The judge in the Michael Jackson child abuse case has set a tentative trial date of September 13 and heard arguments on whether to reduce the pop star’s bail but did not issue an immediate ruling.
Jackson was not in court in the Californian town of Santa Maria and few fans turned out for the hearing yesterday.
His lawyer Thomas Mesereau objected to setting the trial date, saying the prosecution had not supplied the defence with all the evidence in the case.
He said prosecutors have discussed forensic testing but did not disclose what was being tested or the manner of testing so the defence could decide whether it considers the tests valid.
Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he understood the trial date might be changed but wanted to set “a bull’s-eye that we’re shooting at here”.
He added: “Somebody has to say, This is the goal, this is where we’re going.”
In arguing for the lowering of Jackson’s £1.64m (€2.4m) bail, Mesereau noted his client’s charitable contributions, lack of criminal record and substantial non-moveable assets in Santa Barbara County, including his Neverland Ranch.
He said the severity of the alleged crime coupled with bail precedents for other crimes suggest Jackson’s bail should be £237,000 (€355,075) at most.
Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen noted that bail for a criminal defendant usually is many times greater than his total assets. He noted that Jackson is a self-declared billionaire and his bail amounted to only three-thousandths of his assets.
Zonen said the bail amount was “roughly comparable to what he would spend in a weekend in Las Vegas”.
The prosecution has said in court documents that a large bail amount was necessary to be sure Jackson does not flee the country.
“Mr Jackson is known and adored – ‘adored’ is not too strong a word – in many of the countries of Europe, the Near East and Africa,” the prosecution said in a motion. “Several of those countries do not have extradition treaties with the United States.”
Jackson, 45, has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.
Jackson’s bail was among several issues being considered at the hearing.