Published November 19, 2003
LOS OLIVOS, Calif. – Investigators armed with a search warrant swarmed Michael Jackson's (search) Neverland Ranch on Tuesday as part of a criminal probe.
Sources told Fox News and other media outlets that a 12-year-old boy had brought sexual allegations against the pop star, who was in Las Vegas filming a music video at the time of the raid.
Authorities would not say whether the allegations of molestation were the reason behind the raid. No immediate arrests were made.
But Court TV (search), which broke the story, said the allegations of molestation were at the root of the police investigation.
Citing unidentified sources, Court TV reported the warrant was tied to sexual abuse allegations brought by a 12- or 13-year-old boy. Sheriff's officials and the district attorney's office refused comment.
Jackson publicist Stuart Backerman also refused to comment on any allegations and said neither he nor Jackson knew the details of the investigation.
Jackson denounced media coverage of the search in a statement released to The Associated Press by Backerman, who said the singer and his three young children have spent the last three weeks in Las Vegas for the making of a video.
"I've seen lawyers who don't represent me and spokespeople who do not know me speaking for me. These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released," the Jackson statement said.
The search came on the same day Epic Records released "Number Ones," a greatest hits collection featuring Jackson's new single, "One More Chance." On Nov. 26, CBS is scheduled to air a Jackson special consisting mainly of old concert footage.
Sixty to 70 personnel from the Santa Barbara County sheriff's and district attorney's offices served a warrant about 8:30 a.m. as part of an "ongoing criminal investigation," Sgt. Chris Pappas said.
Detectives were expected to be gathering evidence all day. As of midday there was no arrest warrant issued, Pappas said at a command post. The district attorney and sheriff planned to provide more details at a Wednesday morning press conference.
The $12.3 million Santa Ynez Valley property, which has a mansion, its own zoo and amusement park with bumper cars, a merry-go-round and Ferris wheel, has often been the site of children's parties. Investigators were only searching select locations on the property, said sheriff's Cmdr. Bill Byrne.
A source told "Extra" (search) correspondent Michael Bryant the boy recently approached a Los Angeles law firm and claimed inappropriate conduct by the superstar.
And "Celebrity Justice" (search) reported that it was the 12-year-old boy's revelations during a therapy session that were behind Tuesday's search warrant, the show's producers confirmed to Foxnews.com.
The boy, who had spent time at Neverland Ranch, entered therapy several months ago and disclosed information the therapist felt compelled to report to authorities, according to "CJ" sources.
Under California law, if a health care practitioner "knows or reasonably suspects" a child to be a victim of abuse, the practitioner must report the abuse to law enforcement authorities "as soon as practically possible."
News of the raid came as a "complete surprise" to Jackson, a source close to the pop star told Foxnews.com's Roger Friedman.
After word of the search spread, a motley array of Jackson supporters hastily arranged a press conference in Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon.
One woman, Donna Green, said she was a big Jackson fan who had gotten the chance to meet and speak with the singer several times over the years. She was simply there to show her support, she said, and wore a button calling for an end to the "child abuse circus."
"We love him very much," she said. "He's the nicest man I've ever met. He's not this weird person they make him out to be." She said the timing of the raid struck her as "convenient" since it coincides with the release of his latest album, "Number Ones."
More than 10 years have passed since the 45-year-old singing superstar faced a child-molestation investigation in a case that never resulted in criminal charges.
The singer who had international hits with the albums "Thriller" (1982), "Bad" (1987) and "Dangerous" (1991) saw his career begin to collapse in 1993 amid allegations he molested a 13-year-old boy. Jackson has maintained his innocence, and charges were never filed. He reportedly paid an approximately $20 million settlement.
But in the complaint filed, the boy claimed Jackson kissed and molested him on several occasions while the two were in bed together and said he once took a bath with the pop singer. He said the situation got "out of hand."
Jackson's spiritual advisor, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (search), told Fox News he had tried to counsel the singer about being more responsible.
"I have sent him many messages," the rabbi said on Fox News. "We're not just talking about the fall of a business. We're talking about the fall of a human being."
Added Boteach: "He's not a child, he's an adult, and he has to accept" the consequences of his actions.
Uri Geller, a psychic and paranormalist who is a longtime friend of Jackson's, told Fox News that if the allegations are of a sexual nature, he could not believe they were true.
"I'm a father myself and I would never associate myself with anyone who would do anything with a child," said Geller, describing Jackson as "gullible, innocent, maybe a little confused ... but I would never believe he would sexually abuse a child."
Last year there was a public outcry after Jackson, a former child star, stunned fans by dangling his baby, whom he reportedly calls "Blanket," from a hotel window in Germany. The child's face was covered with a towel.
Jackson called the incident a "terrible mistake," and Berlin authorities said the actions were not punishable.
Not much is known about Prince Michael II, whose mother has not been identified. The singer's 6-year-old son, Prince Michael I, and 5-year-old daughter, Paris, were born during his marriage to Debbie Rowe, his plastic surgeon's nurse, which ended in 1999.
He was also married to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis' daughter, between 1994 and 1996.
Jackson routinely keeps the children's heads covered with cloth while escorting them in public — and he usually sports a surgical mask himself when out and about. He has said he wants to protect them from the public eye.
In a television documentary broadcast on ABC earlier this year, Jackson said he had slept in a bed with many children. "When you say bed you're thinking sexual," the singer said. "It's not sexual, we're going to sleep. I tuck them in. ... It's very charming, it's very sweet."
As of last December, when Jackson interacted with young fans outside a lawsuit hearing in Santa Maria, Calif., he was still inviting children to his home for parties.
Jackson is also connected to Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, who began serving federal prison time Monday for possessing illegal explosives. Pellicano is being investigated about whether he secretly taped conversations of celebrities and their lawyers.
Pellicano, 59, worked for Jackson as a spokesman and security consultant during the abuse investigation.
The "King of Pop" amassed a half-billion-dollar fortune over the past 20 years, but his former financial advisers have said, in a lawsuit last spring, that he is saddled with debt and teetering near bankruptcy. Current financial advisers have denied that claim.
Jackson has appeared weak and ghostly pale at many of his recent public appearances, and his own attorneys have said has been involved in nearly 1,000 lawsuits.
In June, he suffered a suspected anxiety attack during a visit to Indianapolis to deliver a deposition in a lawsuit and his doctor said the singer was weak, dizzy and dehydrated.
In a separate Santa Maria lawsuit hearing earlier this year, the singer hobbled into court on crutches with his left foot wrapped in bandages because of swelling from what he described as a spider bite and delayed testimony because he said he was too ill to appear in court.
When he did finally testify, he giggled during questioning and made comical faces at people in the courtroom.
Fox News' Marla Lehner, Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Trace Gallagher, Jennifer D'Angelo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.