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Back problems send Jackson to emergency room
SOLVANG, Calif. -- Michael Jackson was taken to an emergency room Sunday for treatment of a back problem that has plagued him throughout his molestation trial. He later left to the thunder of flashbulbs.
Jackson, accompanied by a bodyguard, arrived at the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital about five miles from his Neverland ranch at about 2:30 p.m., spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said.
"Mr. Jackson's back has spurred up on him again," Bain said. "It's pretty serious. It was serious enough for him to come over here."
Jackson left the hospital in a sport utility vehicle shortly after 8 p.m. in a flurry of activity. His aides had erected white scaffolding outside the emergency room entrance to block the view of photographers gathered outside.
As flashbulbs popped and dozens of fans screamed, "We love you," the SUV and another vehicle drove slowly through a street packed with reporters and fans. Several chased after the vehicles and one photographer was led away by police.
Bain said stress contributed to the entertainer's back problem.
"He's under a tremendous amount of stress right now," she said at an impromptu news conference outside the hospital. "Other than his back, he is doing fine."
It was unclear late Sunday evening whether Jackson had been admitted to the hospital. Bain had offered no further updates since mid-afternoon.
Jackson's health has been an issue throughout the trial. The 46-year-old pop star appeared gaunt in recent days, and officials at the hospital disclosed Friday that he had visited the emergency room overnight Thursday. They would not discuss the reason for that visit, citing privacy concerns.
Prior to last week, Jackson's case was interrupted twice by hospital visits, once for treatment of flu symptoms. He first reported a back problem in early March, when he went to an emergency room on one of the days his accuser took the stand. Jackson arrived late, dressed in pajama bottoms, after the judge ordered him to come to court.
The singer is charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003. He is also accused of plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive.
The jury received Jackson's case Friday afternoon and deliberated for about two hours before adjourning for the weekend. They will resume discussions Monday. Bain said Jackson planned to return to his family at Neverland when he is released from the hospital to wait for the verdict.
"His mother is a rock of Gibraltar. So is his father," she said.
Also Sunday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in an interview that he has arrived in the area to meet with Jackson.
"I talk to him almost every day, and we have prayer," he said. "We are going to be in prayer as we watch and wait."