Michael Jackson’s arraignment on Friday was both less and more dramatic than expected. Less because fans didn’t turn up by the thousands, as the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office had feared. More dramatic because the charges handed down in secrecy by a grand jury earlier this month had expanded from the nine issued in January to 10, with the new charge of conspiracy encompassing accusations of child imprisonment, abduction, and extortion, according to CNN.
Details of the indictment remained sealed, but the remaining charges involved four counts of lewd acts involving a minor, one count of an attempted lewd act on a minor, and four counts of administering an intoxicant to a minor. Jackson pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Jackson, who had been chided by the judge in January for showing up 20 minutes late, arrived 40 minutes early to the 8:30 a.m. arraignment. He wore a conservative dark suit with a maroon tie, a crimson armband, and wire-framed glasses. Parents Joe and Katherine Jackson also attended.
Reports from CNN, the Associated Press, and Reuters all said that the fans gathered at the courthouse numbered in the hundreds, well shy of the 2,000 who had been expected. Only 75 made use of the shuttle service Jackson provided from Los Angeles to the courthouse in Santa Maria. Thursday night, at a candlelight vigil held at Neverland that Jackson had touted on his website, AP counted only two to three dozen fans.
In January, after pleading not guilty, Jackson started a near riot outside the courthouse when he danced atop an SUV. This time, he merely spoke briefly to fans, thanking them for their support and calling Santa Maria a ”wonderful” community. Thomas Mesereau Jr., the lead attorney Jackson hired only a week ago after firing his high-profile lawyers Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman, also addressed the crowd, saying, ”This case is about one thing only…the complete vindication of a wonderful human being named Michael Jackson.” The singer’s next court date is May 28, with a trial not likely to take place until December.