Innocent until proven guilty?

Michael Jackson Charged with ‘Lewd Acts’ on Child
SANTA MARIA, Calif. (Reuters) – Michael Jackson was charged on Thursday with nine counts of molesting a young boy, including committing seven “lewd acts,” but the pop star’s lawyer called the case a “shakedown” motivated by greed and revenge.
The 45-year-old Jackson, a self-styled “Peter Pan,” is also accused of giving the boy, who is not identified in court papers, an “intoxicating agent” in order to make it easier to molest him. If found guilty, he could face more than 20 years in prison and be forced to register as a sex offender under California law.
All of the charges stem from allegations that Jackson molested a boy under the age of 14 at his Neverland Valley Ranch, in the hills above Santa Barbara, earlier this year.
A police report has said that the boy in question was the youth who was shown holding hands with Jackson during a British documentary that was broadcast in February. The singer said that they both slept in his bedroom, as had other children.
Jackson, who describes himself as a Peter Pan, insisted that there was nothing sexual in those encounters, which he viewed as an innocent form of his professed affection for children.
The self-declared “King of Pop,” who was arrested on suspicion of child molestation last month and released on $3 million bail, was not present when the charges were unsealed at a courthouse in the central California city of Santa Maria, near his Neverland Valley Ranch.
“Michael is innocent,” Jackson’s mother, Katherine, said in a written statement. “On behalf of the Jackson family we know these vicious lies are totally untrue, malicious and motivated by pure greed and revenge.”
She added that the family would “fight with every ounce of our energy to reveal the truth behind these false allegations and the motivations behind those who have falsely accused Michael.”
Jackson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, suggested that he knew more about the case than prosecutors and vowed that his client would ultimately be proven innocent.
“I can tell you categorically, based upon this complaint that has been filed, that Michael Jackson is absolutely, unequivocally innocent of these charges,” Geragos said at a press conference outside his Los Angeles office at which he refused to take questions.
“What we have here is an intersection between a shakedown — someone who is looking for money — with somebody doing an investigation who has an ax to grind,” he said. “Because otherwise there would be no way that any self-respecting prosecutor would be going forward on the basis of this patent … shakedown.”
Jackson was due in court on Jan. 16 for a formal reading of the charges.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who announced the charges at a press conference, also dismissed a memo by a Los Angeles County child welfare agency clearing Jackson of similar charges, saying that it was based on a single interview and not expected to affect the Santa Barbara case.
“To call that an investigation is a misnomer,” Sneddon said. “It was an interview, plain and simple, and we are not concerned about it.”
The entertainer was expected to be at Neverland on Saturday night for a party with friends and family members who wanted to lend him support, Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said. Jackson then planned to travel to England, Backerman said, after his lawyers arranged with prosecutors for the return of his passport that was confiscated at his arrest.
Jackson, who survived a similar brush with the law 10 years ago by making a multimillion dollar out-of-court settlement with the family of a teenage boy, has protested his innocence. †
He set up a Web site in November calling the current allegations a “big lie,” but he has remained out of the public eye. His lawyers have said the accuser and his family are trying to make money from Jackson.