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DA apologizes for joking at Jackson news conference

Sneddon: 'I should've known better'

Sneddon makes a point during last week's news conference.
Sneddon makes a point during last week's news conference.

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SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) -- Responding to criticism about his joking demeanor at last week's news conference, Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon Tuesday apologized for some of the comments he made after announcing the arrest warrant for pop icon Michael Jackson on multiple counts of child molestation.

"There were certain instances where I used humor to deflect questions, and I guess some reporters took offense," Sneddon told CNN's Art Harris in an exclusive interview.

Sneddon specifically referred to a glib comment, welcoming the media circus surrounding the Jackson case because it would put money into the struggling California economy.

"I think the criticism was valid, I think that to some extent [the comment] was inappropriate," he said. "I feel bad about it because I think I should've known better. I feel bad about it because somebody would assume that I'm making light of a thing where I know there's a serious crime, and that there are victims that have been hurt, and family."

Last week, Sneddon booked Jackson on suspicion of child molestation. Jackson posted $3 million bond and was released. Formal charges are expected to be filed by mid-December.

Jackson has denied the accusations, saying they are based on a "big lie."

Sneddon also apologized for a November 20 interview with Court TV's Diane Dimond, in which he referred to Jackson as "a guy everybody calls 'Jacko Wacko.'"

"In my interview with Diane Dimond, I made reference to Mr. Jackson in some terms that are slang or jargon terms," he said. "I knew as soon as I said it , it was inappropriate, it was unprofessional [and] I was immediately sorry for it.

"My wife, when she saw the interview, chided me on it, and in all candor I'd have to say that if my mom was still alive she would take me to task for not being a good person, and I do feel badly for making that remark."

In that interview, Sneddon was defending allegations that he was merely targeting the pop star to advance his career.

"I got more important things going on in my life than to listen to a song by a guy everybody calls 'Jacko Wacko,'" Sneddon told Dimond. "I have my life and I do my job, and anybody who thinks I've spent 10 years sitting here waiting to read [lyrics] from Michael Jackson just has not got a clue. Or anybody who thinks that I'm doing this for political reasons is totally poppycock because I'm not running for re-election. I'm retiring in three years. And I've been successful, I have a good career. I'm not worried about getting another notch on my belt."

Sneddon reiterated that point to Harris.

"The idea that I would subject myself to what I knew was coming, or the sheriff would subject himself, or that anybody in my office, to this avalanche of scrutiny that we all knew coming because we saw it in '93 and '94, should tell people something about why we were willing to go forward," he said. "It's our job, it's simply that."


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