Pop star Michael Jackson has surrendered to authorities in Santa Barbara, California, where he was booked on multiple charges of child molestation. His lawyer says the singer is innocent, but he could face years in prison if convicted.
The media converged on the Santa Barbara airport for the return of the man who calls himself the "King of Pop." Michael Jackson was taken into custody at noon Pacific time, after flying from Las Vegas.
A short time later, he was led handcuffed into the sheriff's office for booking, his every move tracked by a crush of reporters. The singer posted $3 million bail and was released, pending trial. As he left, he blew a kiss and flashed a victory sign to the crowd.
Specifics have not been released, but authorities say Jackson will face multiple charges of sexual molestation of a child under age 14. The unnamed youth is said to be cooperating with prosecutors. News reports say the accuser is a boy of 12 or 13 who spent a night at Jackson's sprawling ranch near Santa Barbara.
Jackson Lawyer Mark Geragos says his client came back to confront the charges head-on. "He considers this to be a big lie," he said. "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'm here to tell you today, and Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf, these charges are categorically untrue."
The singer's lawyers negotiated conditions for his surrender. Santa Barbara Sheriff's spokesman Sergeant Chris Pappas says it all went smoothly.
"The booking process took approximately 30 to 45 minutes, was completed without incident," he said.
The singer was given a police escort as his entourage left the site.
The pop star faced similar accusations in 1993, but no criminal charges were filed after he made a cash settlement with the family of his accuser.
But prosecutors say this case will go to trial. If convicted, the singer could face from three to eight years in prison on each of the multiple charges. He will be arraigned in a Santa Barbara courtroom January 9.