The speculation over the whereabouts of singer Michael Jackson kicked into high gear late Friday with reported sightings of the pop star at an airport near his Santa Ynez Valley home. The singer’s location may be disclosed today during a motion by Jackson’s lawyers, who are expected to seek a court order against Larry Feldman, the lawyer representing the 13-year-old boy who claims he was sexually molested by the pop star.
Several employees at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport said they observed Jackson descend from the staircase of a chartered 727 aircraft and get into a waiting van. An increased security presence at the singer’s Neverland ranch and a visit from a locksmith to change the locks at the compound the day before fueled speculation that the singer had returned to the U.S.
The locks were changed, sources said, because Jackson handlers were concerned that authorities who used a locksmith togain entry into locked rooms at the ranch during their search in August may have been able to gain entry again to serve an arrest warrant on the singer upon his return.
On Thursday, one of Jackson’s attorneys, Johnnie Cochran Jr., said the singer would be home “soon,” indicating it might be as early as Christmas. Jackson, whose treatment at an undisclosed European location for an addiction to painkillers was supposed to take at least four more weeks, is scheduled to have his deposition taken Jan. 18 at Feldman’s Santa Monica offices.
While sources said that location is unlikely, the deposition will nonetheless go forward as planned, provided the singer isn’t charged as a result of the ongoing criminal investigations by the LAPD and sheriff’s investigators. Sources said Jackson’s lawyers have been actively discussing with prosecutors in both jurisdictions ground rules for their client’s cooperation in the investigation.
Jackson lawyers may ask Superior Court Judge David M. Rothman, who is hearing the pretrial maneuverings in the civil case, to issue a gag order against Feldman, preventing the attorney from discussing the case with outsiders. The lawyer has been criticized by the Jackson camp for sharing with reporters developments in the case, and discussing elements of deposition testimony given by the singer’s chauffeur and housekeeper.
The criticism heated up Friday when Feldman spoke at length over the telephone with LaToya Jackson. During her highly publicized midnight press conference from Tel Aviv, Israel, LaToya claimed Michael had slept with young boys and had paid the families of those boys hush money. Feldman made arrangements to take her deposition, and LaToya agreed to be deposed as long as it was held outside of Los Angeles.
LaToya’s remarks drew a stinging rebuke from family members just hours after the conference last week. “She’s a liar,” said the usually reserved Jackson matriarch, Katherine.