Nearly a month after his arrest, Michael Jackson could be charged this week in a child molestation case in which legal experts say prosecutors will need strong physical evidence to overcome questions

Nearly a month after his arrest, Michael Jackson could be charged this week in a child molestation case in which legal experts say prosecutors will need strong physical evidence to overcome questions about the accuser's credibility.

Law enforcement officials have not discussed their evidence since the pop star turned himself in on Nov. 20 after an arrest warrant was issued in Santa Barbara County (Calif.).

However, Jim Thomas, a former Santa Barbara County sheriff who has discussed the case with Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon, expects the charges to allege that Jackson molested one child repeatedly, probably over a period of more than a month.

"You will see allegations of multiple counts of child molestation on this particular child," Thomas said.

Several details have emerged that raise questions about the credibility of the accuser and his family, including a confidential memo leaked last week that showed Los Angeles County child welfare officials determined in February that there was no basis for allegations that Jackson had molested the boy. In the memo, Jackson's accuser, his brother and his mother all denied the boy had been molested.

Sneddon said in a statement that he was aware of the memo when he sought the arrest warrant and did not expect it to affect his case.

The child's family also filed a lawsuit in which they alleged they were beaten by mall security guards in 1998, and the mother said she was sexually assaulted during the incident. The family eventually received a $137,500 settlement.

Russell Halpern, an attorney for the accuser's father, has said his client's ex-wife had a "Svengali-like ability" to make her children lie in testimony.

Jackson's defense attorney, Mark Geragos, declined to comment. He has previously said Jackson is innocent.

Leonard Levine, a defense attorney who specializes in sexual assault cases, said Sneddon's decision to press ahead suggests the district attorney has strong evidence he has not yet released.

"I would be very surprised if the sole evidence that they had is simply the complaint of the alleged victim," Levine said.

Sneddon declined to comment on the case he is building against Jackson, who owns the 2,600-acre Neverland Ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara.

But Thomas and a Southern California district attorney who is in close contact with Sneddon said the prosecutor is confident he has a strong case.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas also believes prosecutors will need physical evidence or an additional witness because of the credibility questions. He said Sneddon seems certain he can prove Jackson guilty.

"He was very confident about the evidence in the case and very confident that he's bringing a proper case, and that it would result in a conviction," said Rackauckas.

Criminal charges are usually announced soon after an arrest, but Sneddon did not immediately file a formal complaint after Jackson's Nov. 20 booking. He said officials needed until this week to set up a Web site they would use to distribute the charging documents to hundreds of news organizations following the case.


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