| Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch outside Santa Barbara, California (AFP)
Los Olivos (California), Nov. 19 (Reuters): Authorities issued a warrant to arrest pop star Michael Jackson today as sheriff’s deputies finished scouring his central California Neverland Ranch in an unspecified criminal investigation.
A lawyer for the Jackson family said the warrant involved allegations of child molestation but did not go into detail.
Court TV and other US media outlets said a 12-year-old boy who stayed at Jackson’s ranch said the 45-year-old Jackson molested him.
A spokesperson for the police department in Las Vegas, where Jackson has been staying for the past three weeks while producing a music video, said California authorities issued an arrest warrant for the singer and were negotiating with his lawyers on the terms of his surrender.
The spokesperson, Jose Montoya, did not specify the charges in the arrest warrant against Jackson and said his department would not be involved in serving the warrant.
The Santa Barbara county sheriff’s department said yesterday that investigators had served a search warrant on Jackson’s sprawling Neverland compound “as part of an ongoing criminal investigation” but did not specify the nature of the probe.
Cable channel Court TV quoted sources as saying the investigation stemmed from a new allegation of sexual abuse brought by a 12-year-old boy against the King of Pop.
In 1994, Jackson reached a multimillion-dollar out-of-court settlement with the family of a 14-year-old boy who accused him of sexual molestation.
A criminal investigation of that case was closed without charges being brought, and Jackson denied any wrongdoing.
“We’ve seen this before; our response is: ‘Here we go again;’ Michael has 24-hour-a-day supervision with him for the specific reason to protect him from these claims,” Jackson family attorney Brian Oxman told NBC.
“We cannot comment on law enforcement’s investigation because we do not yet know what it is about.
“Michael will, as always, cooperate fully with authorities in any investigation even as it is conducted, yet again, while he is not home,” spokesperson Stuart Backerman said in a statement.
Jackson lashed out at the “rogues’ gallery of hucksters and inside sources” who dominated the airwaves yesterday speculating on the investigation.
“These characters always seem to surface with a dreadful allegation just as another project, an album, a video, is being released,” Jackson said in the statement.
The search warrant was executed on the day that a new greatest hits collection was released, featuring Jackson’s latest single, One More Chance.
Sheriff’s deputies and officials from the Santa Barbara district attorney’s office completed the search of ranch, which began last morning.
Jackson has theme-park rides and a zoo there.
The syndicated TV show Celebrity Justice said the search was prompted by revelations made by a 12-year-old Los Angeles boy in therapy sessions.
Celebrity Justice said the therapist felt compelled to report the information to authorities under a California law requiring health care professionals who “know or reasonably suspect” child abuse to disclose such suspicions.