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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK
Q&A: What sentence could Jackson face?
Michael Jackson arriving in court on 27 May
Michael Jackson faces 10 counts in all
Singer Michael Jackson could face more than 18 years in prison if convicted on all counts in his child abuse trial.

However, his sentence could be reduced depending on whether the judge feels there are mitigating circumstances, while fans outside the court in Santa Maria, California, will be hoping to see the performer walk out of court a free man.

Laurie L Levenson, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, explains what could happen if the jury returns a guilty verdict.

WHAT CHARGES DOES MICHAEL JACKSON FACE?

The singer is charged with 10 counts in total. The most serious are the four charges of child abuse - "lewd act upon a child" - which, if proved, would mean Mr Jackson must register as a sex offender.

If Mr Jackson is judged to have had "substantial sexual conduct" with a child under the age of 14, he must be given a jail sentence.

He faces a further charge of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child and four counts of administering an intoxicating agent.

The final charge is of conspiracy to commit three separate crimes - child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

WHAT SENTENCES DO THE CHARGES CARRY?

Michael Jackson fans
Fans will be hoping for their faith in Mr Jackson to be vindicated
Each of the charges against Michael Jackson carries three different length jail terms.

The mid-length term is the one that must be imposed, unless there are aggravating or mitigating factors.

For example, if found guilty of one count of child abuse Mr Jackson could be sentenced to three years, six years, or eight years.

If Mr Jackson is judged to have caused bodily harm, threatened witnesses or taken advantage of a position of trust or confidence, the judge could give Mr Jackson eight years.

But the judge may shorten the sentence if he feels the singer took care to avoid harming people or property or has no previous record of wrongdoing.

The conspiracy charge is more complicated, as the sentence it carries would depend on which crimes Mr Jackson is judged to have conspired to commit.

Conspiracy to commit child abduction, for example, carries a mid-length term of three years. But conspiracy to commit false imprisonment incurs just 12 months in prison.

HOW WILL THE SENTENCE BE DETERMINED?

If Mr Jackson is found guilty of more than one crime, the judge will automatically sentence him to the longest term offered by any one of the convictions.

For example, if Mr Jackson is found guilty of lewd conduct, he will be sentenced to eight years - the highest penalty that charge carries.

The court would then impose one third of the mid-length jail terms for each of any remaining convictions - another two years for each lewd conduct conviction, and one year each for the charges of attempting to commit child abuse and conspiring to either abduct or extort.

The four charges of administering intoxicating agents, which each carry a mid-length term of two years, could add another 32 months to the sentence.

However, Mr Jackson's lawyers could persuade the judge to assimilate the convictions with the lewd conduct counts.

If they are not successful, the singer's combined sentence could be as high as 18 years and eight months.

HOW LONG WILL SENTENCING TAKE?

Under US law, a sentencing hearing would occur 20 working days after the verdict.

However, that period is often extended to give the probation department time to file a report and the defence to prepare post-trial motions.

The defence will typically file a motion for a new trial and for their client to be acquitted via an arrest of judgement.

If Mr Jackson is convicted, the court may revoke his bail or increase its amount.

The singer could also be granted bail pending appeal - as long as he proved he was unlikely to flee and posed no danger to the community.


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