More than sixty investigators from the police department and district attorney’s office raided Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley ranch at 9 a.m. on Friday. The mansion and surrounding property — which includes a zoo and amusement park, where the singer has hosted a number of children’s parties — were searched in order to gather evidence for Jackson’s upcoming trial for alleged child molestation.
The pop star’s Neverland estate has been raided before, on November 18, 2003 — the same day on which Jackson’s Number Ones greatest hits album was released. At the time, the singer issued a statement, saying in part, “These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released.”
A month later, Jackson was charged with child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent (alcohol) to an alleged twelve-year-old victim. Last April, the singer was indicted, and his case will go to trial on January 31st. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.
In mid-November, Jackson was sued by former business associate J. Marc Schaffel for $3 million for breach of contract. Schaffel — a former gay porn producer who produced Michael Jackson: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See and Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies for broadcast on Fox — claims he was never reimbursed for loans, cash advances and producing fees. The Fox TV programs were intended to counter a February 2003 documentary hosted by journalist Martin Bashir.