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Jackson surrenders, released on bail

Last updated on: November 21, 2003 09:39 IST

Beleaguered 'king of pop' Michael Jackson surrendered to police at a Santa Barbara jail to face charges of child molestation, which could affect his career and send him to prison for years.

He was later released on bail after posting a $3 million bond.

A private jet carrying Jackson landed at the Santa Barbara airport shortly before noon on Thursday. The 45-year-old pop icon was immediately taken into custody by sheriffs.

Jackson, his hands cuffed behind his back, entered the Santa Barbara county main jail, accompanied by defence attorney Mark Geragos who earlier said he had arranged the surrender.

The pop star was booked under multiple counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, an offence punishable by three to eight years in jail.

Jackson's spokesman Stuart Backerman termed the allegation the most vicious imaginable. "The big lie against Michael Jackson is anchored in the most vicious allegation imaginable, one that resonates across every culture: the spectacle of harming a child. But this spectacle is rooted in a lie. Michael said: Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court," he said.

The complainant is a 12-year-old boy and the alleged assault took place at Jackson's Neverland Ranch earlier this year, media reports said.

"He's (Jackson) come back specifically to confront these charges head on," Geragos said earlier outside the jail. "He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges. He considers this to be a big lie. He understands the people who are outraged because if these charges were true, I assure you, Michael would be the first to be outraged.

"I'm here to tell you today, Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf these charges are categorically untrue. He looks forward to getting into a courtroom as opposed to any other forum and confronting these accusations head on," he said.

Jackson's brother Jermaine defended him in a television interview. "The  whole family supports Michael 100 per cent, 1,000 per cent. Michael is innocent," he said.

"My brother is not eccentric. We had an incredible, wonderful childhood," he said. "And what they're doing is bringing him down with the very thing that he loved. At the end of the day, this is nothing but a modern-day lynching."

Jackson had faced a similar charge earlier but was able to settle it for a large sum. This time, if convicted of the charge of child molestation, he cannot avoid jail.

T V Parasuram in Washington
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