Los Angeles – California’s attorney general has urged the judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case to reject a bid by the pop star to remove the Santa Barbara County prosecutor’s office from the case.
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer called the request “baseless” and said it was premised on “conjecture and unfounded speculation.”
Jackson’s lawyers allege that District Attorney Tom Sneddon is “blinded by his zeal to convict Michael Jackson,” creating a conflict of interest that would prevent Jackson from receiving a fair trial.
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol. Trial is set for Jan. 31.
In a motion filed Thursday, Lockyer responded that Jackson’s lawyers failed to show the district attorney’s “zeal” in prosecuting the charges stemmed from anything but an “impartial consideration of the case.”
As with the majority of documents in the case, Lockyer’s full motion was sealed but an edited version was posted on the court’s Web site.
Jackson’s attorney Steve Cochran, in a motion filed Oct. 8, accused Sneddon of having a vendetta against Jackson dating back to a 1993 molestation investigation that never resulted in charges being filed.
Jackson’s attorneys were particularly concerned about what they decried as Sneddon’s “smug” and “jocular” manner during a news conference in which he announced Jackson’s arrest.
Lockyer wrote that even if Sneddon had personal animosity toward Jackson, that would not be enough to show a conflict of interest or warrant his removal.
“In sum, all of the defendant’s baseless allegations are based on surmise, conjecture and unfounded speculation,” Lockyer wrote.