Michael Jackson Grand Jury?

The prosecutor who charged Michael Jackson with child molestation has confirmed that a grand jury is convening in Santa Barbara but won't say whether the panel will be investigating the case.

"The business of the grand jury is confidential," said Jason Karpf of Tellem Worldwide, a firm that handles media inquiries for District Attorney Tom Sneddon in the Jackson case.

"Tom pointed out that the office convenes a grand jury every quarter," Karpf said. "So this could be considered part of their standard activity. We can't say."

Jackson's lawyers, Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman, said Wednesday they could not comment due to a judge's gag order.

Word that a grand jury was being summoned for the Jackson case was first reported in Wednesday's edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Citing unnamed legal sources, the newspaper said potential grand jurors had received summonses to appear later this month.

Use of the grand jury to secure an indictment would sidestep a potentially lengthy preliminary hearing with public testimony.

"It doesn't surprise me if he (Sneddon) has decided to go to the grand jury," said Loyola University Law School professor Laurie Levenson. "It avoids the media spectacle and it gives them a chance for a dress rehearsal" before a possible trial.

She said prosecutors almost certainly would have to present testimony to the grand jury behind closed doors from the boy who claims Jackson molested him.

"They get to see how well he holds up as a witness," she said.

Larry Feldman, a lawyer who has represented the accuser, said he has not been contacted regarding a grand jury.

Jackson has pleaded innocent to seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He's free on $3 million bail.

By Linda Deutsch