointed to represent the Department of Child Services in Santa Barbara. Sheriff, do you have anything to add, before we open it up?
ANDERSON: Just that we have copies of the news release this morning to provide to you, both from the sheriff's department and district attorney's office. Now we'll open it up for questions.
QUESTION: Why are you waiting to file charges? Are you waiting to see if in fact he cooperates and surrenders, vis-a-vis, you have to go arrest him? Is that why you're waiting to file the charges?
SNEDDON: The filing of the charges had nothing to do with that. I know it -- it seems simple to people to get together a search warrant for several different places and stuff like that, but it's just a matter of a decision we made to do a ... warrant, an affidavit, get a judicial authorization, and that give us time to go back and do the formal charging another time. That's all it was.
QUESTION: Could Michael Jackson's children be taken away from him?
SNEDDON: That's a decision that would be made by a juvenile court. ...
QUESTION: You mentioned two other search warrants ... ?
ANDERSON: I'm not going to get into the detail of those. But we did serve two in Southern California and we did acquire additional property ...
QUESTION: Can you talk about what, when where, why?
ANDERSON: It was yesterday, the same time the search warrant was served here in Santa Barbara County.
QUESTION: In general terms, sir, can you just talk about in general what you all were looking for?
ANDERSON: Items of evidence that would corroborate the victim's statements.
QUESTION: As much as you can talk about, can you say what you all believe happened and why the evidence was compelling enough to issue an arrest warrant?
ANDERSON: We're not going to get into the specifics of the case.
SNEDDON: We want to -- we want to clarify something. There is an affidavit in this particular occasion. That affidavit has been sealed for 45 days and will not be released for 45 days. In order for us to complete the investigation.
QUESTION: When did this start? When did this 12-year-old's parents come forward and notify you?
SNEDDON: You assume things we haven't said, OK. So we are not going to answer that question.
QUESTION: We heard that it was attorney Larry Feldman who caused the boy to come to the sheriff's office and talk to the D.A.'s office. Can you confirm your office has had discussions with attorney Larry Feldman?
QUESTION: ... How realistically do you think it is he might flee overseas?
ANDERSON: There's always that possibility. But I believe he's willing to cooperate with us and turn ever his passport at this point.
QUESTION: Is Mr. [Mark] Geragos representing Mr. Jackson ... ?
ANDERSON: I believe that is correct.
SNEDDON: That is what was represented to me in my conversation with him.
QUESTION: Over what period of time did this occur?
SNEDDON: Not going to discuss that.
QUESTION: Is there a possibility of any other victims?
ANDERSON: Yes, there is that possibility, and we would encourage the public to come forward if they have any information whatsoever that would lead us to believe there are other victims in the community to contact us so we can follow up on that information.
QUESTION: I just want to know if you do not know where Michael Jackson is at the moment, but how soon -- if he doesn't turn himself in by a certain time, what will happen and how long is that time designated to have himself turn himself in?
SNEDDON: You'll know about it when it gets there.
QUESTION: Are you confident your victim's willing to testify this time?
QUESTION: You mentioned multiple counts. How many counts are there?
SNEDDON: We're not going to say.
QUESTION: Is he still in Las Vegas, [Nevada]?
SNEDDON: I don't know. I mean, we really have a life other than Michael Jackson, and we've been trying to work on our investigation, as you well know, because I saw it on TV before I came down here.
The last word I had on somebody standing out in front of a hotel was that he was still there. But then there was some other people who said they saw him leave last night.
So you get these conflicting testimonies about what's going on.
QUESTION: Can you talk about your satisfaction in finally bringing Michael Jackson, in your mind, to justice? And can you talk about do you feel he has a problem dealing with children?
SNEDDON: All right, first of all, I haven't been dealing with Michael Jackson for anything. When that case went to bed, 10 years ago, it was out of my mind.
You folks and people keep calling every time he does a bizarre thing to ask me my comment about it. But I have -- I really do have a lot of things going on, as do the sheriff, former sheriff, and people in my office. We really have a very busy office. I haven't given it a passing thought.
My feelings about this is -- and I'm sad that there's another victim out there. I feel bad for the family, I feel bad for the victim. Beyond that, I think it's a sad thing for all the people involved in this thing, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Does the law call for them to be taken into protective custody as a matter of course if his father's under arrest for molestation charges if he returns to California?
SNEDDON: Not necessarily. Not at this point in time, no.
QUESTION: Wait a minute. You can have a father charged with sexual abuse of a minor and leave the children in the home with that father?
SNEDDON: Everyone is innocent until convicted.
QUESTION: Is the child involved a boy or a girl?
SNEDDON: I'm not going to talk about that. You can tell from the charges it has to be a child.
QUESTION: Sheriff, I'm a little confused. If you had 70 guys out on his ranch, you didn't know where Michael Jackson was yesterday. And if you consider this to be a possible flight risk, why would you not have known?
ANDERSON: We had an idea where he might be. That wasn't confirmed yesterday morning. Yesterday evening, there -- there was additional information that came to our attention that he was coming back to the state of California. But beyond that we have no additional information at this point in time.
QUESTION: Will you prosecute this yourself?
SNEDDON: Yes, but not by myself. There will be another lawyer from my office assigned to the case.
QUESTION: Would you be the lead chair on a case like this? I know your retirement's coming up. Would this be the last big case for you?
SNEDDON: Not necessarily. And I wouldn't be the lead attorney. When I do things with people in my office, which I've done before, we do it as co-counsel, as colleagues. ...
QUESTION: Mr. Anderson, have you sent sheriff deputies to Las Vegas?
ANDERSON: No, we have not. We have been in communication with Las Vegas, but our personnel are not there at this time.
QUESTION: Is this going to be an expensive prosecution-investigation for your county? How are you going to handle that given the state's problems?
SNEDDON: It's our job.
QUESTION: If Michael Jackson's watching this right now or his people, it's your opportunity to tell him what you'd like -- should he contact authorities immediately? What's your message to him?
SNEDDON: Get over here and get checked in.
ANDERSON: We would encourage him to turn himself in and cooperate with law enforcement. Yes.
QUESTION: The warrant served in Southern California, were they homes or were they businesses?
ANDERSON: We're not going to comment.
QUESTION: You guys say you're open to other possible victims coming forward. Do you have knowledge at this point of other possible victims that may be included in this suit?
ANDERSON: No comment, at this point.
QUESTION: ... [W]e waited for another celebrity to turn themselves in. So Los Angeles media tends to be a little leery if there's no deadline on when a person, particularly a celebrity, can turn themselves in. So that's why we were hoping to narrow it down.
SNEDDON: You're working in Santa Barbara now. You got to put away the past and get with the future.
QUESTION: ... [D]id you get a phone call? Did some one tip you off? You've been investigating this for two or three months. What led to this enormous, massive investigation and search yesterday?
SNEDDON: Well, like in any other criminal investigation, we have to have someone who's a victim come forward and present the information to law enforcement. That's what begins the process for the investigation to start.
QUESTION: When did that happen? Two or three months ago?
SNEDDON: We're not going to get into timelines.
QUESTION: Was there a hearing to seal the search warrants?
SNEDDON: No. Well, yes, I guess there was. There was a judge and there were people there. But ... as is always the case when you ask for sealing ... the information has to be put in the search warrant to justify it. And then the -- it's a judicial decision, it's not ours.
QUESTION: It's well known that Michael Jackson is always surrounded by servants and bodyguards and I'm not questioning your investigation, I'm trying to understand how the molestation of a child could happen with all those kinds of people around him all the time? Might you be filing charges against other people that work for Michael Jackson?
SNEDDON: I can't comment on that at this point in time. But we are continuing a criminal investigation.
QUESTION: Have you questioned people close to Michael Jackson about their association with this victim that came forward?
SNEDDON: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of the investigation.
QUESTION: Excuse me, I haven't asked a question yet. Sheriff, are you going to be serving us members of the media lunch after this press conference?
ANDERSON: You evidently don't know about the budget crisis.
SNEDDON: Yes, we have a budget problem.
QUESTION: What's the next step after -- after he turns himself in. When is the arraignment? What's the time frame?
SNEDDON: I'll talk to you generically because there is some give and take in these things. So I don't want anybody to take this as an absolute thing that's set in concrete.
Ordinarily -- let's just put this case aside and talk generically about situations where we've allowed people to surrender themselves before with their lawyers and get booked and fingerprinted -- is that they're given -- and if they make the bail that's set by the judge. Then they are cited to appear in court on a certain date in the future and that citation date can be anywhere from probably 30 days to 45 days.
At that point, then, the district attorney's office must have on file a formal criminal charging document at the time the individual's brought -- or comes to court pursuant to that citation released. That is the initial date for appearance for arraignment.
And as many of you who cover other notorious cases in the past or that are going on in future know, that in many instances the defendant and his attorney will appear for the first time and continue the and not enter a plea immediately, but do so as a subsequent date.
That's generic. That's what happens generically. I cannot tell you what's going to happen at this point because Mr. Jackson is not in custody.
QUESTION: Will there be a condition of Mr. Jackson's bail that he not have contact with minors after he's taken into custody, if he makes bail, assuming?
SNEDDON: That will be one of the things that will probably be brought up at the bail hearing if there's a bail hearing.
QUESTION: Is the investigative work basically completed, or is there a possibility we may see other search warrants executed?
ANDERSON: It's not completed at this point. It's an ongoing investigation. We're following up information in as we speak.
QUESTION: What about a search warrant? Is there a possibility?
ANDERSON: There's always the possibility.
QUESTION: Sir, how long could Mr. Jackson go to jail for in total?
ANDERSON: Well it depends whether or not he's convicted, No. 1. And, No. 2, whether he's convicted of and how many counts, and, you know, all those things have to be factored in. It can go anywhere from three to eight years, I think.
QUESTION: Have you made arrangements for Jackson's incarceration?
ANDERSON: Not at this point, no.
QUESTION: Is it just one victim?
SNEDDON: We won't answer that either.
QUESTION: Where is the press release you keep referring to that you're going to be passing out?
ANDERSON: Our press information officer, Chris Pappas, has that information. He's here in the room somewhere. So we'll get that to you.
QUESTION: I want to make sure this is correct. Would it be fair to say based on what you said before that you have not ruled out charging other people? Is that a fair statement?
ANDERSON: Yes. Anything is possible.
SNEDDON: Are you aware of other civil cases that have been handled outside of the media since 1993 that were kept quiet?
ANDERSON: Not to my knowledge.
SNEDDON: Well, I am.
QUESTION: How many?
SNEDDON: Ask Diane, she knows everything about Michael Jackson.
QUESTION: I'm just curious if the parents of the current accuser were aware of the allegations against Michael Jackson 10 years ago.
SNEDDON: I really couldn't tell you.
ANDERSON: I couldn't tell you either. I don't know. Last question.
QUESTION: What do you say to parents who let their children go to Neverland Ranch on sleep overs? ...
ANDERSON: My advice is don't do it.
SNEDDON: None of our kids were there. Thank you very much.
ANDERSON: Thank you.