Sat, Dec 06, 2003 - Page 6 News List

New information calms frenzy over Michael Jackson

AFP , LOS ANGELES

Two weeks after Michael Jackson's arrest on child molestation charges, the case against him appears to be in trouble as reports about his alleged victim's family buoy his defense, aides claimed Thursday.

Prosecutors, who booked Jackson on multiple counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14 have delayed the filing of formal charges that were due early this week but which are now not expected until next week at the soonest.

And following an almost surreal media frenzy when the "King of Pop" turned himself in to authorities in the California town of Santa Barbara on Nov. 20, the US press now appears more guarded in assuming his guilt.

"Its highly unusual for charges like this to take so long to be set forth," Jackson's publicist Stuart Backerman said. "That leads me to believe that there are some problems with putting forth the charges."

Prosecutors said charges against Jackson -- accused of abusing a 13-year-old boy in 1993 in a case that was settled out of court for a large payment -- had been delayed to allow them to set up a Web site to cope with the huge media and public interest in the celebrity case.

But, Backerman said, a welter of media revelations about the extremely troubled family life of the 12-year-old cancer patient reported to be the victim in the case were also tempering the formerly hysterical news coverage of the case.

"We have said from the beginning that these allegations are a big lie. But the perspective of the media has changed. They were looking to throw fuel on the fire but now cooler heads are prevailing and the facts are beginning to come out and clearly a lot of people are having another look at the case," Backerman said.

The marked shift in the tone of the voracious press occurred after the superstar's lawyer said last week Jackson he was being targeted by financial opportunists and vowed to fight back ferociously against inaccurate news reports and those attempting to use Jackson as a "lottery ticket."

Reports now focus instead on conflicting reports on whether the boy was ill or even dying and on the acrimonious divorce of his parents that is reportedly about to spark a custody battle over the boy.

E-Online entertainment television quoted the alleged victim's father's lawyer as saying that the Jackson case could have "put his client in a better position for custody."

"His position is he never would have allowed his child to spend the night in any adult's house alone," attorney Russell Halpern said.

Other press revelations have included the fact that the alleged victim's family had a litigious past and that they sued a department store four years ago .

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