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Archive for Friday, January 9, 2004

Media at issue in Jackson case

District attorney seeking gag order

January 9, 2004

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— The judge presiding over the Michael Jackson child molestation case faces new decisions regarding media access, with prosecutors calling for a rigid publicity gag order and six news organizations asking that court documents be unsealed.

In a case that instantly became fodder for 24-hour cable news networks and gossip columns because of the celebrity at its center, two separate court filings turned the focus back on the media.

The district attorney sought an order that would prohibit Jackson, his attorney Mark Geragos and virtually every person connected to the case from talking to the news media.

The gag order would be similar to one in effect at the Scott Peterson murder trial. Peterson also is defended by Geragos, who called the prosecution's motion on Wednesday "outrageous" and said he would file an answer opposing it by next week.

Meanwhile, news organizations asked Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson to unseal records related to the search of Jackson's Neverland Ranch, saying the public was not notified of a request last month that the documents remain sealed until Jackson's Jan. 16 arraignment.

The documents include the search warrant, an affidavit in which authorities explained their reasons for seeking the warrant, and a list of items seized.

The records were initially sealed for 45 days on Nov. 17, the day before authorities searched the estate for evidence involving the boy Jackson is accused of molesting. Jackson has denied the allegations.

The records were to become public Dec. 31, but Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Thomas Sneddon and Geragos requested before then that they remain sealed.

Theodore Boutrous Jr., representing NBC, CBS, CNN, ABC, Fox News Network and The New York Times, on Wednesday requested that a hearing on unsealing the search records be held on the day of the arraignment.

An attorney representing the family of Jackson's accuser also has filed a formal complaint with the county about the leak of a confidential child welfare agency memo, the district attorney's office said in a statement.

The agency memo said Jackson was cleared of misconduct by child welfare investigators after the boy denied Jackson molested him.

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