The stakes are high on both sides but especially for Jackson, 45, who was charged on Thursday with committing seven “lewd acts” against a boy under the age of 14 earlier this year. He could go to prison for more than 20 years if found guilty at a trial.
And the self-declared “King of Pop” — who has seen his once meteoric career eclipsed by his bizarre appearance and behavior — would have his reputation destroyed by a conviction, which under California law would also require him to register as a sex offender.
Jackson’s family and high-profile lawyer, Mark Geragos, have come out swinging, accusing nearly everyone involved in the case with improprieties and predicting that the entertainer would be cleared.
Geragos, who represented actress Winona Ryder during her 2002 trial on shoplifting charges and is lead attorney for accused California wife-killer Scott Peterson, has suggested that the boy’s family was seeking money from Jackson and that prosecutors were nursing a 10-year-old grudge.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who sought similar charges against Jackson in 1993 but was foiled when the teen-age boy at the center of that case settled with the singer out of court, has been portrayed in the press as Jackson’s nemesis.
“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,” Geragos said at a press conference on Thursday. “Because otherwise there would be no way that any self-respecting prosecutor would be going forward on the basis of this patent … shakedown.”
Meanwhile, Jackson’s mother, Katherine, released a written statement denouncing the charges and echoing the accusations made by Geragos.
“We know these vicious lies are totally untrue, malicious and motivated by pure greed and revenge,” she said. “Our family totally supports Michael.”
Jackson, who has three children of his own, has largely remained in seclusion since police raided his Neverland Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara in November. He has released a statement calling the charges a “big lie.”