Unidentified sources quoted by three television networks say that Michael Jackson has been indicted by the Santa Barbara County grand jury which has been investigating child molestation allegations against the pop superstar.
Grand jury indictments are usually secret until a defendant is arraigned.
Asked about the reports by ABC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and USA Today, Michael Jackson's attorneys - who are under a gag order not to comment on the case - did issue a statement late Wednesday.
"If an indictment is returned, and Mr. Jackson is required to appear in court on April 30 in Santa Maria, Calif., he will appear at that time and enter a not guilty plea," says the statement obtained by CBS News, issued by Jackson defense attorneys Mark Geragos, Benjamin Brafman, Robert Sanger and Steve Cochran.
"Mr. Jackson and his attorneys remind the public that an indictment is merely a formal accusation. We also remind the public that Michael Jackson, like any other person accused of a crime, is presumed innocent," the statement continues.
"In this case," says the defense team, "Mr. Jackson is not just presumed innocent, but is in fact innocent. Michael is looking forward to his day in court and wishes to thank the millions of fans throughout the world who continue to support him during this difficult period."
The district attorney's office has declined to comment on whether or not an indictment has been returned, and the public relations firm hired by the D.A., Tellem Worldwide, also has nothing to say at this point.
Susan Tellem, who is fielding media questions for D.A. Tom Sneddon, an announcement of this type is more likely to come from the court, since Sneddon - like the Jackson defense team - is covered by the judge's gag order.
Tellem says court administrator Gary Blair would determine when the court will make public any information about the grand jury.
Messages left at Blair's office were not immediately returned.
The grand jury has spent the last three weeks hearing from witnesses, including a 14-year-old boy who claims the pop superstar sexually abused him.
Four months ago, county prosecutors charged Jackson with seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. Jackson pleaded not guilty in January to those charges.
Meanwhile a new wrinkle has developed in the case.
According to the Los Angeles Times, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges are being considered against several associates of Michael Jackson for allegedly threatening the family of the boy who accused Jackson of child molestation.
An unidentified source close to the case told the Times the charges are under consideration.
Attorney Joseph Tacopina says there has been speculation that two of his clients, Vincent Amen and Frank Tyson, would either be indicted by the grand jury or charged separately with alleged intimidation of witnesses.
He denied the allegations and told the newspaper the two former Jackson employees would not appear before the grand jury.
"They've been invited and we declined," Tacopina said. "We're sitting tight." Besides Amen and Tyson, the newspaper did not identify any other associates who might be under investigation.
Tyson, who was Jackson's personal assistant, has been accused of threatening to kill the younger brother of Jackson's alleged victim if he revealed to authorities that Jackson had given the boy alcohol, Tacopina said.
Amen, who worked for Jackson's production company, was accused of holding the family at Jackson's Neverland estate against its will, he said.
Tacopona says the accusations came from the boy's mother and are "patently false."
"I know the evidence and I know the accuser," says Tacopina. "I'll have no problem taking up the issue of her credibility if and when I'm asked to do so."
Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson said such charges could be a tactic to bolster the district attorney's case against Jackson. The accuser and his family told child welfare investigators last year that no abuse occurred.
"The district attorney has to overcome the problem that he has a witness who was denying molestation to other authorities," Levenson said. "One way to explain this is that this witness was under pressure."
The young alleged victim was, not long ago, in very bad shape, according to a family friend. He only had one kidney and it was failing. Part of his face had swollen up as well. But, recently, there has been a report that he is doing quite well.
Celebrity attorney andsays the prosecution may be counting on the alleged victim being able to testify if the case goes to trial.
"I think that Tom Sneddon sort of hedged his bets that he (the alleged victim) would be available for trial," says Copeland. "I think that's the reason he proceeded with the grand jury indictment, assuming he received one, because he knew this victim would be available for trial. So a healthy victim means a healthy witness at trial for the prosecution. That bodes well for them."