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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 08:25 GMT
Singer Jackson returns to Vegas
Michael Jackson
Jackson was freed on $3m bail
Pop star Michael Jackson returned to Las Vegas on Thursday after being formally charged with child molestation and freed on $3m bail.

The singer was met by fans and press on his return to Las Vegas after his charges were processed in Santa Barbara.

Mr Jackson drove from the airport to his hotel, and shook hands with fans while his vehicle was stuck in traffic.

Jackson's motorcade drove a haphazard two hour route to the hotel where he is staying while shooting a TV special.

Some 40 fans had gathered outside the Green Valley Ranch hotel-casino in Henderson to welcome the star, with some carrying placards saying "100% innocent".

The singer's brother, Jermaine, had earlier told the US news network CNN that the charges were "nothing but a modern-day lynching".

"This is what they want to see - him in handcuffs. You got it. But it won't be for long, I promise you," he said.

'Big lie'

After being charged in Santa Barbara, Mr Jackson got into a black people-carrier which drove away with an escort of three sheriff's motorcycle officers.

His lawyer, Mark Geragos, dismissed the charges as "a big lie" and said Mr Jackson looked forward to appearing in court.

Mr Jackson had to hand over his passport, and have his fingerprints and photograph taken. He co-operated fully, a police spokesman said.

He had flown to Santa Barbara in a hired Gulfstream jet on Thursday.

Police took him into custody at the airport at 1205 local time (2005 GMT) and drove him to the Santa Barbara jail.

Singer Michael Jackson is escorted into Santa Barbara jail
I can assure you that within a very short period of time, multiple counts will be filed
Tom Sneddon
District attorney

He appeared briefly with his hands handcuffed behind his back on his way into the station.

The singer was accused of "lewd or lascivious acts" with a child younger than 14 under section 288(a) of the California penal code, Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon said on Wednesday.

About 70 police officers searched Mr Jackson's ranch, Neverland, on Tuesday, looking for "evidence that would corroborate the victim's statements", Sheriff Jim Anderson said.

"We encourage the public to come forward if they have any information to lead us to believe there are other victims in the community," he added.


Fans gathered outside his studio in the city on Wednesday to offer their support.

"I don't care what anyone says, I still don't believe it. I know in my heart that it's not true," said one supporter, Donna Green.

Another fan, Howard Cox, said: "MJ is the kindest person in the world. He's done more than anyone to try to change the world and make the world a better place."

Fans also left messages of support outside Neverland.

The investigation is being led by Mr Sneddon, who also looked into similar allegations 10 years ago.

Mr Jackson denied those claims and no charges were ever filed, but the singer made a multi-million dollar out-of-court settlement.

In this case, Mr Jackson could face up to eight years in prison per count of abuse.

The BBC's Daniela Relph
"Michael Jackson - the mug shot. In custody in the county jail, facing allegations of child abuse"

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