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Jacko Hearing Overshadowed

While Michael Jackson was busy promoting AIDS awareness in Washington, D.C., his lawyers in his child molestation case prepared for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to try the pop star.

But the hearing was overshadowed by testimony presented to a secret grand jury by Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon. If, as expected, the grand jury indicts Jackson, there will be no preliminary hearing, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman.

Friday's hearing is expected to involve mostly procedural matters. Jackson is not required to attend and is not expected to show up, says Futterman.

One of the proceedings is secret and one is public. Jackson's attorneys, Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman, are excluded from grand jury proceedings.

The issue of secrecy is at the heart of most items on the court agenda Friday with defense lawyers seeking a partial exemption from a court imposed gag order and lawyers for the media seeking access to sealed search warrants and other documents.

Sneddon also is asking permission to watch a videotaped interview with unnamed witnesses prepared by Geragos' private investigator. He said the prosecution is entitled to know what is on the tape.

Media lawyers planned to ask for unsealing of search warrants and other papers in the case, including a series of documents in which the prosecution accuses an unnamed person of being in contempt of court for violating the gag order.

A panel of the state's 2nd District Court of Appeals issued a stay late Thursday on three segments of a court order that had barred journalists from talking to and photographing prospective or final grand jurors. The appeals court asked for more briefings on the issue.

Jackson was charged last year with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child. Jackson has pleaded innocent and Geragos has called the charges a "big lie."

The entertainer this week was in Washington to promote the possibility of a concert tour of Africa to raise money for the fight against AIDS there and to receive an award.

Critics say his visit to the East Coast was an attempt to shore up his popularity in the face of his troubles on the West Coast. However, Jackson does have a record of helping fight aids and he has been cited his philanthropy, reports CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras. He attended a BET reception in Washington and met with ambassadors from African nations.

BET, like CBSNews.com, is part of Viacom.

While fans in Washington eagerly welcomed Jackson, leaders of the 38-member Congressional Black Caucus were less enthusiastic. They turned down his request to attend a meeting, saying they were too busy dealing with legislative issues affecting black Americans.

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