Judge threatened Michael Jackson with jail

Friday, March 11, 2005

An angry Judge Rodney S. Melville threatened to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of world famous pop singer Michael Jackson if he failed to appear at the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in California Thursday Jan. 10, 2005. Jackson is under indictment there on seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent. Jackson, held briefly under the threat of jail by authorities on Nov. 20, 2003 when charges brought against him were formalized, gained his freedom later that day by posting a $3 million bail.

Judge Melville, apparently frustrated with Jackson who had in two earlier instances caused delays in his court room, issued the warrant just 5 minutes after noting the singer’s conspicuous absence at the scheduled 8:30 a.m. proceedings. Jackson's defense lawyer, Tom Mersereau Jr., advised the judge that Jackson awoke earlier that morning with severe back pain and was under treatment at an area hospital at the time. The judge moved to give the celebrity one hour to appear or face arrest for contempt of court.

As word of the warrant threat traveled to the large news presence gathered outside, a media countdown began. During the countdown, live televised reports recounted how Jackson had arrived for court 20 minutes late on his own arraignment for these charges, only to be met by a stern lecture from Judge Melville for that transgression. There was also another occasion where Jackson, while recovering from flu symptoms, delayed the trial's jury selection for a week until he was well enough to return. The glaringly clear message sent by the judge was: bad back or not, Jackson was to appear in court! And fast! Only the televised scene of Jackson's expectant defense lawyer Mersereau with his assistant Susan Yu, both busy on cells phones while tensely waiting curbside beside the court house for the Jackson motorcade, seemed to undermine a feeling that Jackson would make it in time to avoid having his bail revoked.

As the deadline came and passed without Jackson’s arrival, live reports were busy with speculation on the superstar persona of Michael Jackson then taking on newer aspects of super-bizarre. But Jackson’s flair for tardiness showed itself with an arrival that was a mere 3 minutes after the judge was being forced to make good on his threat. Dressed in a blue blazer over a light weight undershirt, the star's recent departure from the hospital was evident by the pajama bottom pants and open-heeled bedroom slippers he wore into the court room.

Jackson had the assistance of his father and a body guard at each side to keep him steady as he gingerly walked into the Santa Maria court house. He listed slightly to the right and kept a fixed, distant face that was surrounded by uncombed strands of his long hair. The summons issued by the judge forced Jackson from his hospital bed to show the world he was not above the law.

In private chambers, Judge Melville met with both the prosecution lawyer, Tom Sneddon, and Jackson’s defense lawyer to verify the defendant’s claims of back pain. After re-taking the bench in the court room, the judge announced to the jury they would proceed with the docket as planned. Mr. Jackson narrowly escaped prison, and the trial would continue where it left off on the previous day with direct testimony from the now 15 year old boy who accuses him.


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