Although it is unclear where the information came from, there were numerous news accounts that the prosecution had received more than a hundred leads after announcing that Mr. Jackson would be booked on charges of child molesting. And because a judge has yet to be appointed, this particular media circus is taking place without a ringmaster.
“This is publicity as an extreme sport,” said Howard Rubenstein, a public relations executive in New York who has represented Mr. Jackson in the past. “Nobody is adhering to any rules. This will be the P.R. battle for the ages.”
For the time being, the coverage is proceeding based on very little official information. Mr. Jackson is not expected to be formally charged until mid-December, and the arrest and search warrant have not been unsealed. But information is moving swiftly along back channels.
“Law enforcement has an ability and aptitude to consistently leak information,” said Dan Klores, a public relations executive who has given advice to celebrities involved in legal matters. “They have all sorts of different antennas to distribute information, and it is often part of a strategy to break the defendant before the trial even begins.”
“And the defendants often have the wherewithal to use their lawyers, friends, media advisers and investigators to build their own campaign,” Mr. Klores said. “It becomes a tennis game with lots of back and forth.”
The need to fulfill public appetites has already resulted in excesses. A reporter was arrested for sneaking onto Mr. Jackson’s plane, and Mark Geragos, Mr. Jackson’s lawyer, responded angrily to the revelation that his conversations with Michael Jackson on a private jet that flew them to Santa Barbara for the booking had been taped.
“Michael Jackson is not going to be abused,” Mr. Geragos said at a news conference. “Michael Jackson is not going to be slammed. He is not going to be a piñata for every person who has financial motives.”
Martin Pollner, a defense lawyer at Loeb & Loeb in New York and a former federal prosecutor who has represented celebrity clients, said that the early aggressiveness in broadcasting Mr. Jackson’s side of the story is well-advised.
“For a defense attorney, it is important to get your story out as quickly as possible,” Mr. Pollner said. “You have to be accessible to the media, to be as truthful as possible and attack both the district attorney and the charges.”
“In this case, there is a certain sensitivity because of who the complainant is,” he added, pointing out that the boy in the case is reported to have cancer.
Nonetheless, the boy and his family have come in for negative coverage. Last week, there were accounts in the news media that he and his mother had been arrested for shoplifting, that the family filed suit after the arrest, and that the father had been charged with assault in a separate incident. Some of the coverage might stem from defense leaks, but it might also be a byproduct of the fact that so many reporters are covering a single news event.
Jeffrey Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker and a legal analyst for CNN, said, “When you have journalistic energy of this magnitude pushing on a story like this one, it will free up facts.”
Still, Mr. Toobin said, “there has been a ratcheting up in the rhetoric. The Jackson team trashed this kid, and that’s an interesting approach. Clearly, they are on the offensive.”