Recording star Michael Jackson was charged with seven felony counts of child molestation yesterday. Two of the charges were that he administered an “intoxicating agent” to a young cancer patient in hopes of seducing the boy at his Neverland Ranch, the Los Angeles Times reports. The paper says the filing of the charges drew more than 100 reporters from around the world and was orchestrated with a Hollywood public relations firm.
Jackson, 45, remains free on $3-million bail. Through his lawyer, he denied the charges and said prosecutor Thomas Sneddon had an “ax to grind.” Five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct are alleged to have occurred between Feb. 7 and March 10, beginning one day after Jackson appeared in a British television documentary holding the alleged victim’s hand and saying they had slept together, but not in the same bed.
The supposed victim had denied abuse in an interview with child welfare employees, but Sneddon said, “It was an interview, not an investigation. We’re not concerned about it at all in any aspect of our case.”
Defense attorney Mark Geragos said the alleged victim’s family is trying to profit: “What we have is a shakedown, an intersection of someone looking for money with someone in the investigation with an ax to grind. There is no truth to the charges…. This is all about money.”
UCLA law professor Peter Arenella said that if the alleged victim is the same person who had denied any abuse occurred, the case will likely turn on Jackson’s credibility versus the boy’s. “The $68-million question is whether the search [of Neverland] generated any incriminating video evidence or physical evidence to support the accuser’s accusations,” Arenella said.