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Sources: Nation of Islam playing key role in Jackson's affairs

Jackson was booked November 20 and released on $3 million bond.
Jackson was booked November 20 and released on $3 million bond.

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The Nation of Islam is playing a big role in Michael Jackson's affairs, sources say, but the group denies it is advising the pop star.
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The separatist African-American Nation of Islam is playing a significant and critical role in the affairs and future plans of pop star Michael Jackson, who is now battling criminal child molestation charges, sources close to the situation said Tuesday.

The news comes just one day after Jackson's chief spokesman Stuart Backerman quit his job, citing "strategic differences in the direction that things are going." (Full story)

Leonard Muhammad, the chief of staff and son-in-law of the Nation of Islam's leader, Louis Farrakhan, has an integral role in determining Jackson's business affairs, the sources told CNN. Muhammad also set up the singer's interview on the CBS "60 Minutes" program Sunday and is now working out of the office of Jackson attorney Mark Geragos.

Geragos has not returned CNN phone calls for comment.

Najee Ali -- the director of a non-profit Islamic organization in Los Angeles who has tried to rally support for Jackson -- said the Nation of Islam is "playing a role in Michael Jackson's life every day."

"We've seen Leonard Muhammad assisting Mark Geragos. Leonard Muhammad has been to Neverland. And I do know for a fact the Nation of Islam has provided Michael Jackson with security in a certain sense. I'm not sure how often, but they are providing security services," he told CNN.

He added: "In this situation, it was ill-advised for Michael to become involved (with the Nation of Islam), because the last thing Michael needs is more controversy."

The Nation of Islam also organized the recent gathering of Jackson supporters at the singer's Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara, according to the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The sources said Jackson's brother, Jermaine, and the woman who works as a nanny for his children asked the Nation of Islam to help provide additional security for Jackson -- who faces arraignment January 16 in the child molestation case -- and the group immediately began limiting access to the 45-year-old superstar.

Jackson has not spoken to members of his close management team since the Nation of Islam got involved in his affairs, the sources said. They said one of his main business partners, Ronald Konitzer, has expressed concern about the future of Jackson's business concerns.

The Nation of Islam issued a statement Monday saying it has "no official business or professional relationship with Mr. Jackson. The Nation of Islam joins thousands of other people in wishing Mr. Jackson well."

After Jackson was formally charged with seven counts of child molestation involving a boy under 14 and two counts of administering "an intoxicating agent" to a minor in the same case, Muhammad could be seen standing behind Geragos at a news conference the attorney called to respond to the charges.

In another development, the chief deputy of the Santa Barbara County Jail on Tuesday disputed Jackson's claims on "60 Minutes" that he was physically mistreated, taunted and locked in a feces-splattered bathroom for 45 minutes on the day he was booked there.

The chief deputy, Fred Olguin, told CNN Investigative Correspondent Art Harris that Jackson was in and out of the jail in about 63 minutes and spent only 15 minutes in a holding cell equipped with a toilet after he asked to use the bathroom.

"That's the infamous bathroom," Olguin said. He described the cell as clean -- "for a jail, I'd call it spic 'n span, but people have to realize it's not a hotel."

Regarding the photograph in which Jackson displayed a large, swollen bruise on his right arm that he claimed resulted from handcuffs and manhandling he was subjected to, Olguin said:

"Anything's possible, but in my 29 years as a cop, I have not seen handcuffs do that kind of damage that high up. The handcuffs were on his wrist. I did not see them up near his elbow."

On Jackson's claim that deputies taunted him when he was locked in the bathroom, Olguin said, "At no time was his dignity harmed. They treated him with respect. It was an uneventful booking, very low-key."

The deputy said he would be "delighted" to launch an investigation into Jackson's claims, but that so far no complaint has been filed. He said he expected that jail video also would refute the allegations.

Geragos, in a recent appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," promised there would be repercussions for the way his client was treated.

CNN Los Angeles Bureau Chief Pete Janos contributed to this report.

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