LOS ANGELES – Michael Jackson (search) allegedly paid $2 million to the son of an employee at his Neverland Ranch (search) in 1990 to stave off an accusation of child molestation, according to a report by "Dateline NBC."
The television news magazine did not disclose its source for information about the reported payment, which was the subject of a segment to be broadcast Friday night.
In that segment, retired Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas, now an NBC news analyst, said the accusation came to his office's attention in 1993 as it investigated another boy's claim. That boy reportedly was paid $15 million to $20 million by Jackson to avoid charges he thought would damage his career even if proved untrue.
Jackson has denied ever harming any child and is currently fighting charges he molested a boy in 2003.
Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr. (search), did not immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press. Lawyers in the case are under a gag order.
Thomas told "Dateline," "We always believed there were eight to 10 other children out there."
But during interviews, he said, "Many of them said that they had spent time with Michael Jackson. They had spent time in his bedroom, but that nothing had happened. Some wouldn't talk to us at all."
Thomas told the AP the employee's son did not file charges and didn't want to testify "because he was afraid his friends would think he was homosexual."
"Dateline" said the settlement contained a clause barring it from being discussed publicly.
Thomas, who has previously discussed the boy's claim, said the 12-year-old accused Jackson of "fondling him through his clothes," which could be the basis of misdemeanor charges. No charges were ever lodged.
Both boys who accused Jackson in the 1990s are now in their 20s and are not expected to testify in the current case.
Jackson, 45, has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. His trial is set to start Jan. 31.