Videotapes seized from homes belonging to Michael Jackson do not incriminate the entertainer, and the lack of physical evidence of alleged sexual molestation has left investigators "scrambling" to get statements from other potential victims, a high-ranking police source said Thursday.
"There's no medical evidence, no taped evidence," the source said. "The search warrant didn't result in anything that would support a criminal filing."
When police executed search warrants at Jackson's Los Angeles condominium and Santa Barbara County ranch last weekend, they left with a number of videotapes. On Thursday, sources said investigators still were reviewing the tapes for clues about possible victims; a number of the tapes are said to feature Jackson in the company of young admirers.
But sources close to the probe say authorities have yet to uncover physical evidence implicating Jackson.
Howard Weitzman, the lawyer who represents Jackson, declined to comment on specifics of the case but echoed the police source's view of the evidence obtained so far. "That's consistent with my understanding," he said.
With little, if any, physical evidence to implicate Jackson in the allegations involving the 13-year-old Los Angeles boy at the center of the inquiry, investigators are interviewing other youngsters close to the entertainer to determine if any of them were sexually abused.
An employee with the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services, which is investigating the case with the Los Angeles Police Department, said Thursday that the 13-year-old boy has identified four or five other children whom he believes were molested by Jackson.
At least three other young people have been interviewed, say sources familiar with the investigation.
All three youngsters are well-known, those sources said, and the reports detailing their interviews are being closely guarded by investigators. A fourth young boy also was interviewed because he was at Jackson's ranch when search warrants were served last weekend; that boy has acknowledged that he slept in the same bed as Jackson on occasion but has fiercely defended the singer and said he never sexually molested him.
As the investigation entered its ninth day, there was no sign that the international interest in the case was abating. Jackson remained out of sight in Bangkok, suffering from reported dehydration. He canceled a second concert Thursday amid rumors, denied by his lawyer and publicist, that his tour was being scrapped. At one point, there were even reports that Jackson had left the Far East and was preparing to surrender to authorities.
"Absolutely not," said Weitzman, whose client has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. "There is no reason to surrender him."
In Thailand, concert promoters on Thursday released a scratchy audiotape of Jackson apologizing for canceling his second show in two days:
"To all my fans in Bangkok, Thailand. I'm sorry for not performing yesterday as I am really sick and still under medical treatment. I have been instructed by my doctor not to perform before Aug. 27, 1993. I promise all my fans to perform at the National Stadium in Bangkok on August 28. I'll see you all on Friday. I love you all. Goodby."
Closer to home, reporters from the National Enquirer passed out business cards at Los Angeles offices of the Department of Children's Services, while representatives of the mainstream media descended on the Downtown courthouse, deluging officials there with requests for the divorce file of the 13-year-old's parents.
There were so many requests for the document that a clerk began keeping copies at the ready. At $26.79 per copy, the documents--which detail the bitter custody and child support battle between the parents--were selling briskly.
The latest batch of those documents revealed that a Superior Court judge, in an order filed Wednesday, ordered the father to pay his ex-wife $68,804 in overdue child support and interest payments.
The criminal investigation of Jackson grew out of the battle between the former husband and wife. Despite reports that police are investigating other possible victims, most public attention has focused on the 13-year-old boy and his estranged parents. Copies of the boy's interview by police and social workers were obtained by The Times, and they include detailed, graphic descriptions of alleged sexual advances by Jackson.
They also include a passage describing what the boy said was a meeting between him, his father, Jackson and lawyers for the entertainer in which the boy's father tried to settle the case without going to court. Other sources said the boy's father tried to cut a $20-million deal with Jackson, and a private investigator has said the case has grown out of an extortion attempt.