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CNN CROSSFIRE

Michael Jackson Arrested

Aired November 20, 2003 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: sensational charges, hordes of media, and special treatment? Is the king of pop being treated like a common criminal? -- today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Michael Jackson returned to California about two hours ago, where he, as you probably know by now, was arrested on child molestation charges.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: And not long after the man who invented the moon walk did the perp walk, Mr. Jackson's brother, Jermaine, told CNN that what is happening is, in his words -- quote -- "nothing but a modern-day lynching." Jackson himself did not speak, but sent his attorney, Mark Geragos, outside not long ago to brief reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY FOR SCOTT PETERSON: Look, I'm going to just make a brief statement. I'm not going to take questions -- questions and answers.

Michael is here. He has come back specifically to confront these charges head on. He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges. He considers this to be a big lie. He understands the people who are outraged, because, if these charges were true, I assure you, Michael would be the first to be outraged.

But I am here to tell you today that Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf, these charges are categorically untrue. He looks forward to getting into a courtroom, as opposed to any other forum, and confronting these accusations head on. We plan on doing that.

And I am not going to take any other questions and answers. I will say, however, that he is already -- for your information, at least, he has already posted the bond and he's processed out. Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: That was attorney Mark Geragos, who is currently representing every famous person in the world accused of wrongdoing.

Well, Michael Jackson is expected to eventually to go to his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara, California.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is about as close to Jackson's Neverland Ranch as reporters are being allowed -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Tucker. We are awfully close. I would say we are 18 inches away from the eastern border of the Neverland Ranch.

And you can see out here, these are some of the rolling hills on the ranch where Michael Jackson lives, 2,600 acres. Although we are next to the fence, we are about two miles away from his mansion that is out there quite a bit. There's also amusement park rides. There is a petting zoo. There are statues of children.

Now, will Michael Jackson come here? We don't know the answer to that. We do know he just left the Santa Barbara's Sheriff's Office. It's about a 30-minute ride, if you don't stop, about 30 miles. So we figure, if he is coming here without stopping for some fast food or something, he will get here after 5:00 Eastern time, 2:00 Pacific time, just after then.

But the fact is, we see no immense security here of any kind of whatsoever. There is one security guard. He sits in a little booth behind the gate. That's the one and only gate to get into Neverland. And he's been sitting there all day. We see no special setup here. So we don't know if Michael Jackson, the so-called king of pop, is coming to his ranch -- Tucker, back you to.

BEGALA: Gary, it's Paul Begala here in Washington.

Earlier this week, about 70 law enforcement agents descended on that ranch and conducted a search. Any word about what they might have found or even what they might have been looking for?

TUCHMAN: Well, Paul, that's the key information we would love to know.

But, yes, about 70 police officers came in. They came in, in police cars, a forensics truck. An ambulance came inside. A locksmith came inside. And that's the evidence that, down the road, we'll likely find out about. But just like in the Kobe Bryant case, where we knew basically nothing until they had the preliminary hearing, we'll likely know nothing for at least 45 days, because, yesterday at the news conference, the district attorney and the sheriff said the information was in an affidavit. It is sealed for 45 days. So 45 days from now is about January 2 or 3. So that will be the very minimum where that evidence would be released publicly.

BEGALA: Gary Tuchman on the scene of Neverland ranch. It looks like we're going to have a big New Year's celebration, opening up that affidavit and seeing what the cops found at Neverland Ranch.

Gary, thank you. I'll know you'll stay on top of it.

Well, what is next for Michael Jackson? And what kind of tactics will the prosecutor and defense attorneys likely use?

In the CROSSFIRE to discuss this, from New York, former criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman; and, in Boston, former prosecutor Wendy Murphy.

Thank you both for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Mickey, it's Tucker Carlson.

Compound question here. Mark Geragos, of course, is already representing Scott Peterson another well-known felony case. A...

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And every other famous person on the...

CARLSON: That's exactly right.

Can he realistically handle both these cases? And, B, if you were a famous person in trouble, what is the appeal of Mark Geragos?

SHERMAN: Well, the appeal of Mark Geragos is, one would believe that he is a very competent attorney.

But, also, in the big case, you need someone who not only can do well in court. You want someone who is somewhat media savvy. You don't want to hire just a publicist or an expert in media relations. It would be very helpful if your attorney knows what to do and how to deal with the media itself.

For example, we just saw him give that quick bite outside the courthouse. I think it was wise to come out. He basically said, my client didn't do it. He looks forward to going to court. And I'm not taking any questions, as opposed to the way that the prosecutor and the sheriff did yesterday, where they came out there in like a festive atmosphere and were giggling.

BEGALA: Well, Wendy Murphy, let me bring you into this. I don't know that, necessary, that they were giggling. But they seemed to be very, very confident.

Actually, we are watching right now footage, live footage, of a car that we believe Michael Jackson is in, perhaps going back to his ranch. We are going to keep following that.

But, as we do, let me ask you. They -- one of the things those prosecutors said yesterday, they said, this case is very different from 10 years ago, when Jackson was accused of similar conduct in a civil lawsuit, because, they say, there is a new California law that will require the alleged victim, a young boy, to testify.

Is that the key difference here?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I think calling it a new law is a little bit of a misnomer.

I think what they were saying is that, back in '93, it was actually possible for someone like Michael Jackson to pay $20 million, or whatever the amount was, to literally settle a civil suit and, in exchange for that, have the victim refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. And that is no longer lawful, that -- we all thought back then that that was obstruction of justice, that that was a kind of corruption. And people were angry.

I have no doubt the DA was furious. And the law was changed specifically in reaction to that. And that's no longer the case. But let me be clear about this. It has never been true that a child or the child's parents can choose not to cooperate with a criminal prosecution. I mean, we're all citizens. We're all obligated to respond to subpoenas. And if the DA wants to send a summons, whether you are a kid or an adult, you have got to testify.

So -- and my personal opinion is, you don't just dismiss cases because kids don't want to testify. Sometimes, it's hard on them. And I understand that. And I have prosecuted hundreds of child sex cases. No one wants to hurt a child, but nor do you want to dismiss a serious child sex abuse case, because you have just opened season on the most vulnerable among us, if that's the message you send. And I don't want to send that message.

CARLSON: Well, Mickey, if the average person is accused of child molestation, does he get to get into his Gulfstream jet, fly around the country, and surrender a day or so later at the place of his choosing, or does he get yanked out of bed in his undershorts and thrown into a paddy wagon? Tell me the protocol.

SHERMAN: I got to tell you, I've represented a lot of people who were average, below and above average in terms of income and background.

And this is a very typical disposition of an arrest. I don't see anything that out of the ordinary, other than the means of transportation to get home, which is the G3 or G4. But it's very common, even in a big case. The police will call the lawyer and say, we have got a warrant for your guy and when can you bring him in?

And as long as it's within a reasonable time, that's the way it happens. What's not usual, and what I criticize the prosecutors here, or the DA, for is that they had a still camera and a video camera there taking pictures of him during the process, which they have said they will now release to the media sometime in the next few hours. That's not -- that's not the usual case.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Wendy, why would they be doing that?

MURPHY: Well, look, we may not like the fact that this feels like a circus, because it does seem unfair in some way that so many people are watching this happen. And it does probably seem very unfair to Michael Jackson.

But the fact is, the public has a right to know. There's a profound public interest in everything that happens to Michael Jackson. Whether he is getting out of a car at a concert or being arrested, everybody wants to see it. And, really, I think one of the reasons they're taking pictures or letting a pool camera in is to facilitate the onslaught and make it easier on the public's right to know. This is a constitutional issue.

SHERMAN: We don't have a right.

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: We have no right to see him.

MURPHY: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Like, we're going to see his booking photo.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: And we're going to see -- we're going to see whatever we have a right to see, Mickey. You know that little thing called the First Amendment?

SHERMAN: Right. Exactly. Exactly.

And fine, we can see the mug shot, like we saw for O.J. But to have video of him being -- going through the degradation process, there's no public right to that. There's no great public interest in that.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: You know as well as I do...

SHERMAN: ... the system not to be like "The Enquirer."

MURPHY: You know as well as I do, everybody is videotaped at backing?

BEGALA: Let me ask you. How soon -- how soon are we likely to see that? How soon are we likely to see the mug shot and/or this videotape of Jackson in fact being booked?

SHERMAN: By tomorrow morning.

MURPHY: Well, as soon as it can be processed.

SHERMAN: Tomorrow morning.

MURPHY: Look, everybody who is processed is videotaped. That's not unusual.

The question is, should the public get it? And I'm not aware of any statute that says it's not a public document, Mickey. Don't make more out of this than there really is.

SHERMAN: Well, then, why don't they put a dunce cap on it? They're allowed to do anything -- whatever they want. And I have never heard of anybody being videotaped at an arraignment. It makes no sense.

MURPHY: At a booking, it is very common. It is very common. And you know it.

SHERMAN: I disagree.

CARLSON: This isn't just anybody, Mickey. This is the king of pop.

Let me ask you a question, though. If you were crafting Michael Jackson's defense, would you dare suggest that the accuser, let's say, a 12-year-old boy who is possibly a cancer patient, was lying? Would you dare suggest that in court?

SHERMAN: Well, you know, Mark Geragos already said it, you know.

The problem is, you know, in these kinds of case, in every criminal case, the defense attorney doesn't listen to the guy and say, all right, let's go with self-defense. Let's go with, you were in Cleveland at the time. We are given the defenses that our clients give to us. And if Michael Jackson says, "I didn't do it," then the only other answer is that the young man is either lying, mistaken, exaggerating, or somehow not telling the truth for any other reason.

MURPHY: Let me say something about that, though.

I have heard more than my share of defense attorneys in cases like this and in non-high-profile cases say that, this is a false charge. The victim is lying. And guess what If the victim is really lying, they would be suing the victim and his family for libel or slander. And they never do.

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: I got a two-word response: McMartin School.

MURPHY: File a lawsuit.

SHERMAN: McMartin School case. Those people sat in jail. They almost rotted.

MURPHY: File a lawsuit. BEGALA: Mickey, tell our audience about this, a case alleging child molesting in Los Angeles some years ago, right, Mickey?

SHERMAN: Yes. Right.

And every case, every accusation was shown to be absolutely fabricated by therapists and other people who had some kind of an agenda.

MURPHY: You're overstating.

SHERMAN: I'm not saying that is what happening here, but it happens.

MURPHY: You're overstating

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: Look, my point is, if -- if Geragos is right that this child is lying and the family is conspiring and the police are all conspiring, he can sue the victim and the victim's family. And he won't, because he doesn't have any real reason to believe that he could ever prove this is a completely false charge, Mickey. And you know it.

SHERMAN: I'll wait and see what the evidence is.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Wendy, let me ask you, who do -- if you are the prosecutor. And let me have you play prosecutor strategist for a moment.

If you are the prosecutor, how do you keep the focus on the defendant, that is, on Mr. Jackson, and not let it wander off, to the prosecution's detriment, to impeach the character of what may be a 12- year-old boy who is also a cancer patient? How -- do you bring in statements he has made in documentaries? In the past, Mr. Jackson has talked about letting young boys in his bed.

And these are his words: "Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with something. It's a beautiful thing. It's very right. It's very loving."

Do you get into things like that, that he said in the past?

MURPHY: I know. And it's all about milk and cookies. Oh, please.

Look, we know there's a lot of smoke there from the 1993 allegations, to the statement about sleeping in bed with kids, frankly, to including tossing his little kid over the railing there. This is not a safe guy to be with kids. And it is sexual stuff that we know about. This is not just, where there's smoke, there's fire. This is like a rip-roaring inferno. You don't really have to work hard as a prosecutor to get the public and, thus, the potential jury pool, to stay focused. But what I worry about is Mark Geragos and the defense team and all the resources that Jackson has at his disposal literally starting now and until the trial finding ways to destroy, tear down, trash the victim and his family gratuitously. And that's what I worry about more than anything. What is this kid going to go through?

How painful will the attack from the defense be? And what can they withstand? And what can we do as a public not to indulge that?

CARLSON: Mickey, I wonder if some of the fire that Wendy just referred to might not singe the defense attorneys in this case? Johnnie Cochran, I think, had his reputation hurt by the O.J. circus.

I wonder, would you take this case, knowing that, in order to take it, you would have to call a 12-year-old cancer patient a liar?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: As a lawyer, would you take it?

SHERMAN: Let me answer the second part first.

I don't know that I would necessarily call him a liar. I think you can attack a case on other grounds by -- other than by dissing or showing the -- the venality of the accuser here, especially when you have got a young child who is a cancer victim. It doesn't get any more vulnerable than that. I would concentrate on what Michael Jackson did and not necessarily -- and what they can prove, vs. what people are saying about him and his reputation in the community.

Would I take the case? I don't think there's two criminal defense attorneys on this continent who would not take that case. This is the Holy Grail.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Mr. Sherman, hang on -- hang on just a second, Mickey, and Wendy as well, because we're going to go for a quick update to Miguel Marquez, who is at the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department. He is going to give us a preview of a briefing we're expecting from law enforcement authorities shortly -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How are you there, guys?

We are expecting a briefing at the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office either from the public information officer or from the sheriff. It's not entirely clear. I can show you the area behind me, and you can kind of get a sense of what a media scrum is out here, the horde, I suppose. Pick any adjective you like. We are expected to get an update on how Mr. Jackson's processing went. We may also, then, see a mug shot of Mr. Jackson and possibly a preliminary charging document in this case as well.

Mr. Jackson left here a short time ago the same way he came in, albeit in a different vehicle. He came here in a police vehicle, apparently, an unmarked police vehicle. There were two police vehicles that he drove up in. He left in either a black SUV, or there was also a black limousine that left. And they presumably are on their way to Neverland Ranch, where he lives, about 20, 25 minutes from this sheriff's office.

It's not clear what his next move is. But his attorney certainly seemed to say that his next move is to beat these charges in court. And this very, very public display in this very public case so far, we're about to get a little bit more public here, as the San Bernardino or the -- pardon me -- the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office comes out to brief us on how the events went with Mr. Jackson's turning himself in today -- guys.

CARLSON: Miguel, it's Tucker Carlson.

Do you have any sense of what Michael Jackson was doing when he was inside? And was he asked to remove any appearance-enhancing devices before being photographed, do you know?

MARQUEZ: We don't know. We will hopefully find out more information as to what exactly happened when he was inside. We do certainly know that one is booked and fingerprinted and photographed and all of that sort of stuff.

He was brought in, in handcuffs. So, presumably, they didn't treat him any differently than anybody else, at least in that regard. He also had his bond paid by the time he had gotten here, or very shortly after he arrived. So, that process happened very quickly. And he didn't have to spend any time in a holding cell, apparently, before he was able to sort of turn around and be released -- Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Miguel Marquez at the sheriff's department there in Santa Barbara County, thank you very much for staying on top of the story.

Mickey Sherman, let me come back to you, if I might, sir.

Mr. Jackson's brother Jermaine phoned in an interview of sorts -- more of a rant -- to CNN not long ago. And he used the phrase -- and I'm quoting here -- "a modern-day lynching." Does this suggest perhaps that one defense strategy will be to play the race card?

SHERMAN: No.

You are talking about someone's brother who is being so publicly humiliated and degraded right now, that you can't even measure the scope of it. And I think he, just like a victim, is entitled to pretty much say anything they want while they're in this particular time of stress. So, I -- I don't think this is a precursor to the race card or to anything else.

I think that his brother, very logically, is upset and I think is just voicing that now. I wouldn't read too much into that. CARLSON: Wendy, tell us, specifically, what kind of charges, what kind of consequences is Michael Jackson facing right now, potentially?

MURPHY: Well, it's hard to answer that with precision, except that we know the nature of the charges, lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. And there is apparently one child and multiple counts.

Because we don't know what multiple counts means, I can't do the math for you. But I can tell you that each count has an exposure of a maximum of eight years. So let's say there are three counts. We all can multiply. That's 24 years. It's an interesting question, though, what it means by multiple counts. Does that mean several different events on one day? Does it mean there -- that the child was there on several different dates? How often was it, once a week or once every several months?

There are a lot of different kinds of laws in California that could have been used to bring charges. And they really -- in my opinion anyway and even though I don't know exactly what happened -- they used really a very vague statute. Lewd and lascivious construct covers a range of potential behaviors, from no touching whatsoever to very serious touching, and including even penetration. So it's a fascinating question. I really have no idea, except

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: ... speculation.

CARLSON: A follow-up. Would it be typical for someone convicted of that crime to lose custody of his children? Or is it axiomatic that he would lose custody of his kids?

MURPHY: I wish, frankly, that I could say it's axiomatic, because it should be. No one convicted of molestation of a child should be allowed to parent, at least not without intensive supervision of some sort and only after they have served their time in prison or on probation.

It is a just a sad commentary in this country. Some people are convicted of molesting children and raping them and they still are allowed some access to their kids. And it's because I think we don't understand. We think that, somehow, they only molest other people's kids and, therefore, they're not dangerous to their own.

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: Maybe they're not. Maybe they're not.

MURPHY: Well, no, but that's not the issue. That's not the issue.

SHERMAN: Tucker, the answer is

(CROSSTALK) MURPHY: It's not whether they will molest their children. It's whether they are safe to be with kids generally.

SHERMAN: As well as it should be...

BEGALA: Mickey Sherman, go ahead.

SHERMAN: ... it's done on a case-by-case basis. And there's usually a very intense investigation by the local district -- by the local children and family services-type organization.

But we should not, you know, use a broad brush on everyone who is accused of this crime.

MURPHY: No, convicted. Yes, we should use a broad brush.

SHERMAN: I don't think so.

MURPHY: Convicted of this crime. We absolutely should.

And I will tell you, one of the interesting questions now is, I know we had a bail condition of the $3 million. And we don't know what some of the other conditions were. Mark didn't tell us at the press conference. But is he now going back to Neverland Ranch free to invite more children with cancer to his place, so that he can exploit them, too?

I really wonder where social services is on behalf of all the kids that he has access to. Why have they fallen on their duff since 1993? If they had done something...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word.

MURPHY: ... this wouldn't have happened.

BEGALA: Mickey Sherman, criminal defense attorney, Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, thank you both very much. We hope you will come back to CROSSFIRE and discuss this, because this case ain't going away.

MURPHY: You bet. Thanks.

BEGALA: Thank you both very much.

CARLSON: Thank you both.

OK, that's it for CROSSFIRE, the Michael Jackson edition.

For more on the unfolding Michael Jackson story, we go to Wolf Blitzer and "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

See you tomorrow.

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