Jackson's Lawyers Seek Six-Week Delay

A lawyer for Michael Jackson urged a judge today (Dec. 20) to delay the start of the pop star's child molestation trial, claiming prosecutors had "sandbagged" the defense team by turning over incorrec

A lawyer for Michael Jackson urged a judge today (Dec. 20) to delay the start of the pop star's child molestation trial, claiming prosecutors had "sandbagged" the defense team by turning over incorrect and misspelled witness names.

"We're very conscious that the court did not want to hear the 'c' word," defense attorney Robert Sanger said about the request for a six-week continuance. "The problem is we feel we're really being sandbagged here on a number of things."

Sanger told California Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville that prosecutors had recently provided an updated witness list filled with errors. Among other things, the problem caused defense lawyers to initially think a porn star was being called as a witness. "It really did put us behind the eight ball," he said.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon countered that a continuance should not be granted and accused Jackson's defense team of hyperbole. "We are ready for trial and we oppose a continuance," Sneddon said.

Of the 164 names on the updated list, 70 were taken from the defense, Sneddon said. He acknowledged a few spelling errors but said the names should have been easily recognizable.

During the hearing, both sides estimated the trial could last as long as five months. Melville was expected to rule on the continuance within the next few days. The trial is currently scheduled to start on Jan. 31. Jackson's lawyers are seeking the delay to sort through 14,000 pages of evidence filed by prosecutors over the past two months.

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a boy, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to his alleged victim. The entertainer -- who on Friday personally greeted a group of children touring his Neverland Ranch before the Christmas holidays -- was not required to attend the week's hearings.

Prosecutors had been expected to argue that they be allowed to present evidence during the trial of alleged wrongdoing in the entertainer's past. But according to a court calendar released today, that motion won't be heard until next month.

In their motion, Jackson's attorneys also asked that the charges be dismissed on grounds of "vindictive prosecution and outrageous government conduct," pointing to the execution of more than 100 search warrants including this month's raid on Jackson's estate near Los Olivos. Melville previously rejected a similar defense effort to remove Sneddon from the case.


AP LogoCopyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.