The King of Pop is “outraged” by molestation charges against him.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Michael Jackson went to jail in handcuffs – and came out blowing kisses.

In an atmosphere of high drama and bizarre spectacle, the so-called King of Pop jetted to California and surrendered to cops on child molestation charges Thursday.

Sheriff’s deputies booked him, took his fingerprints and snapped a mug shot that showed him wearing more makeup than a prom queen.

During his hour in custody, the wacky star’s camp went on the offensive, denouncing claims he had preyed on a 12-year-old boy at his Neverland Ranch.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos called the accusation “a big lie,” and Michael’s brother Jermaine ranted on television about a “modern-day lynching.”

Jackson, 45, never said a word.

But as he emerged from the Santa Barbara County Jail after posting $3 million bail, he flashed a V sign and blew kisses into the air.

He did not return to Neverland, the scene of his alleged crimes, but flew back to Las Vegas, where he is shooting a music video.

In a surreal scene, children and tourists swarmed Jackson’s SUV while it was stuck in Vegas traffic, grasping the hand he thrust through a crack in the window.

His spokesman, Stuart Backerman, said Jackson would be staying at a secret location. He would not comment on where the singer’s three children are.

“Michael is going to defend himself with the force of his spirit,” said Backerman, who issued a terse written statement from Jackson.

“Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons,” it said. “The truth will win this marathon in court.”

Jackson – who admits he takes children into his bed but denies having sexual contact with them – has faced kiddie-sex allegations before.

In 1993, a 13-year-old accused him of abuse, but the case never made it to a courtroom because Jackson paid off the youngster and his family.

This time, authorities say they have a “cooperative victim,” reportedly a brave cancer survivor who told cops a sickening tale of being lured into Jackson’s bed and doped with wine and pills.

Neverland search

Police have been investigating the sordid allegations for a month and staged a surprise raid on Neverland on Tuesday, seizing boxes of evidence.

The next day, they revealed Jackson was wanted on multiple felonies, each carrying a penalty of up to eight years in prison, and demanded he turn himself in.

If Jackson, one of the most famous men in the world, was hoping for a low-key surrender, he was out of luck.

But if the public wanted to see the moment he was placed under arrest, they also were disappointed.

With news helicopters hovering in the air, Jackson’s leased Gulfstream IV plane landed at Santa Barbara Airport at 11:55 a.m. California time.

Officials allowed the six-seater to taxi into a hangar so Jackson could disembark and be taken into custody out of sight.

A convoy of police cars and other vehicles then snaked through the streets of Santa Barbara, vaguely reminiscent of the slow-speed chase that preceded O.J. Simpson’s arrest on murder charges in 1994.

At the jail, the black sedan carrying Jackson pulled up to a back door, away from the dozens of television cameras staked out at the main entrance.

It took about 40 minutes to process and release him, again through a back door.

He was ordered to appear in court for an arraignment on Jan. 9, and prosecutors said charges will not be filed in court before Thanksgiving.

Geragos told reporters the singer is furious about being branded a pedophile.

“He is greatly outraged by the bringing of these charges. He considers this to be “a big lie,”‘ he said.

“Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf, these charges are categorically untrue. He looks forward to getting into a courtroom and confronting these accusations head-on.”

Jermaine Jackson, 48, meanwhile, vented his anger on CNN. “I am sick and … tired of people ” he railed. “We will fight and we will stand up. At the end of the day, this is nothing but a modern-day lynching.”

A handful of Jackson fans and critics came out to see the start of what could be the next “trial of the century.”

“I love his music, but I don’t know if I can support him now,” said college student Cesar Mendoza, 22, holding a sign that read “Moonwalk 2 Jail.”

Patricia Madreno brought her 4-year-old son, George, because he’s a big Michael Jackson fan.

How did she explain to the youngster what his hero was doing at the county lockup?

“I didn’t tell him why he’s here,” Madreno admitted.



(Jerry Cornfield reported from Santa Barbara; Tracy Connor reported from New York.)



(c) 2003, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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AP-NY-11-20-03 2313EST



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