Michael Jackson entered a plea of not guilty in a Santa Maria, California, courtroom today, to multiple charges of child molestation.
Though hundreds of fans enthusiastically greeted Jackson upon his arrival to the courthouse, he was reprimanded by Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville for being twenty minutes tardy. "You have started out on the wrong foot here," Melville told Jackson. "I want to advise you that I will not put up with that. It's an insult to the court."
Melville scheduled a preliminary hearing for February 13th, during which the court will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to begin a trial.
Jackson stands accused of seven counts of committing lewd acts with a child under the age of fourteen in addition to two counts of administering an intoxicating agent between the dates of February 7th and March 10th. The forty-five-year-old King of Pop was arrested in November and freed on $3 million bail. He was formally charged on December 18th. Since the arrest, Jackson has maintained his innocence.
Despite the controversy, fans have rallied in support of Jackson. Buses of supporters formed a Caravan of Love from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to show their support. Jackson's parents, his brother Jermaine and sister Janet were also in attendance. The singer's legal team also recently acquired a new power player. Jackson's attorney Mark Geragos enlisted Benjamin Brafman, who defended Sean "P. Diddy" Combs on weapons charges three years ago, as co-lead counsel.