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Jackson En Route to Calif. to Surrender

November 20, 2003

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ Michael Jackson left Nevada on Thursday en route to California, where he faces an arrest warrant alleging multiple counts of child molestation.

Jackson left North Las Vegas Airport aboard a leased jet late Thursday morning heading for Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, according to an employee of XtraJet, a Santa Monica leasing company.

The jet carrying Jackson, his family and a bodyguard was expected to land within the hour at the airport, located in Goleta.

``He flew out of the North Las Vegas Airport,″ said Las Vegas police Sgt. Rick Barela. ``He’s gone.″

Earlier Thursday, Jackson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, confirmed that the surrender was being arranged in Santa Barbara, where throngs of camera crews and news reporters awaited his arrival.

``I have made arrangements with the sheriff and the district attorney for Mr. Jackson to come back and confront these charges,″ Geragos told The Associated Press.

A family friend, Steve Manning, told ABC’s ``Good Morning America″ Thursday that Jackson’s family came to Las Vegas to support him. ``He feels he’s been wrongly accused and he’s going to fight this tooth and nail,″ Manning said. ``He’s at war right now and he’s going to use any weapon he has to fight these charges.″

His arrest warrant set bail at $3 million, and Jackson was directed to give up his passport, authorities said.

``Get over here and get checked in,″ District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. advised the 45-year-old King of Pop at a news conference broadcast worldwide Wednesday.

Jackson had been in Las Vegas filming a music video when dozens of law enforcement agents swarmed his Neverland Ranch compound Tuesday to serve a search warrant.

Jackson is charged by the state with lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14, punishable by three to eight years in prison, law enforcement officials said. His attorney is also the defense attorney in the Laci Peterson murder case.

``Michael would never harm a child in any way,″ Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said in a statement. ``These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom.″

Similar allegations surfaced against Jackson a decade ago, but they never led to the filing of criminal charges and in 1994 the probe became inactive. Jackson had maintained his innocence but reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar civil settlement, and the child would not testify in any criminal proceeding.

Sneddon said this case was different because he had a cooperative victim and because of a change in state law ``specifically because of the 1993-94 Michael Jackson investigation.″

Sneddon told the news conference multiple counts would be filed against Jackson ``in a very short period of time,″ and noted that no civil case has been filed and none is expected, unlike 1993.

Sneddon would not say when or where the alleged crimes took place or how old the child was. He said an affidavit outlining the details will be sealed for 45 days.

But OBrian Oxman, who has been an attorney for the Jackson family for years but is not directly representing Michael Jackson in this case, told CBS that the case involves the alleged molestation of a 12-year-old boy at Neverland Ranch, the storybook playground where the singer has been known to hold sleepover parties with children.

In a 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,″ he said in the interview. ``It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in. ... It’s very charming, it’s very sweet.″

Jackson, in a statement Tuesday, noted that the allegations surfaced the same day a new greatest hits CD, ``Number Ones,″ was released, but the district attorney dismissed any connection.

``Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music,″ Sneddon said.

On Wednesday, CBS pulled a Jackson music special planned for next Wednesday on his greatest hits and the impact on pop culture of the former child star who got his start with his brothers as a member of the singing-and-dancing Jackson 5.

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

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