The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. issued a warrant for Michael Jackson’s arrest Wednesday after searching Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos the day before.
Jackson is wanted for multiple counts of alleged child molestation and his bail is set at $3 million, Sheriff Jim Anderson said. As part of Tuesday’s search, police videotaped the interior and exterior of every building located on the ranch in an effort to find any evidence that would corroborate the victim’s claims. Jackson was not present at the ranch when police served the search warrant. He was reported to be in Las Vegas shooting a music video.
“At this point in time, Mr. Jackson has been given an opportunity to surrender himself to the custody of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. within a specified period of time,” Anderson said in a news conference at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara on Wednesday morning. “We are currently working with Mr. Jackson’s legal representation on this matter.”
Anderson would not disclose any details on what, if any, evidence was found on the ranch, but he did say that two related search warrants were served in Southern California simultaneously. If arrested, Jackson would have to surrender his passport to authorities.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon said if convicted, Jackson would face three to eight years in prison, plus two years for each additional conviction. Sneddon would not specify how many counts Jackson faces.
Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman released a statement on behalf of Jackson Wednesday afternoon.
“The outrageous allegations against Michael Jackson are false. Michael would never harm a child in any way,” Backerman said. “Michael, through his attorneys, led by Mark Geragos, has already made arrangements with the district attorney to return to Santa Barbara to immediately confront and prove these charges unfounded.”
In 1993, a 13-year-old boy filed a civil case against Jackson alleging similar sexual misconduct. Jackson reportedly reached a multimillion dollar settlement with the boy’s family out of court and was not charged with any crime. In Wednesday’s news conference, Sneddon emphasized the differences between the 1993 case and the current investigation.
“In 1993, California law said that a child could not be forced to testify. This is no longer the law in California because of the ’93 investigation,” Sneddon said. “There was also a contemporaneous civil case filed, which culminated prior to completion of our investigation. This time, there has been no civil case filed and we have no anticipation that there will be.”
Sneddon also said no warrant was ever issued in the 1993 case and the victim of that case refused to testify. Anderson said this victim is cooperative, but would not say if there are any other victims involved in this investigation.
“We encourage the public to come forward if they have any information on other possible victims,” Anderson said.
In a statement released Tuesday, Jackson said the sheriff’s department deliberately chose to serve the search warrant on the same day as the release of his new album Number Ones, a greatest hits album from Epic Records.
“These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video, is being released,” Jackson said.
Sneddon said he did not have a personal vendetta against Jackson and that they had originally planned to conduct the search several weeks ago. The search was put off because the influx of visitors to the Santa Barbara area over the Halloween weekend required the sheriff’s department to devote the majority of its manpower to crowd control and additional patrols.
Approximately 70 law enforcement officials participated in Tuesday’s search of Neverland Ranch, which consists of a mansion, a private zoo and an amusement park with bumper cars, a merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel. In an ABC documentary that aired in February, Jackson admitted to sharing his bed with children who would visit the ranch.
“When you say bed, you’re thinking sexual. It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep,” Jackson said. “I tuck them in … it’s very charming. It’s very sweet.”