Michael Jackson to plead innocent

Pop icon Michael Jackson is to plead not guilty when he appears in court on Friday on child sex charges.

    The pop star could face a 20-year prison term if found guilty

    "Michael will enter the plea of not guilty," Jackson's lawyer, Mark Geragos said in a statement.

    Jackson is facing child sex abuse charges and is to be formally arraigned on nine courts in a court in Santa Maria. The "King of Pop" could be jailed for more than 20 years if found guilty.

    Meanwhile, dozens of Jackson-fans demonstrated outside the offices of the Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who brought the child molestation charges against Jackson.

    The fans, including some from France and Norway, held signs with blow-up photographs of Jackson and the words "Michael is innocent" and "You are not alone."

    They chanted slogans and sang some of the singer's hits.

    Grave charges

    Jackson had been charged on 18 December by Santa Barbara prosecutors with seven counts of performing lewd and lascivious acts on a 14-year-old boy, who reportedly has cancer.

    Each charge carries a prison sentence of between three and eight years.

    He also faces two counts of plying the child with alcohol.

    Free on a $3 million bail pending the arraignment, Jackson has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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