11/30/2003

Hidden microphones found at Santa Barbara sheriff's HQ

The Associated Press

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Sheriff's officials said several wireless microphones discovered outside their headquarters could be the latest of several attempts by journalists to surreptitiously get information on the Michael Jackson molestation case, a spokesman speculated.

The devices were found in a brushy area where Sheriff's Department employees frequently take breaks and where reporters are not normally allowed. Officials did not say when they discovered the microphones.

"It is being interpreted by the department as an attempt by somebody within the media to garner information that otherwise would not be available,'' Sgt. Chris Pappas of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, said Saturday.

Hundreds of reporters and photographers converged on the Sheriff's Department on Nov. 20, when Jackson was booked at a nearby jail on suspicion of sexually molesting a child under 14.

The entertainer, who is free on $3 million bail, has maintained his innocence. Authorities say he probably won't be charged until after Dec. 15.

A man claiming to be a news and photo agency reporter was arrested Nov. 20 after Jackson's security staff found him aboard the entertainer's private plane while Jackson was surrendering to authorities.

Last week, Jackson and his lawyer learned they were secretly videotaped by a camera hidden aboard the plane when Jackson traveled from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara to turn himself in. The discovery triggered an FBI investigation and a lawsuit by Jackson against the charter jet company.

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