Michael Jackson And The Law. Where Does Justice Lie?
You are Tom Sneddon a long-term district attorney (6 terms) in a small California county, Santa Barbara (440,000 population wise). You have always run for office as tough on crime (in your younger days you were known as mad dog but these days your deputies call you snuffy behind your back). You are D.A. in a county where there is a wide disparity between the rich and the poor. The median cost of a house is around 1 million along the coastal strip. Most service and agricultural workers commute from nearby counties where affordable housing exists because they don’t have the no growth zoning of Santa Barbara. Thus the coastal strip is an enclave of the rich serviced by the commuting middle and lower class. Your constituency is basically the well off of the City of Santa Barbara and the agricultural landowners of the county.
As a prosecutor you have always been able to prosecute the low hanging fruit. Those that lacked the resources to mount a vigorous defense namely the poor, poorly educated or immigrant laborers who are charged with a crime in your jurisdiction. Rarely is a rich person accused of a serious felony.
Your office has approximately 50 attorneys or one for every 8800 people. Ninety miles away giant Los Angeles County (10,226,000) people) county has 938 deputy district attorneys or one for every 10901 persons but the crime rate is much higher there. For example Santa Barbara has 2 or 3 murders per hundred thousand a year while Los Angeles County had in, 2003, 10.5 homicides per 100,000 persons. So Santa Barbara is a quieter county crime wise than Los Angeles.
You are a big fish in a small pond. Due to the tendency of voters to retain incumbents you have a safe job as long as you don’t foul up in a major way or become linked to a major scandal. Over the years you have become a political power in the county.
However there is one person in your jurisdiction a wealthy, androgynous, international music star who owns his own theme park (Neverland Ranch) who aggravates you. You hate him and suspect him as a child molester. He says he likes to share his bed with young boys. He has written a song demeaning you for subjecting him to a strip search about ten years ago in relationship to a child molestation charge that occurred in another county and which was never prosecuted. You have vowed to get him. You have even gone to Australia to interview a potential victim who told you to go away. You have a web site dedicated to seeking out potential victims of Michael Jackson. However it has been unsuccessful.
You have been threatening Jackson with prosecution ever since he moved to your county, but haven’t for lack of evidence of a crime in your county. However to prosecute this wealthy individual it will cost the county at least 5 to 10 million dollars and approximately the same amount for the individual.
JEAN VALJEAN AND INSPECTOR JAVERT
Then one day a woman complains that Jackson molested her son at his theme park. Jackson is 46 and has never been convicted of a sex crime. The allegation is not murder, kidnapping or forcible rape but the complaint is by a woman who dropped her son off at Jackson’s ranch for recreational purposes. He allegedly fed wine to the boy, masturbated him and touched him in other ways like licking his head. The Los Angeles Department Of Children and Family Services (DFCS) in Los Angeles County investigated an anonymous tip re the molestation and neglect by the mother. Court T.V. says Gloria Allred admits making the tip. (click here). The Boy and his family denied any wrongdoing and the DFCS doesn’t proceed on the case.
The mother is a known con woman and welfare fraud. The boy’s family consults Larry Feldman the attorney who represented the boy involved in the settlement with Jackson in 1993. After having the boy consult a psychiatrist he does not pursue the case but does report the matter to the DFCS also. If someone makes a disclosure of child endangerment to an attorney the attorney must report it to the authorities or risk civil and criminal penalties.
In a subsequent investigation by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department the boy in a video taped interview alleges that he was molested. Eighty sheriffs deputies raid the ranch and find some explicit adult magazines but no child pornography or any other evidence of wrongdoing.
You do not intend to run for office again and therefore will not have to face charges in an election that you recklessly used the counties money to pursue this matter on poor judgment or your personal prejudice.
You choose to bring a felony complaint (click here) for events that allegedly occurred on 2/7-2/20 and 3/10-03 before a Santa Barbara Grand Jury, despite the fact that others in Los Angeles have refused to take the case. You use the grand jury procedure to obtain an indictment so you don’t have to give the rock star a preliminary hearing where a seasoned judge can look at the evidence and decide if there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. (click here) The grand jury procedure is secret and the accused does not have the right to counsel or the right to cross-examine witnesses and present rebuttal witnesses. The whole grand jury procedure has been condemned by numerous experts for being unfair and in control of the prosecutor. Grand juries almost always follow the guidance of the prosecutor and its main function is to render the prosecution free from a malicious prosecution lawsuit if the case is lost or thrown out.(click here) A preliminary hearing on the other hand would have given Jackson the right to a lawyer, to cross-examine the witnesses against him and would have been before a judge who would decide that there was reasonable cause to believe that a crime had been committed before allowing the matter to go forward. It is a much more neutral procedure where everyone’s rights are given safeguards. However given your political power no judge is liklely to dismiss this case. It would have given the public, the media and yourself an early look at how lacking in belief your witnesses were. With this information you could have either dismissed the case, after a waiver of a civil action by Jackson, concince Jackson to plead guilty to a minor charge like furnishing alcohol to a minor or plunge on with this very weak case. You elect the grand jury route.
Thus Jackson is deprived of a preliminary hearing, the right to counsel and the right to confront the witnesses against him and the right to a transcript of their secret testimony.The media and the public is also deprived of an early look at the evidence you intend to present against Jackson. However you are not concerned with this elemental miscarriage of justice. You want to end your days as district attorney in rich and slow Santa Barbara County in a blaze of glory no matter what the cost to your constituents or to Michael Jackson who it later turns is innocent of the charges brought in your merit less case. You have proceeded with a merit less case to satisfy your own biases and in doing so done irreparable damage to the life and career a of a man who may be eccentric and a musical genius but has been determined not to have not committed a crime. You have tried to smear him with allegations of past similar acts which have been settled civilly by the singer on the advice of his business advisors to avoid damage to his career.
All this has cost your county millions of dollars. Where is the justice in this over reaching over reacting prosecution? What recourse does Michael Jackson have for his costs and the damage to his career? What about your own county? Shouldn’t it conduct an investigation into your competence to carry out the duties of a district attorney in a lawful and fair manner to all inhabitants of Santa Barbara County? Where does justice lie in this case? This whole matter brings to mind Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Jean Valjeans struggle with Inspector Javert.