Thursday, January 1, 2004
Santa Barbara, Calif. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff on Wednesday strongly denied Michael Jackson was roughed up by jailers during his arrest, and threatened to press charges against the pop star for making a false accusation against an officer.
Sheriff Jim Anderson said he asked the state attorney general to investigate the allegations Jackson leveled during an interview on Sunday's "60 Minutes."
Jackson was treated "with the utmost respect and courtesy" during his arrest and booking Nov. 20 on suspicion of child molestation and was "in no way manhandled or abused," Anderson said at a news conference.
The sheriff said that Jackson raised no complaints during the process, thanked authorities when it was over, whistled and sang during the ride to jail, and replied "Wonderful" when asked at one point how he was doing.
Anderson said he considered Jackson's allegations in the interview to be a formal citizen's complaint. He said that if the attorney general finds Jackson's accusations to be groundless, he will file a misdemeanor complaint against the singer for making a false report.
Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer issued a statement saying he had ordered an investigation. He said he did not know how long it would take.
Jackson said during the interview that he was bruised and his shoulder dislocated because of jailers' rough treatment, and that he was locked in a feces-smeared restroom for 45 minutes after he asked to use the facilities.
The sheriff said it was not a bathroom but an empty holding cell big enough for seven people, and it had been cleaned just before Jackson asked to use it.
Jackson attorney Mark Geragos said after the sheriff's news conference that his client "absolutely" stands by his allegations, and that the idea of seeking criminal charges of a false report "shows another serious flaw in their knowledge of the law."
Jackson, 45, is charged with repeatedly molesting a boy who had stayed over at his Neverland estate. He is free on $3 million bail and has said he is innocent.
Jackson was arrested at Santa Barbara Airport. He was then driven to the county jail, booked and released.
The sheriff Wednesday played video- and audiotapes of part of the 63-minute booking process. One tape made in a car while he was being taken to jail recorded polite conversation and Jackson whistling. At one point Jackson asked for air conditioning and said "thank you" when it was turned on.
In an audio recording from the car Jackson did complain that his handcuffs hurt. "They're tight," he said. An officer advised him to "scoot forward a little bit."
The handcuffs were quickly removed at the jail, where staff noted the positions of the handcuffs "were consistent with proper handcuffing procedures," Anderson said.
"I think Mr. Jackson has seriously hurt his credibility," Anderson concluded.
A legal expert questioned Anderson's plan to pursue false-report charges against Jackson if the state investigation finds Jackson was treated properly.
"I think it's a stretch to say that his verbal complaints in an interview are the same as a formally filed complaint that would expose him to criminal liability," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Loyola University Law professor.
Levenson said a recent state Supreme Court ruling found that the state law against filing false reports doesn't apply to casual speech.