Legal fireworks are set to fly as defense lawyers try to demonstrate that Michael Jackson was the victim of overzealousness on the part of District Attorney Tom Sneddon leading up to the pop star's arrest on child molestation charges.
In a motion to suppress information taken from a defense investigator, attorney Robert Sanger said Sneddon is guilty of "outrageous misconduct" for invading the office of the investigator and seizing materials covered by the attorney-client privilege of confidentiality. A hearing on the motion was scheduled Friday.
The most surprising revelation in documents unsealed Thursday is that Sneddon, the chief prosecutor of Santa Barbara County, personally conducted surveillance at the Beverly Hills office of investigator Bradley Miller days before ordering a search of Jackson's Neverland estate.
Defense lawyers said the sheriff's department also "invaded the defense camp" on Nov. 18, 2003, when officers used a sledge hammer to break into Miller's office and conference room. Although they had a search warrant, the defense said the officers exceeded the warrant's limitations.
Prosecutors responded that they did not know Miller was working for defense attorney Mark Geragos at the time and stated, "Not every 'invasion' of the office of a lawyer or his agent is 'outrageous.'"
The defense said evidence taken from Miller's office should be returned to Jackson's attorneys because law enforcement officers had no right to seize it.
The motion filed June 22 asked Judge Rodney S. Melville not to allow the evidence, including videotapes and computer hard drives, to be admitted at trial.
The mention of Sneddon's personal visit to the investigator's office was part of a continued attempt by the defense team, headed by Thomas Mesereau Jr., to portray him as overly zealous in his pursuit of Jackson.
The defense motion unsealed Thursday cited a memo drafted by Sneddon that said he had visited the building where Miller's office was located, photographed a list of offices there, and climbed the stairs to the second floor in an unsuccessful search for Miller's office.
Sneddon then took several photographs of the building, went to a phone both where he looked up Miller's number, and went to a meeting where he displayed driver's license photos of Miller and others in a so-called "photo lineup." The name of the person who saw the pictures was deleted from the court records released Thursday.
Prosecutors said the office of a lawyer or private investigator could be searched if they had reason to believe it held evidence not covered by attorney-client privilege.
They said their search involved Miller's rental of a storage unit and his employment by Jackson. However, they acknowledged seizing audio and videotapes that were not covered by the search warrant but were "in plain sight."
In another development Thursday, media attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. filed an appeal notice with the California 2nd District Court of Appeals challenging the pattern of secrecy that has surrounded the Jackson case.
The filing, which did not include legal arguments, said news organizations including The Associated Press were appealing a long list of orders issued by Melville that sealed such items as search warrants, grand jury transcripts and key sections of the indictment. The organizations are also appealing the practice of holding of secret hearings in the case without public notice.
By Linda Deutsch