With the opening of his long-awaited trial just a day away, Michael Jackson yesterday released a video statement rebutting the child molestation charges against him and condemning court transcript leaks outlining the prosecution case.
“In the last few weeks, a large amount of ugly, malicious information has been released into the media about me,” the 46-year-old singer said in a statement released on his website. “The information is disgusting and false.”
Jackson faces four charges of child molestation, four charges of administering an intoxicating agent, one count of conspiracy involving extortion, false imprisonment and child abduction, and one count of attempted child molestation.
He predicted in the statement that he would be acquitted in the trial, which is expected to last five months.
“I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told,” he said. “I never intend to place myself in so vulnerable a position ever again. I love my community and I have great faith in our justice system. Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court.”
The statement was released under an agreement with the Santa Barbara supreme court judge Rodney Melville, who will hear the case. Although Judge Melville has imposed strict gagging orders on everyone involved with the inquiry, and has released very few documents associated with the charges, he acceded to a defence request to let Jackson make a statement in the light of the recent leaks of grand jury testimony.
Jury selection starts today, with 750 people expected to be screened over the next week and the final selection of 12 jurors and eight alternates maybe lasting a month.
The charges came in the wake of a British television documentary broadcast in February 2003 which was made by the journalist Martin Bashir. In the documentary, which will be shown to jurors by the prosecution, Jackson holds hands with a 12-year-old. He extols the virtues of “sleepovers” and argues that to share your bed with somebody is the most “loving” thing a person can do.
The leak of the grand jury transcripts has prompted a fierce battle between Jackson’s team, led by Thomas Mesereau, and the Santa Barbara district attorney, Tom Sneddon, who is leading the prosecution.