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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 05:18 GMT
Judge rejects Jackson case delay
Michael Jackson pictured at an earlier hearing
Michael Jackson denies child molestation charges
A judge has rejected a bid by singer Michael Jackson's lawyers to have the child molestation case against him dismissed, or delayed by several weeks.

The lawyers had asked for more time to study thousands of pages of evidence before the 31 January start date.

A separate motion argued that recent raids on Mr Jackson's Neverland ranch had violated his rights and were proof of a "vindictive prosecution".

But the California judge ruled a delay "would be a huge step backward".

'Problematic case'

Speaking at a pre-trial hearing in Santa Barbara, Judge Rodney Melville said: "If I continue the case for three months, we'll have 90 more search warrants and 90 more motions."

He denied Mr Jackson's lawyers' request for three more months to go through 14,000 pages of evidence "dumped" on them by prosecutors in the past two months.

He also rejected their contention that the case should be thrown out because repeated searches of Mr Jackson's property were evidence of a prosecution vendetta driven by his celebrity status.

The judge admitted things would "remain problematic" but said notices would be sent out to potential jurors next week.

'Unfairly treated'

The singer has pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent to his alleged victim.

More than 100 search warrants have been issued in the case, but his lawyers said the information gathered could have been obtained through the courts.

Mr Jackson's California home was last searched at the beginning of December, despite a warrant being issued on 24 November.

The singer's defence lawyers argued this was a ploy to disrupt their preparations close to a court appearance.

The prosecution most recently said they had unearthed "prior sexual offences" involving Mr Jackson.

They say the 46-year-old entertainer shows a "propensity" towards such crimes.





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