A decade ago, when Michael Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy, he paid the boy’s family a handsome sum to settle a lawsuit. The criminal investigation of the accusations was later dropped when the boy stopped cooperating with the authorities.
Quentin L. Kopp, a superior court judge in San Mateo County who was a state senator at the time, was outraged by the perception that Mr. Jackson had bought the silence of his accuser. Mr. Kopp wrote legislation, backed by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, that made such arrangements illegal.
“I thought that it was against public policy for a sexual assault victim to be subject to being silenced by reason of a payment of money,” Judge Kopp told the New York Times. “I wanted to prevent it from occurring again.”
It is unclear whether that law, which passed in 1994, has ever been tested. But it and a host of other laws could give prosecutors in Santa Barbara County a stronger hand in pursuing new accusations of child molesting against Mr. Jackson involving a 12-year-old boy, said legal scholars and veteran prosecutors not involved in the case.
Though the scholars and prosecutors could not comment on the strength of the evidence against Mr. Jackson – formal charges are not expected to be filed for at least two weeks – they said changes in state law, most of them since Mr. Jackson’s previous troubles, had generally made it easier to prosecute child molesting cases.
The changes include tougher sentencing laws, which have helped persuade defendants to make deals with prosecutors, as well as relaxed requirements for admitting some types of evidence in court, the Times reports.