Friday, January 2, 2004
Attorney General Says He Will Probe Jackson Jail Abuse Claim
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Attorney General Bill Lockyer said Wednesday he has ordered his office to investigate whether Michael Jackson’s rights were violated by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department when he was taken into custody on child molestation charges.
The Sheriff Jim Anderson asked Lockyer Wednesday to investigate Jackson’s claims of abuse, but he denied the allegations and said the pop star whistled in custody and told an officer he was doing “wonderful.”
“He was in no way manhandled or abused,” Anderson said at a news conference.
The sheriff said he was taking the allegations Jackson made during a TV interview as a formal citizen’s complaint and will seek criminal charges of filing a false report if the state investigation proves them groundless.
Lockyer said in a statement he was directing special agents from the Division of Law Enforcement “to conduct an independent investigation into whether the rights of Michael Jackson were violated when he was booked and arrested [last] month.” They will be assisted by senior attorneys from the attorney general’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section and Criminal Law Division, the statement said.
No Timeline for Probe
“I cannot predict when our investigation will be completed, but we will work as quickly as possible to conduct a thorough and fair investigation and review all of the facts before reaching a conclusion,” Lockyer’s statement said. “Once our investigation is completed, we will make our findings public and ensure that appropriate action is taken as necessary.”
In a CBS “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday, Jackson said he was “manhandled” while in custody and locked in a feces-smeared restroom for 45 minutes after he asked to use the facilities. He showed what he said was a bruise on his right arm and said his shoulder was dislocated.
TV news cameras recorded Jackson waving with both arms to fans as he was let out of jail.
Jackson attorney Mark Geragos said his client “absolutely” stands by his allegations, and that the idea of seeking charges of a false report “shows another serious flaw in their knowledge of the law.” He also claimed the sheriff’s release of audio and video recordings of Jackson’s arrest was illegal.
“We not only welcome an investigation by the attorney general of California, but will ask that the entire case from the inception be investigated by that office,” he said.
Geragos said an expanded probe should look into why Santa Barbara authorities discounted a February probe by Los Angeles child welfare officials who found no wrongdoing in Jackson’s relationship with the alleged victim in the molest case.
“The deliberate disregard of the findings of the Los Angels Department of Children and Family Services— and closure of the case as totally unfounded by that agency—seriously hurts the credibility of the Santa Barbara County sheriff,” Geragos said.
Jackson was arrested Nov. 20 at Santa Barbara Airport, driven to the county jail for booking and was then released. He spent an estimated 63 minutes in custody.
Anderson said Jackson was treated with “the utmost respect and courtesy” and he showed reporters brief video and audio recordings of some of the events to support his assertions.
Video of Handcuffing
One video showed Jackson and shaking hands with officers as they met and then being handcuffed and placed in a car.
In an audio recording from the car Jackson complained that his handcuffs hurt. “They’re tight,” he said. An officer advised him to “scoot forward a little bit.” The tape recorded Jackson thanking the officer for turning on the air conditioning and then the sound of whistling and humming.
“You OK, Mr. Jackson,” an officer is heard asking.
“Yes, I am,” Jackson responded.
The sheriff said Jackson was asked a second time and “he responded by saying he was wonderful.”
The handcuffs were quickly removed at the jail, where staff noted the positions of the handcuffs “were consistent with proper handcuffing procedures,” Anderson said.
“At no time during this process did Mr. Jackson complain of any injury incurred during the course of the arrest or mistreatment by jail staff,” he said.
Jackson was not put in a restroom, but a cell designed to hold seven prisoners and equipped with a toilet, Anderson said, adding that the cell was cleaned just before Jackson’s request.
Jackson was also recorded thanking a detective who escorted him out of the jail, Anderson noted.
“I think Mr. Jackson has seriously hurt his credibility,” Anderson concluded.
The sheriff’s use of the Jackson interview as a formal complaint was questioned by one legal expert.
“I think it’s a stretch to say that his verbal complaints in an interview are the same as a formally filed complaint that would expose him to criminal liability,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Loyola University Law professor.
The California Penal Code allows someone to be held liable for filing a false report. Levenson said a recent state Supreme Court ruling found that someone filing a formal complaint can be charged with a misdemeanor if the complaint is false, but the decision also said that wouldn’t apply to casual speech.
First Amendment Issue Cited
Use of the interview as a complaint also raises First Amendment issues, Levenson said.
Also Wednesday, CBS denied a published report that the company paid Jackson for the “60 Minutes” interview.
The New York Times, quoting an unidentified Jackson associate, said Wednesday that Jackson was paid $1 million to reschedule an entertainment special that had been postponed in November. The special, “Michael Jackson Number Ones,” will air Friday.
The source said the extra $1 million meant that “in essence,” CBS paid for the interview.
But Jack Sussman, CBS vice president for specials, said the fee for Jackson’s participation in the special was negotiated in September and was not increased.
Separately, Jackson’s brother Jermaine confirmed that members of the Nation of Islam were providing security for the pop star.
“There is some security that works with Michael from the Nation,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday. “We didn’t ask them to pray. We asked them to secure him.”
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company