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Arrest Warrant Issued for Michael Jackson for Child Molestation

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Michael Jackson was being sought Wednesday on an arrest warrant alleging multiple counts of child molestation, Santa Barbara County officials said.

Jackson was being given an opportunity to surrender and bail would be set at $3 million, Sheriff Jim Anderson told a press conference

Charges "will be filed" against Jackson, District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. said.

The warrant was for violation of Section 288 of the California Penal Code - which prohibits lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14. The California Penal Code says anyone convicted of the crime can be punished by three to eight years in prison.

As many as 70 law enforcement officials served a warrant at Jackson's Neverland Ranch on Tuesday and searched for evidence for more than 12 hours.

A spokesman for Jackson, Stuart Backerman, told The Associated Press early Wednesday that he was consulting with attorneys Wednesday and planned to issue a statement later in the morning.

He declined further comment, saying neither he nor Jackson knew the details of the investigation.

The Jackson family, including Michael, were in Las Vegas early Wednesday and were aware of the arrest warrant, said Steve Manning, a family spokesman.

"It's very unfortunate. They feel very bad about it, but they support him wholeheartedly. They stand behind him 100 percent," Manning said.

Court TV, citing unidentified sources, reported that the allegations were brought by a 12- or 13-year-old boy. And the television program "Celebrity Justice" said a therapist reported disclosures by a boy who spent time at Neverland and began therapy several months ago.

Jackson, who Backerman said was in Las Vegas shooting a music video, noted the timing of the allegations in a statement released to the AP.

"These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released," the Jackson statement said, referring to Tuesday's release of a greatest hits album, "Number Ones."

The 45-year-old singing superstar faced a child molestation investigation in 1993 in a case that never resulted in criminal charges. Jackson reportedly paid a multimillion dollar settlement in that case but maintained his innocence.

Jackson's 2,600-acre, $12.3 million compound in the Santa Ynez Valley that deputies searched Tuesday has a mansion, its own zoo and amusement park, and has often been the site of children's parties.

In a television documentary broadcast on ABC earlier this year, Jackson said he had slept in a bed with many children. "When you say bed you're thinking sexual," the singer said during the interview. "It's not sexual, we're going to sleep. I tuck them in. ... It's very charming, it's very sweet."

Jackson caused an international uproar last year when he displayed his baby, Prince Michael II, to fans by dangling him briefly from a fourth-floor balcony in Germany. Jackson called the incident a "terrible mistake," and Berlin authorities said the actions were not punishable.

The singer had international hits with the albums "Thriller" (1982), "Bad" (1987) and "Dangerous" (1991) saw his career begin to collapse after the 1993 allegations.

His last studio album, "Invincible," sold about 2 million copies in the United States - great for most artists, especially veteran stars, but only so-so for the man who bills himself as the King of Pop.


Associated Press Writers Christina Almeida in Las Vegas and Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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