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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Michael Jackson Officially Charged

Aired December 18, 2003 - 16:48   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Dramatic developments happening on the other side of the United States, out near Santa Barbara, California.
Kyra Phillips is covering the latest on the Michael Jackson case.

Kyra, what's the latest?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks.

For those of you who may be just tuning in, it is official. Charges have been filed against the pop singer Michael Jackson. It happened in Santa Maria, California, Michael Jackson charged with nine counts, seven of child molestation, two of administering an intoxicating agent for the purpose of committing a felony.

The charges involve incidents alleged to have occurred in February and March of this year. The charges were released within the past half-an-hour from the district attorney's office of Santa Barbara. In addition, the complaint does include special allegations that could make Jackson ineligible for probation in this case.

Our Frank Buckley has been covering the story. He was the first one to get those charges on paper in his hand.

Frank, what's the latest from there?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, another important point outlined this three-page felony complaint. And that is that there is one alleged victim.

As you know, Tom Sneddon had called for any additional victims to come forward in his press conference of several weeks ago. According to this document, anyway, there is one alleged victim.

Also, as we read through the felony complaint, we noticed, on the last page, that it says here that Michael Joe Jackson had substantial sexual contact with John Doe. That's the name that they've given this 12-year-old alleged victim. So that's an additional piece of detail that we hadn't been able to give you before, when we first got these nine counts.

Joining me right now to shed some more light on this is investigative correspondent Art Harris.

Art, we were talking about that substantial sexual conduct. First of all, what does that indicate to you? ART HARRIS, CNN NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: What they're referring to, our sources are telling us, is that this involves a period of sexual contact between the victim and the -- and Michael Jackson where numerous, or at least nine, or seven -- actually, seven -- sexual acts occurred.

BUCKLEY: Let's talk about the time period. There are two overlapping time periods here that are mentioned in this complaint, February 7 through March 10, and February 20 through March 10.

What's important about timeline is that we know that there have been two significant events since the allegations have come forward. One, the L.A. County child welfare officials had inquired. It was called an investigation. The district attorney doesn't call it an investigation. But they determined that it was an unfounded allegation. This was February 14 through the 27th of this year and that there -- we also know that there are audiotapes and affidavits that Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, our legal analyst, has listened to the audiotapes that reportedly were taken on February 16, in which the boy and the mother both say that there was no inappropriate contact.

Now, will this pose a problem for the prosecution? What are you hearing about that?

HARRIS: The appearance of it, it does oppose -- it does -- it's a hurdle.

However, what Tom Sneddon said today is that he was well aware of the circumstances surrounding that -- the facts -- interview with the victim and his mother. And what he didn't say today was that there was a Jackson employee present, which we revealed last week, and that there was an intimidation factor involved. What he did say today about that is that he presented all the facts surrounding that so- called investigation.

He called it a misnomer to characterize it as an investigation. He presented that to the judge. And the judge still issued a warrant for Michael Jackson's arrest -- Frank.

BUCKLEY: And the fact that the child, the 12-year-old child, according to what we know, has changed his story, in the sense that he has told the L.A. County child welfare officials that no inappropriate contact took place, he said on this audiotape that was provided to a Jackson investigator that no inappropriate conduct took place, you're saying that the prosecuting office doesn't feel like they will -- that that will cause an issue for them at trial?

HARRIS: First of all, the dates of this criminal complaint suggest that at least some of the conduct happened after this and that they believe that by introducing experts to explain the state of mind of a child who has undergone alleged sexual molestation will explain away why a child can change his story under pressure and duress -- Frank.

BUCKLEY: OK. Art Harris, our investigative correspondent, been working the story. As you say, Kyra, we have nine counts now officially on the record against Michael Jackson, seven counts of child molestation, two counts of administering an intoxicating agent -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Frank Buckley, thank you so much.

And our legal analyst Christopher Darden on the other side of this break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: If you're just tuning in, Michael Jackson, the king of pop, formally charmed today with nine counts, seven of child molestation, two of administering an intoxicating agent for the purpose of committing a felony.

The charges involve incidents alleged to have occurred in February and March of this year -- Santa Barbara -- Santa Barbara County DA Tom Sneddon holding a news conference just a few minutes ago.

We want to bring our legal analyst Christopher Darden back into the picture here.

A number of questions, Chris, that I have for you. The question was addressed to Tom Sneddon about Michael Jackson's children. What happens to them now? He says, that's another investigation, that that's not his decision. A lot of people probably outraged, wondering, what about those kids? What happens to them?

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as I understand it, the children do live in Santa Barbara County. They have to live in Los Angeles County.

But now that felony charges have been filed against Michael Jackson, one would expect that the Department of Children's Services will step in and either take custody of the children away from Michael Jackson or insist that custody of the children be handed over to a family member. That is generally the policy. And I fully expect that that will happen in the very, very near future.

PHILLIPS: OK, now the charges that have been filed, one alleged victim, the 12-year-old -- 12 years old at the time this documentary that has been talked about so much, this BBC documentary, this child now being 14 years old. The question was asked, will he take the stand, Tom Sneddon saying yes. How could this impact the case, Chris?

DARDEN: Well, you know, the charges that were filed today raise many, many questions.

First of all, the DA alleged a period of time, approximately one month, in terms of when these incidents allegedly occurred, between February 7 and up to March 10, which suggests a couple of things. No. 1, they may not know the exact day in which the alleged molestation occurred, which is harmful to the prosecution's case.

But given the way that they pled the case, they will essentially be allowed to introduce a great deal of evidence and allegations regarding the alleged child abuse that might have occurred within that time period. The other thing is that, when you look at the date of the children's services investigation in the third week of February of 2003, it appears as if the DA believes that sexual abuse occurred both before the DCS investigation, while the DCS investigation was ongoing, and after that investigation.

That's incredible. That's incredible.

PHILLIPS: That was my question. According to this confidential memo -- we talked about this. This DCS in Los Angeles called the accusation of child molestation against Michael Jackson unfounded. Do you think this undermines the case? And didn't you investigate this?

DARDEN: Well, back in 1993, when allegations of child abuse and child sexual abuse were leveled against Michael Jackson here in L.A. County, almost immediately, that complaint was leaked to the press, we believe so, to the tabloid press. And while I was a deputy DA at that time, I investigated or attempted to determine the source of that leak within the Department of Children Services.

Tom Sneddon is correct that we do have problems with the Department of Children Services here in Los Angeles County. And if it's true that DCS only interviewed the children, in terms of their so-called investigation, then I think he's correct to say that that is a misnomer that this was an interview and not in fact an investigation.

PHILLIPS: Our Christopher Darden, legal analyst, taking us through all this.

Chris, thank you so much for your time today.

Once again, Michael Jackson formally charged, seven counts of molestation, two of intoxicating a minor with some type of substance.

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