Michael Jackson: Alpha/Globe Photos
Liane Bonin
December 18, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Michael Jackson is innocent until proven guilty, but the Santa Barbara district attorney’s office believes the singer could be a smooth criminal. Today Jackson, 45, was charged with seven counts of commiting a lewd act on a minor and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to a minor with the intent to commit a felony. An arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 16.

If convicted on all of the charges, Jackson faces up to 24 years in jail. District Attorney Tom Sneddon revealed in a press conference that there are special circumstances in the case which, if found to be true, could make Jackson ineligible for probation.

The account of the charges released to the public claims the alleged incidents occurred between Feb. 7 and March 10, but, as expected, did not give any indication as to the identity of the minor accusing Jackson of these felony charges. However, the media has speculated that the accuser is a 14-year-old cancer survivor who appeared in a British documentary that aired on ABC in February.

Surprisingly, Sneddon revealed that Jackson, who was required to turn in his passport when he was arrested, will be allowed to travel to Britain between Dec. 20 and Jan. 5. ”[He had] two contractual agreements for the new CD,” he explained. When asked if the singer could present a flight risk by traveling into France, which does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S., Sneddon said: ”I think all of us know if he wanted to leave at some point in time, he could leave.”

Sneddon also bristled at suggestions from the press that the delay in filing charges against Jackson was an attempt to convince other possible plaintiffs to come forward. ”That was never, never, never the intent of our charges,” he stated, explaining that the hold-up was due to the county’s efforts to get a website pertaining to the case up and running.

There were no further insights into what might happen to Jackson’s three children, Paris, Prince Michael I and Prince Michael II. ”That investigation, if there is one, is done through a different office,” Sneddon explained. ”We build a wall between the two investigations.”

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