Neverland Ranch: Rod Rolle/Getty Images/NewsCom
Gary Susman
November 19, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Santa Barbara police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges, authorities tell The warrant comes after some 70 Santa Barbara County investigators spent the day at Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch on Tuesday, armed with a search warrant. Jackson and his three kids weren’t present; they’ve been in Las Vegas for three weeks, Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman told the press.

Reports from Court TV and the syndicated show ”Celebrity Justice” said that the probe was prompted by the accusation of a 12-year-old boy who visited Neverland in recent months. The charge comes a decade after Jackson settled a multimillion-dollar law suit out of court over similar allegations made by a then 13-year-old boy; no criminal charges were filed in that case, and Jackson denied any wrongdoing.

Still, the 1993 charges derailed the singer’s career, and he apparently fears that the new charges may do the same. Noting that the raid took place on the same day he released his ”Number Ones” CD, Jackson spoke out, in a statement via Backerman, against the ”rogues’ gallery of hucksters and inside sources” making the allegations. ”These characters always seem to surface with a dreadful allegation just as another project, an album, a video, is being released,” said Jackson.

According to Beckerman, Jackson has been in Las Vegas to shoot the video for the album’s single, ”One More Chance,” a collaboration with R. Kelly. (The ironies are too thick to count.) Jackson was scheduled to perform the song next week on a CBS special, consisting mostly of old concert footage, that the network had put together for November ratings sweeps month, but the New York Post reports that CBS may pull the show in the wake of the current controversy. (CBS would say only that it declined to ”speculate” on whether it would yank the show, the Post reports.) Meanwhile, Santa Barbara police have scheduled a press conference on the charges for Wednesday afternoon.

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