Michael Jackson was urged to surrender Wednesday on an arrest warrant alleging multiple counts of child molestation in a case that authorities said will result in criminal charges, unlike similar allegations that the pop star survived a decade ago.
"Mr. Jackson has been given the opportunity to surrender himself to the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department within a specified period of time," Sheriff Jim Anderson told a crowded press conference.
The 45-year-old singer, who grew up in front of audiences and soared to superstardom in the 1980s with the landmark album "Thriller, was believed to be in Las Vegas, where he was making a video.
Authorities were working with Jackson's legal representatives and had directed him to surrender his passport, Anderson said. The arrest warrant set bail at $3 million.
"Get over here and get checked in," District Attorney Thomas W Sneddon Jr. advised Jackson.
Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said that the singer, through his attorneys, had made arrangements to return to Santa Barbara "to confront and prove these charges unfounded."
"The outrageous allegations against Michael Jackson are false. Michael would never harm a child in any way. These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom," Backerman said in a statement that also criticized levity at the officials' press conference.
The case involved violations of state law that prohibits lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14, and is punishable by three to eight years in prison, the law enforcement officials said.
Earlier media reports attributed to unidentified sources said the alleged victim was a 12- or 13-year-old boy who visited Jackson's Santa Ynez Valley Neverland Ranch and made disclosures to a therapist who felt compelled to report them to authorities under a law for health professionals.
The Santa Barbara County officials, however, would not release any details of the allegation, including the sex of the alleged victim and any of the circumstances. The affidavit supporting the warrant was to remain sealed for 45 days to complete the investigation.
Sheriff's deputies and district attorneys investigators on Tuesday raided Jackson's Santa Ynez Valley Neverland Ranch — a mini theme park where he has held many children's parties — and two other unidentified locations in Southern California in search of evidence.
Asked about parents who let their children go to Neverland for sleep-overs, the sheriff responded, "My advice is don't do it."
The remark drew laughter, and Sneddon added, "None of our kids are there."
He earlier drew chuckles when he welcomed media to Santa Barbara with the line, "I hope that you all stay long and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our offices." He later noted "that this is a very serious situation," but there was more audience laughter when a forceful gesture knocked a TV microphone off his podium.
Jackson was the subject of a child-molestation investigation in 1993 but no charges were filed and the probe was dropped in 1994. Jackson had maintained his innocence but reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar civil settlement, and the child would not testify in any criminal proceeding.
Sneddon said things were different now because he had a cooperative alleged victim and because of a change in state law "specifically because of the 1993/94 Michael Jackson investigation."
"The law in California at that time provided that a child victim could not be forced to testify in a child molest proceeding without their permission and consent and cooperation," he said. "As a result of the Michael Jackson case the Legislature changed that law and that is no longer the law in California."
The district attorney also stressed that the issuing of a warrant made the new case different from the 1993 probe.
"There is a warrant outstanding and I can assure you that in a very short period of time there will be charges filed against Mr. Jackson, multiple counts," Sneddon said.
This time, he added, there has been no civil case filed and none is expected, unlike 1993.
"That civil case culminated prior to the completion of our investigation. I say completion because at the time that that civil settlement went down the victim indicated to us that they were no longer interested in cooperating criminally," Sneddon said.
The district attorney asserted that he had put the earlier case out of mind.
"My feeling about this is I am sad that there is another victim out there. I feel bad for the family. I feel bad for the victim. Beyond that, I feel it is a sad thing for all those involved," he said.
Jackson, in a statement Tuesday, noted that the allegations surfaced the same day a new greatest hits CD, "Number Ones," was released.
The district attorney dismissed any connection to the CD's release.
"Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music," Sneddon said.
He said the warrant service was delayed because authorities were busy dealing with thousands of people who descend on Santa Barbara for Halloween revelry.