SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Pop superstar Michael Jackson (search) pleaded not guilty to child-molestation charges at a Santa Maria courthouse on Friday.
After the plea, Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville (search) issued a gag order barring those involved in the case from speaking about its details publicly.
The courtroom proceedings began with Melville scolding Jackson for arriving 21 minutes late to his arraignment, which had been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. PST.
"Mr. Jackson, you have started out on the wrong foot here. ... I want to advise you that I will not put up with that. It's an insult to the court," Melville said.
After the arraignment, which lasted about five minutes, a series of other issues including the gag order were addressed.
As Jackson left the courthouse and made his way through the throngs of supporters outside, he got on top of the black sports utility vehicle that brought to him to court and waved to his fans. Jackson also helped a video photographer join him on top of the vehicle.
"Today suggests we have a long haul," said New York attorney Benjamin Brafman (search), who just joined the Jackson defense. "The outpouring of love for Mr. Jackson is sort of extraordinary. There are people out there from all over the world."
But the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the courthouse was by no means spontaneous, said Roger Friedman, Foxnews.com entertainment columnist.
"It was completely contrived," he said. Jackson's lawyers want to move the trial out of Santa Maria and into a more racially diverse county, Friedman explained. "That circus was designed to poison the jury pool in Santa Maria."
"Michael Jackson is not insane," Friedman continued. "He may be eccentric, but he's not insane. They do not want that trial in that town and will do everything they can to get it out of there."
The judge scheduled a Feb. 13 court session to set a date for a preliminary hearing, the proceeding used to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Jackson for trial.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon (search) pointedly asked, "Judge, will that be 8:30?" clearly referring to Jackson's tardiness. The judge responded, "8:30."
The judge also ruled that documents related to the Nov. 18 search of Jackson's Neverland Ranch (search) would remained sealed.
Jackson's attorney Mark Geragos (search) argued against the gag order, and said he needs freedom to speak to the press to clear up rumors that continually surface around Jackson. Members of media also argued against gag order. But Sneddon said that without the order, the jury pool would be polluted in such a small county. The judge upheld the order.
The hundreds of fans who gathered to support Jackson were not forgotten by the pop star — a Jackson representative distributed fliers inviting fans to Neverland Ranch on Friday after the court proceedings.
Fox News has learned that the invitation reads:
"In the spirit of love and togetherness, Michael Jackson would like to invite his fans and supporters to his Neverland Ranch. Please join us Friday, January, 16th 2004 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., refreshments will be served. We'll see you there!"
Earlier Friday morning, surrounded by police officers, representatives from the Nation of Islam (search) and his lawyers, Jackson emerged from a black SUV under an umbrella and took time to shake hands with hundreds of fans crushing up against a security fence to get a glimpse of him as he entered the courthouse.
Jackson, 45, wore a dark suit, dark sunglasses and a white armband. Once inside, security ran a metal detector wand over the singer before allowing him into the courtroom.
The self-named King of Pop is charged with seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine, between Feb. 7 and March 10, 2003. He has been freed on $3 million bail.
• Raw Data: Charges Against Michael Jackson (pdf)
The proceeding was held at the small Santa Barbara County courthouse in Santa Maria because it is the closest court to Neverland Ranch, the central California estate where the crimes allegedly occurred.
Among Jackson's strongest supporters have been his family members, who have publicly denounced the charges. Jackson's father, Joe, mother, Katherine, brother Jermaine and sister Janet were present at the courthouse.
A "caravan of love" made up of Jackson fans converged on the courthouse early Friday, jostling for space among the mass of media outlets.
"There's strength in numbers," said Amber McCrary, 26, who got on a bus in a suburban Los Angeles Kmart parking lot along with her two young children.
Hundreds of fans of all ages prayed before the two chartered coaches left the Sunland area at about 4:30 a.m. Friday.
Sitting in the front passenger seat of one bus was a woman dressed as Charlie Chaplin.
"I'm Michael's favorite character," said Audrey Ruttan, 28, of suburban Van Nuys. "He loves Charlie Chaplin, and I'm here to support him and he's innocent."
The Rev. Charles Harper led a prayer before the buses pulled away.
"We're here to support Michael Jackson and we just want the world to know that we don't try you in the media," said Harper, a minister from Creek Bridge Church in Carmel. "We're just here in support because it's all about love and supporting one another, no matter what you're going through."
In Santa Maria, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the courthouse, many singing Jackson's "I'll Be There" and hoisting signs that read "Stay Strong Michael" and "100% Innocent. We Believe In Michael Jackson. Leave Him Alone."
News crews from around the globe set up more than 18 microwave trucks, mini TV studios and satellite dishes, creating a scene reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson (search) murder trial which became a blueprint for the celebrity trial.
Although small compared to Simpson's "dream team," Jackson's defense expanded Thursday with the addition of Brafman, a principal of the firm that won acquittal for Sean "P. Diddy" Combs on bribery and weapons charges in 2001.
Geragos announced that Brafman would act as "co-lead counsel."
Authorities did not identify Jackson's alleged victim, but sources close to those involved have said he is a now-teenage cancer patient who appeared in a documentary broadcast in February that showed Jackson talking about his sleepovers with children at Neverland and holding the boy's hand.
Jackson defended the sleepovers in a recent interview on CBS' "60 Minutes."
"People think sex," Jackson said. "They're thinking sex. My mind doesn't run that way. When I see children, I see the face of God. That's why I love them so much."
The documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson," raised new questions about the sleepovers that had lingered since molestation allegations against the star were investigated in 1993. No charges were filed in that case, but Jackson reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to a boy's family.
Jackson said in the documentary that his practice of allowing children to sleep in his bed is non-sexual.
Fox News' William La Jeunesse and The Associated Press contributed to this report.