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New allegations against prosecutor of Michael Jackson

By K.C. Arceneaux
RAW STORY COLUMNIST


On April 30, 2004, the indictment against pop-star Michael Jackson was unsealed, allowing the press and the public to view the charges against him. Jackson has been charged with four counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, one count of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child, and four counts of administering an intoxicating agent.

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The additional charge of conspiracy, not included in the first set of charges against him, included twenty-eight separate criminal acts. Those alleged acts include child abduction, child imprisonment, and extortion. Jackson pleaded not guilty to all counts.

On the same day that the indictment was unsealed, there was another and far less public event unfolding, one that may have a future impact on the Jackson case. Serious allegations of a pattern of abuses among Santa Barbara law enforcement and the DA's office, including District Attorney Tom Sneddon, were made by Santa Barbara County dentist, Thambiah Sundaram, in an interview on Online Legal Review Talk Radio. Sneddon is the DA prosecuting the child-molestation case against Michael Jackson. In the interview, conducted by Ron Sweet, Sundaram stated that there was opposition to a non-profit medical clinic he operated.

Sundaram said that when city officials were unable to shut down his clinic, he was arrested on multiple counts, including impersonating a doctor, grand theft, and malicious mischief. Sundaram's wife was arrested, as well. An employee at the clinic was also charged, of committing a drive-by shooting. Neither Sundaram, his wife nor the employee were convicted. Sundaram said that he eventually won a judgment against Sneddon and the DA's office for a substantial, six-figure amount, for causes including conspiracy, false imprisonment, and other violations of his civil rights.

Sundaram's allegations against Sneddon were serious, in that he also claimed to have heard, first-hand, statements by Sneddon and others in the DA's office that suggest that Santa Barbara police persecution of innocent citizens is planned, common, and often racially motivated. Sundaram said that in 1994, he attended a fund-raising event with Tom Sneddon and other city officials, where ways to "get Michael Jackson out of the county" were discussed. Racist remarks were allegedly made on that occasion. According to Sundaram, other alleged vendettas were discussed as well, to the extent where he said it resembled a Mafia planning session.

Sundaram's allegations are not an isolated instance. There have been many complaints and law-suits against the Santa Barbara DA's office. The new counts against Jackson may be consistent with a pattern that Santa Barbara defense attorney Gary Dunlap has called "stacking charges." In an interview on MJJF Talk Radio, on January 2, 2004, Dunlap gave his opinion that "stacking charges" was a common practice of the DA's office, and claimed that this was a tactic used against him.

Sneddon had charged and prosecuted Dunlap on twenty-two counts. After being acquitted on all counts, Dunlap is currently suing Sneddon and others in the DA's office for $10 million for malicious prosecution, and multiple other alleged offenses, including civil rights violations. Dunlap said, ". . . I mean, it's one thing to be charged with one crime and have a trial and be acquitted on it, but the district attorney in Santa Barbara has a policy that if they throw enough charges against you, the jury is bound to convict you on something."

The above cases add to the pattern of what may be law enforcement abuses of power in Santa Barbara. There are multiple civil cases alleging false arrests, physical brutality by the police, tampering with evidence and perjury, in cases settled out of court, at tax-payer's expense. There is the example of George Beeghly, whose case against Santa Barbara law-enforcement was also settled out of court. The defendants in the case were Santa Barbara Sheriff Jim Thomas, and Santa Barbara police officers. Beeghly sued for illegal search and seizure, false arrest and false imprisonment, the use of excessive force, conspiracy to violate his civil rights, battery and failure to investigate, among other charges.

This information reveals a new side to the Michael Jackson child-molestation case. The extent of the law suits for false arrests, false imprisonments, condoning of excessive force by the police, tampering with evidence, and multiple civil rights violations suggests a culture of corruption among Santa Barbara law-enforcement. The taxpayers of Santa Barbara have paid substantial settlements in these cases.

DA Tom Sneddon's public relation's firm, Tellem Worldwide, was contacted and, citing a protective order as prohibiting their ability to respond, has declined to comment. It remains unclear how the allegations made by Dr. Sundaram and the cases involving Beeghly and Dunlap are affected by the protective order issued in the Jackson case.

When Gary Dunlap was asked, in his interview, to comment on the Jackson case, he said that he had no opinion one way or another on the case. However, he went on to say, ". . . the very fact that he's being prosecuted by Sneddon's office does not cause me to have any reason to believe that he's guilty in that, because of what I know about the district attorney's office, I know that they do vindictive prosecutions on a routine basis." If Dunlap's allegations are true, then an investigation of the DA's office might shed new light on the Jackson case.

Author K. C. Arceneaux, Ph.D., is a Pushcart nominee and winner of a Tara Fellowship from the Heekin Group. e-mail [email protected] First North American Serial Rights, Copyright May 12, 2004.

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