SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - (KRT) - Michael Jackson is preparing to trade in the Moonwalk for a perp walk Thursday - and surrender on charges that he repeatedly molested a young boy.
His accuser is a 12-year-old boy who says the pop star lured him to his Neverland Ranch and plied him with wine before abusing him, according to several reports.
Those details point to a brave cancer survivor who was befriended by Jackson while he was ill - and who has spoken to a therapist, a lawyer and police about the singer.
That boy's family also has confided in friends several weeks ago that Jackson gave the youngster wine to drink during Neverland sleepovers, a source told the Daily News.
One report said flat-out that the victim was the young cancer survivor.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon called for the eccentric entertainer to turn himself in quickly.
"Get over here and get checked in," Sneddon advised as he announced a warrant for Jackson's arrest and asked other possible abuse victims to come forward.
Holed up in Las Vegas on a music-video shoot, Jackson made plans to return to Santa Barbara as soon as Thursday - and hired high-profile lawyer Mark Geragos to defend him.
In a brief statement, the world-famous entertainer - a Peter Pan wanna-be who admits he has invited children to sleep in his bed - called the accusations "outrageous."
"Michael would never harm a child in any way," said his spokesman, Stuart Backerman. "These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom."
But officials predicted Jackson won't be able to weasel out of trouble by paying off the finger-pointer, like he did in 1994.
"We have a cooperative victim in this particular proceeding," Sneddon boasted at a news conference jammed with media from around the world.
The accuser was not named, and all court documents in the case were sealed for 45 days.
However, Fox News Channel reported the boy involved is a 12-year-old cancer sufferer who was lavished with attention and gifts by Jackson - and then plied with wine before being molested.
A friend of the family of one 12-year-old cancer kid with close ties to Jackson said he learned three weeks ago that the boy was speaking to authorities.
"The family told me he was seeing a therapist and that he had seen an attorney," the source said. "The police talked to him and his brother several times."
The source added, "His family told me Jackson might have given him wine to drink."
The allegations against Jackson became official a day after dozens of investigators staged a surprise raid on Neverland - the $15 million fantasyland filled with toys, exotic animals and amusement park rides that Jackson calls home.
Cops also searched two other unnamed locations in Southern California for evidence.
"An arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation," Santa Barbara Sheriff Jim Anderson said.
Bail was set at $3 million, and the jet-setting Jackson was asked to surrender his passport so he can't flee the country.
Officials declined to say how many counts Jackson faces, but each one carries between three and eight years in prison.
The schoolboy's claim surfaced nearly 10 years after Jackson was embroiled in another sex scandal involving perverted slumber parties at Neverland.
In that case, a 13-year-old filed a lawsuit and settled out of court for millions before prosecutors could finish their probe.
Sneddon, who also headed the earlier case, promised history wouldn't repeat itself. Ripping into "apologists" for Jackson who claim his accuser is a gold-digger, he outlined how prosecutors have far more ammunition this time around.
That includes a law, enacted after the first case against Jackson fell apart, that lets prosecutors force child-abuse victims to testify.
Sneddon also stressed that this alleged victim has not filed a civil suit against Jackson "and there is no anticipation of a civil case."
Geragos, who is currently representing accused wife-killer Scott Peterson, did not return phone calls about the case.
Brian Oxman, a lawyer for Jackson's family, insisted he will be exonerated. "We think it's a shakedown," Oxman said. "Those of us who know Michael just find it difficult to believe."
But Robert Wegner, 68, who was Jackson's security chief from 1990 to 1993, wasn't surprised the singer is under fire. He said more than 100 children - mostly boys - slept in Jackson's bedroom while he was in charge of Neverland.
"He'd always be touching kids, when he had the chance," said Wegner. "I think he needs some professional help. It's been 10 years, and he hasn't cleaned up his act, so obviously he's got some very serious problems."
(Daily News staff writers George Rush and Derek Ro contributed to this report. Jerry Cornfield reported from Santa Barbara; Tracy Connor reported from New York.)
© 2003, New York Daily News.
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