Michael Jackson’s lawyers filed a motion Monday to remove the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office from his child-molestation case, but the reasons were kept secret.
Attorney Robert Sanger, following a procedure dictated by Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, filed a number of motions under seal — including some seeking discovery of evidence. Included among them was a “motion for recusal of the Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office.”
Sanger said sealing the motion was necessary because “the content of the motion includes reference to details in under-seal material, including discovery materials, grand jury transcripts, investigative reports, exhibits and identities of witnesses.”
Motions to remove a district attorney from a case often are based on claims of personal involvement and conflict of interest.
Jackson’s lawyers have claimed in the past that District Attorney Tom Sneddon had a personal vendetta against the music star after failing to get charges filed against him in a 1993 allegation of child molestation.
Criminal-defense attorney Steve Cron said lawyers often claim in such motions that the chief prosecutor is so personally embroiled in the case that he can’t make fair and dispassionate decisions.
“The odds of being successful are very slim,” Cron said. “It would be highly unusual for a judge to take the whole District aTtorney’s Office off a case.”
If the motion were to be granted and upheld by an appeals court, Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson said, the state Attorney General’s Office would have to take over the Jackson prosecution.
“This was a natural motion to file,” she said. “Even if the chances of success are not great, it’s worth taking a stab at it.”
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol.