If only Michael Jackson hadn't boasted last year that he was worth a billion dollars. In keeping with the claim the singer made during the 2003 TV documentary ''Living With Michael Jackson,'' the Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge overseeing Jackson's child molestation case ruled against a defense request to reduce Jackson's $3 million bail, ruling that the star could well afford it.
Actually, Jackson has coughed up $6 million in bail -- $3 million when he was booked last November, and $3 million more when he was indicted earlier this year. ''No evidence has been presented and no argument made to suggest that the bail amount represents a financial hardship for the defendant,'' Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville wrote in his two-page ruling released to the press, noting that Jackson had paid the bail amount twice ''without objection or apparent difficulty.''
Last month, Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau had called the bail ''grossly excessive'' given the nature of the charges against him, which would usually merit a bail setting of no more than $435,000. Judge Melville, however, appeared to agree with the prosecution's argument that, with a lower bail, Jackson would be a flight risk. ''While there has been no significant issue with regard to the defendant's appearance at scheduled court events, it continues to appear to the court that a cognizable financial incentive to do so should be in place,'' the judge wrote.
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the child molestation charges against him. The next court date in the case is June 25, with a trial tentatively set to start Sept. 13.