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Score One For Jacko

A judge in the molestation case against Michael Jackson has agreed to let the pop star's attorneys see school and psychiatric reports involving the accuser and his family that were gathered for an unrelated lawsuit.

Attorney Mark Geragos told a judge he had subpoenaed the records concerning "the accuser's family and the accuser himself."

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville agreed to the request, ordering that the records be released to both prosecutors and the defense.

The records were part of a 2000 lawsuit filed by the accuser's family against two retail chains alleging they were beaten by security guards while leaving a shopping center.

A J.C. Penney security guard had alleged that Jackson's accuser had left the store with items that were not paid for. The boy was not charged and the lawsuit was later settled without going to trial.

Geragos said an attorney for one of the defendants in the lawsuit believed the records could not be provided without a court order from Melville.

Jackson was not required to attend Friday's hearing and was not in the courtroom.

"The ruling is not a terrible surprise, especially since both sides will be able to see the records at the same time," says Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "The information may be relevant to one side or the other going forward and this sort of order happens quite frequently early on in a criminal case."

The molestation case against Jackson continued to unfold in extraordinary secrecy as Melville began the pretrial hearing by meeting privately with defense attorneys then told all parties in open court to make sure witness names are not released publicly.

Melville also made a slight modification to a gag order.

Attorneys are still forbidden from speaking about most aspects of the case. But the judge said they could give him proposed written responses to media reports. Melville would then decide if the statements could be released.

Melville said he would issue no further rulings on the gag order.

Earlier, the judge met with defense attorneys about a mysterious audiotape — the content of which has not been disclosed. Attorneys were told not to publicly mention the names of the people whose voices are heard on the tape.

Any mention of witness names throughout the case must be done only in sealed motions, the judge said.

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."

Friday's hearing wasn't the only proceeding going on concerning the case. Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon has been presenting evidence to a secret grand jury.

Jackson visited Washington, D.C., this week, where he met with members of Congress and was lauded for his work fighting AIDS.

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