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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 23:07 GMT
Jackson charged with child abuse
Michael Jackson
Mr Jackson has strenuously denied the allegations
Pop star Michael Jackson has been formally charged with seven counts of child molestation.

Mr Jackson, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested last month following a highly-publicised police raid on his Neverland Ranch in California.

The singer is accused of sexually abusing a 14-year old boy and if convicted faces up to 24 years in jail.

Mr Jackson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said the entertainer would fight the charges "with every fibre of his soul".

The star, out on $3m bail, has called the allegations a "big lie" and will appear in court on 16 January.

Charges filed

District Attorney Tom Sneddon said Jackson had been charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering intoxicating liquor to a minor with the intent of committing a crime

Court spokesman, District Attorney Tom Sneddon
Jackson's family has attacked the court's use of a PR firm
The charges accuse Jackson of molesting a boy, who is identified in court papers only as "John Doe", between 7 February and 10 March this year.

Some of the charges are said to carry "special circumstances" which would make Mr Jackson ineligible for parole.

But in a one-off agreement, Mr Sneddon said Mr Jackson would be given his passport back for the purposes of visiting Britain from 20 December to 6 January to promote his new album.

The charges were filed at Santa Barbara County Court in California.

Singer 'besmirched'

His lawyer reacted angrily to the charges, saying Michael Jackson was "unequivocally and absolutely innocent".

He's not running, he's not hiding... he's as irate as I am
Mark Geragos, lawyer
"There is not truth to any of this," Mr Geragos said.

"There is absolutely no way that we will stand for the besmirching of this man with these horrible, horrible allegations."

He said Mr Jackson was "ready to fight".

"He's not running, he's not hiding... he's as irate as I am."

Mr Geragos said the charges were motivated by money and revenge.

Ethics

A special District Attorney's (DA) information website has been set up to deal with media interest, and a public relations firm has also been hired to help deal with the number of inquiries.

A Jackson family lawyer attacked the hiring of the firm, saying "a district attorney is supposed to try the case in court, not in the press".

"It is an affront to common sense, if not professional ethics, for a DA to have a celebrity crisis management team, which is what this new PR firm styles itself as being," lawyer Brian Oxman said.

Mr Jackson's parents, Joe and Katherine, told a documentary shown on ABC in the US and ITV1 in the UK that their son was innocent and that prosecutors were trying to "humiliate" him.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Jackson won a second court order barring video tapes of him talking with lawyers as he flew to California last month to be arrested.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Robert Nisbet
"He'll appear in court on January 16"



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