SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Moving to dampen a global media frenzy, a judge issued an order Monday banning all cameras in the courtroom during Michael Jackson's scheduled arraignment Friday on child-molestation charges.
Television networks from around the world had been planning to cover Friday's arraignment live. In all, more than 105 news and entertainment organizations had applied for seats for what would normally be a routine courtroom proceeding.
Along with all the major U.S. television and radio networks, camera crews from the BBC, Swiss TV, four Japanese television networks and others from Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark had been counting on covering the event from the courtroom.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville listed 19 factors in his decision to ban cameras, including the "importance of maintaining public trust and confidence in the judicial system" and the privacy rights of all participants.
Melville said he was concerned about the effect of cameras on witnesses "who would have access to the televised testimony of prior witnesses."
Another factor, he said, is "preserving the security and dignity of the court." He cited the nature of the case and its effect on the alleged victim or any other minors who are either parties or prospective witnesses in the case.
News media had argued that press and television cameras should be allowed, saying that throughout U.S. history, courts have been open to the public. Both broadcast organizations and newspapers said the public had the right to watch the trial.
"This is precisely the kind of proceeding where cameras should be permitted," said media attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. "This is obviously of tremendous interest to the public, and the public has the right to see what is going on."
Melville will allow closed-circuit television coverage that will be screened in a room provided for an expected overflow crowd, said Darrel Parker, the court administrator in Santa Maria. The courtroom has 120 available seats: 60 for the public and 60 for the news media.
Parker said no decision has been made on the admission of cameras at subsequent proceedings. No other proceedings have been scheduled.
In another matter, lawyers representing a coalition of broadcast and print media, including The Times, filed a motion Monday opposing a gag order proposed by Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Tom Sneddon.
"The breadth of the protection order sought by the prosecution is matched only by its patent unconstitutionality," Boutrous said.
He said the judge should deny Sneddon's request and adopt "a more balanced and measured response." Jackson's defense attorney, Mark Geragos, also is opposing the proposed gag order.
The media also have filed motions asking that search warrants, arrest warrants and supporting affidavits be unsealed. Geragos filed a motion Monday asking that these court records remain sealed.
Melville is expected to rule on all these motions Friday.
Jackson, 45, is charged with seven counts of performing lewd and lascivious acts on a child and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent. Free on $3-million bail, he maintains that he is innocent.
Jackson's brother Jermaine held a news conference Monday in Encino to announce plans for a demonstration during the arraignment.
Angel Howansky, a freelance publicist who is helping coordinate the demonstration, said fan groups from throughout Southern California will convoy to Santa Maria.
In Santa Maria, security has already begun to tighten around the courthouse. The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department and the Santa Maria Police Department are in charge of security, but the FBI also has become involved.
On Monday, people said to be some of Jackson's closest advisors, including his accountant, Allan Whitman, his music manager, Charles Koppelman, Geragos and Nation of Islam official Leonard Muhammad, gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel for what Geragos called a "routine meeting."
"We meet on a regular basis on behalf of Michael," Koppelman said.
Times staff writers Eric Malnic, Michael Krikorian and Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.