Stakes rise in Jackson abuse case

The stakes have been dramatically raised in the Michael Jackson child molestation case with new charges of conspiracy to commit child abduction, extortion and false imprisonment in addition to lewd acts.

    Superstar Michael Jackson faces serious new child abuse charges

    The 45-year-old pop superstar, sombrely dressed and appearing low-key and serious in contrast to his January court appearance, pleaded innocent to 10 counts handed down by a grand jury earlier this month that heard witness testimony behind closed doors.

    Details of the testimony have been kept secret and Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said on Friday he would not release details of the new charges or the grand jury transcripts in order to protect the identity of the alleged victim and ensure a fair trial for Jackson.

    No trial date was set on Friday for Jackson, who was greeted by hundreds of fans as he arrived early at the courthouse in the central California town of Santa Maria near his Neverland ranch.

    Fans' support

    "Michael, God and We Know You are 100 Percent Innocent," read one sign. "Innocent until proved Innocent" read another banner held aloft as fans roared their approval on Jackson's arrival.

    Jackson, wearing eyeglasses, read a brief statement outside the court thanking his fans for their support.

    The charges are restricted, as were earlier ones filed in January, to one child under the age of 14.

    But the prosecution raised the stakes against the entertainer by adding a charge of conspiracy involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion to those filed in January of lewd acts against a child under the age of 14 and plying him with liquor.

    Jackson has previously called the charges a big lie.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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