SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A judge Monday denied a motion for a delay in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson (search), clearing the way for the trial's Jan. 31 start.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger (search) asked Judge Rodney S. Melville (search) to postpone the trial for three months so attorneys could sort through 14,000 pages of evidence filed by prosecutors during the past two months.
Melville said a delay would be "a huge step backward. ... If I continued the case three months, we'll have 90 more search warrants and 90 more motions." The ruling came during a pretrial hearing Monday that ended more quickly than expected.
Melville also rejected defense motions to dismiss the case for alleged "vindictive prosecution and outrageous government conduct," and because Jackson's rights had allegedly been violated by a flurry of searches.
The judge did, however, grant a defense request for a list of people considered for the grand jury that eventually indicted Jackson. His lawyers are trying to determine if blacks and Hispanics were excluded from the process.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a boy, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to his alleged victim. The entertainer has pleaded not guilty. He was not required to attend Monday's hearing.
Both sides estimated the trial could last as long as five months.
In seeking the delay, Sanger argued prosecutors had provided an updated witness list filled with errors. Among other things, the errors caused defense lawyers to initially think a porn star was being called as a witness, Sanger said.
"We're very conscious that the court did not want to hear the 'c' word," Sanger said about the push for the continuance. "The problem is we feel we're really being sandbagged here on a number of things."
District Attorney Tom Sneddon (search), while acknowledging a few spelling errors, accused the defense of hyperbole. Of the 164 names on the updated list, 70 were taken from the defense, he said.
Sanger had also complained that authorities executed more than 100 search warrants against Jackson, but prosecutors countered 92 of them targeted business records and did not involve law enforcement raids on Jackson's property.
"There was probable cause and they were carried out in a normal manner," Melville concluded.
Arguing that the prosecution was vindictive, Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. called the case a "nasty, evil, personal exercise of revenge" against Jackson. Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss dismissed the claim as "recycled rubbish." Melville previously rejected a similar defense effort.
Prosecutors had been expected to argue that they be allowed to present evidence during the trial of alleged wrongdoing in the entertainer's past. But that motion now won't be heard until Jan. 12.
Prosecutors said they want to present evidence that Jackson allegedly committed sex crimes over the years that went uncharged, saying the evidence will demonstrate his "propensity" for such crimes and how he "created the opportunities to achieve his goal."