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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Sneddon Press Conference

Aired December 18, 2003 - 16:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We have to take you back to California, Santa Barbara D.A. Tom Sneddon now addressing reporters.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOM SNEDDON, SANTA BARBARA D.A.: The felony complaint involves nine counts. Seven counts of 288a, the violation of the California penal code commonly known as child molestation. And two counts in violation of penal code section 222. That involves administering an intoxicating liquor to the child for the purpose of committing a felony. Those are the nine counts.

In addition to that, there are several special allegations that have been alleged, some of which the jury -- all of which the jury will have before them and the findings could make Mr. Jackson ineligible for probation and could substantially affect the amount of time that he could spend incarcerated if the findings are fund found true.

The periods, as you can see, from the complaint that are covered are between February 7 and March 10 as to five of the counts. As to the other four counts, it's between February 20 and March 10 of 2003.

There's a couple of things I want to emphasize to you if I can, about the charges and the filing of the charges. First of all, there's been some questions that have arose about why the charges were filed in Santa Maria. And I think some people presume because my main office is in Santa Barbara that this would necessarily be filed there.

If you check around or know the court rules and our custom and habit is that any crime that's committed on this side of the mountain, which is Santa Inez, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or Santa Maria is filed in this courthouse. This would be the normal venue for any charges of this kind filed against anybody else. So that's what we did. And it is not unusual to have the charges filed here.

Secondly, it's not unusual for me to come up here. Well, let me put it this way. I have tried most of my cases in Santa Barbara. But over my career, I have tried a number of cases in this community, some of which have lasted months. So again, it's not unusual for me to come up here and try a case.

The third thing I want to emphasize to the ladies and gentlemen of the media today is that there has been some speculation among some that the reason that the charges were not filed until this week was because somehow we issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson and were hoping to gather information in the meantime in order to buttress what some people have called a weak case.

I want to categorically say that is false. I know of no prosecutor that I've ever met in my 30-years plus of a career, and I've been associated with people because I've been an officer in the California D.A.'s Association and been an officer and am an officer currently in the National D.A.'s association.

I know of no prosecutor that I ever have met who would issue an arrest warrant for an individual hoping that they would uncover some evidence that would justify the filing of criminal charges later. And I want to make it clear to all of you here today that was never, never, never the intent of our office.

And the reason that was given is the only reason that these charges have been filed today and not before. We were waiting for the court to get this Web site operational. And as some of you know, even now they're having technical difficulties. But I told the court I was not going to wait any longer and we were going to file these charges today.

I want to touch upon just a couple of other things. I'll answer a few questions, but I'm not going to turn this into a major press conference.

Some of you may have heard -- if you haven't, you should know, because you'll want to make your schedules. I was contacted, as was the counsel for Mr. Jackson, and asked by the court if we would agree that the arraignment be continued until January 16 of next year from January 9.

The reason for the continuance and the reason that the court wanted it continued, that is what is called a furlough day by the court. They were not going to be in session that day except for custody arraignments.

In order to accommodate you, the media, and in order to be able to bring in additional staff at no additional cost, they asked the attorneys if we would agree to have it continued for a week. And therefore, Mr. Geragos and I entered into a stipulation that the court asked us to continue it one week. And that's the reason why the arraignment will be continued from the 9th to the 16th.

I do not anticipate it being continued beyond that point. So for those of you who want to make arrangements, I think that you can go to the bank with that. And it's going to occur on January the 16th of next year.

Now, lastly, as some of you are aware yesterday, we signed a stipulation -- by we, I mean Mr. Geragos and I -- that was allowed by the court that Mr. Jackson could be given his passport back to travel to Great Britain, Great Britain only.

We were informed, it was represented to us that he had two contractual agreements that predated the arrest warrant and search warrant and that it would be a substantial financial detriment to him if he didn't make these commitments in addition to tie into his new CD.

The sheriff and I talked about it. And we agreed with counsel for the defense. And the court, after reviewing it, also agreed. And so all three parties, the court, us, and the defense, signed stipulations to the effect that his passport can be returned this time only. This time only for the date of the -- through the 20th through the 5th of January.

Excuse me, I'm losing my voice a little bit. Trying to keep it up. But I've had this flu, the stuff that's going around, so I'm not as strong as usual.

That finishes my prepared remarks. I'll entertain a few questions, but not a lot. And before we start, I want to make it clear, I'm not going to talk about the facts of the case or the testimony or the evidence or the victim's identity or any of that. If we get into that like we did last time, I'm simply going to leave, because it's counterproductive for me to stand here and say I'm not going to answer it.

This gentleman over here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: I can't hear you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: No. This lady right here.

QUESTION: Could this affect Michael Jackson's children in terms of what the Santa Barbara County Children and Family Services could do now in terms of interviewing the children?

SNEDDON: I'll repeat the question for those of you who couldn't here it. The question was -- I'm going to paraphrase, if you don't mind. What is the impact of this on the ability of Mr. Jackson to keep his children and any investigation by the child protective services agency.

For those of you who were at the first press conference, I think I answered that question, but I'll cover it again briefly. The investigation, if there is one, which -- by the child protective services is done by a different office.

We will not -- I want to repeat not -- be involved in that. I thought that would be a conflict of interest. And if they require legal counsel, that counsel will be appointed by the court, not but our office.

And we won't be involved in it. So I really couldn't answer the question because I don't know what they're doing and I made a point to build a wall between the two investigations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) SNEDDON: Well I think it's obvious that at this point in the proceedings no discovery has occurred. The defense does not know what our case is about. They've just an inkling with regard to the filing of the charges that the sheriff and I agree that at this point in time we felt that the $3 million was sufficient to ensure his appearance at the arraignment.

But I want to make it clear, from that point on, it's a different ball game because once the information starts to get out and the information about what the evidence is and stuff, we feel that it may be a different situation. Miss Dimond?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: I'm not going to answer that question. This gentleman right here.

QUESTION: Miguel Marquez from CNN. You asked for a $3 million bond against Mr. Jackson. You took his passport. There was obviously concerns about him being a flight risk. If these charges are so serious, your case so is strong, why let him go?

SNEDDON: I think I just answered that question. This gentleman right back here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: I can't hear you.

QUESTION: Michael Jackson's publicist in (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: All I know, sir -- the question was that somebody in England said they didn't know anything about Mr. Jackson coming there. All I know is what was represented to the court and to me by his attorney.

So, if there's some discrepancy and this happens to be not true, then I think the court is going to be very interested that perhaps the court was misled about the conditions under which this was -- this order was entered into. But, at this point, I have no reason to be -- believe that it was not legitimate.

This gentleman right here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: Well, it's kind of -- the question was if I'm worried that he could go to France -- to France from Britain. I think the question that all of us know that, if he wanted to leave at some point in time, he can leave.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

(CROSSTALK)

SNEDDON: I got yours, so let me get somebody else down here. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: We're not going to go into the facts of the case. The charges speak for themselves in terms of when the events occurred.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Is it possible to give us some explanation as to why you describe the L.A. Department of Children and Family Services investigation as insignificant?

SNEDDON: I don't think I used the word insignificant.

I said that it did not -- let me rephrase the question. They're asking me about the L.A. -- what you called an investigation and my remarks about that. What I said was that our department and the sheriff's department was fully aware of the report and its contents. We are also fully aware of the conditions under which the statements were given.

And we are aware that to call that an investigation is a misnomer. It was an interview, plain and simple. And that's all it was. And we're not concerned about it in terms of any impact on our case. And that information was presented to the judge at the time that the judge issued both the arrest warrant and the search warrants that we got in this case. So that's my...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) "Celebrity Justice" had reported that, later, the attorney for the boy had gone to the Department of Children and Family Services and asked for another interview, saying the child really wanted to talk now, and that was rebuffed. Your comment on that?

SNEDDON: The question is, she's asking me if I heard that some -- one of the TV programs reported that the -- that an attorney representing the family or the child had gone to L.A. County, asking them to reopen the investigation, and they refused. I am aware of that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) because experts say that, quite often, children don't reveal allegations of abuse or abuse when they're first asked.

SNEDDON: The question was, what's my reaction, because everybody knows it's common knowledge that children do not always reveal things at the first time that they're asked about it.

My reaction is, I agree with your second statement. And my reaction to the first one is, it's L.A.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SNEDDON: I don't mean to be -- I don't mean to be jocular about this. I got in enough trouble last time. But L.A. is just a big place. And they have a lot of problems down there. And that particular department has a lot of problems. Anybody who lives in L.A. knows that. And I have a case that I'm dealing with right now in my office that resulted in a rather substantial civil judgment against L.A. County and that department.

So to -- and that's not to say they don't have good people working there. But that -- it doesn't surprise me. I mean, that's all I can say.

(CROSSTALK)

SNEDDON: Mr. Corbet (ph), you're a local man. What's your question?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PHILLIPS: Santa Barbara D.A. Tom Sneddon addressing reporters.

If you are just tuning in, the charges have been filed, nine counts, two counts of giving an intoxicant to a minor, seven counts of molestation, against pop singer Michael Jackson, nine counts formally filed here. This is the actual videotape of those papers being brought in from the clerical supervisor, being stamped, and then, eventually, released to the media, DA Tom Sneddon addressing reporters.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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