Sheriff - Officers never manhandled singer

Friday, January 2, 2004

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department has denied manhandling Michael Jackson during his arrest and asked prosecutors to investigate the pop star's complaint, threatening to charge Jackson if the accusation is deemed false. Attorney General Bill Lockyer said Wednesday he would investigate the matter, the same day Sheriff Jim Anderson asked for a probe and defended his deputies' actions during Jackson's Nov. 20 arrest. Anderson also released audio and videotapes indicating Jackson was treated respectfully by deputies. One video showed Jackson shaking hands with the officers who met him at Santa Barbara Airport on Nov. 20.

The deputies then handcuffed Jackson and put him in a car for a trip to the county jail, where he was booked for investigation of child molestation. He has declared his innocence.

In an audio recording from the car, Jackson could be heard complaining that the handcuffs hurt. An officer advised him to "scoot forward a little bit," and later asked him, "Is that OK for you, Mr. Jackson?"

"It's wonderful, thank you. Thank you very much," Jackson replies.

Jackson's parents expressed skepticism about the tapes in a statement issued Wednesday night.

"The tapes do not address any of the allegations that Michael made but only paint a portrait of what the sheriff's men did when the cameras were on them, not what they did when no one was looking," Joseph and Katherine Jackson said. "We look forward to a further investigation when all the facts come out in due course."

In a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast Sunday on CBS, Jackson said he was manhandled while in custody and locked in a feces-smeared restroom for 45 minutes after he asked to use the facilities. He showed what he said was a bruise on his right arm and said his shoulder was dislocated.

Anderson said Jackson was not put in a restroom, but a cell designed to hold seven prisoners and equipped with a toilet. He said it had been cleaned just before Jackson arrived and the singer was there for 15 to 20 minutes.

"At no time during this process did Mr. Jackson complain of any injury incurred during the course of the arrest or mistreatment by jail staff," the sheriff said.

TV news cameras also recorded Jackson waving with both arms to fans as he left the jail. "I think Mr. Jackson has seriously hurt his credibility," Anderson said.

Jackson attorney Mark Geragos said his client "absolutely" stands by his allegations.

"We not only welcome an investigation by the attorney general of California, but will ask that the entire case from the inception be investigated by that office," he said.

One legal expert praised the attorney general's decision to investigate.

"It's the only way to clear up what happened and I'm not sure they can ever really clear up what happened. They don't have the entire time on videotape," said Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson.

She also questioned whether Jackson could be charged with making a false report even if his accusations aren't substantiated.

"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 Levenson, a former federal prosecutor.

AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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