Jackson probe moves ahead

The investigation into child molestation charges aimed at singer Michael Jackson took a step forward Wednesday as a Santa Barbara County grand jury began hearing testimony concerning the allegations.

Actor Marlon Brando’s son Miko Brando, the first witness, testified for more than three hours under tight security in the closed session.

The younger Brando, who worked for Jackson as a valet and driver, in the latter role says he brought young boys to Jackson’s homes at the singer’s request. Brando was called, sources said, to lay a foundation for the prosecution establishing the ongoing relationship between Jackson and the 14-year-old boy who claims he was molested by the entertainer.

The boy’s recent settlement of a civil suit against Jackson had no bearing on the ongoing criminal investigations.

Both the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. and Los Angeles Police Dept. are conducting investigations into claims the boy was molested at Jackson’s Santa Ynez Valley ranch and his L.A. condominium.

L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti said his office has not concluded its probe, but insiders note that the empaneling of a Santa Barbara grand jury temporarily takes off the pressure to file criminal charges.

If the grand jury concludes there is insufficient evidence to indict Jackson, sources said it will allow Garcetti to drop the political hot potato without career repercussions.

The grand jury is expected to hear testimony from 15 witnesses through the end of the week. An indictment could be announced as early as Monday.

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