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Michael Jackson's Spiritual Advisers Hold News Conf.

Aired December 31, 2003 - 15:05   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to take you straight to Santa Barbara now for Michael Jackson's -- they are holding a news conference here, his supporters. And we want to go straight there and listen in to what they have to say.
NAJEE ALI, DIRECTOR, PROJECT ISLAMIC HOPE: Is everyone ready? Ready all? Here we go. Everybody ready?

I'm Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, N-A-J-E-E-A-L-I.

Today, our coalition of civil rights activists and the Dr. Firpo Carr, who is the Jacksons' spiritual adviser -- we are calling upon an independent investigation by the state attorney general's office in allegations by Michael Jackson he was abused by the police department. We feel that the best way to get at the truth is have an independent investigation by the attorney general's office to find out whether Michael's allegations are true or not.

As someone who lived through the Rampart scandal (ph), and someone who has lived through police abuse, and black people being victimized by the police department, for the sheriff's department to come out of a press conference and say that this did not happen is not enough for me. It should not be enough for our community. So we're calling upon an independent investigation to get at the truth.

This investigation is an investigation for justice.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (OFF-MIKE) Did you see the news conference that the sheriff had?

ALI: Yes, I did.

FELDMAN: All right. He didn't just say it. He did play both a videotape when Mr. Jackson came off of his aircraft, and an audiotape where Mr. Jackson was in the police car. And on several occasions Mr. Jackson's voice can be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heard saying that he was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in fact, singing to himself.

And the second thing is that the sheriff himself is now asking for an investigation by the California state attorney general. Does that satisfy the request that you just made for that same investigation?

ALI: That satisfies it completely, 100 percent.

We'll take it a step further. We also want to challenge the District Attorney Sneddon. But more importantly, that we do know from listening to the audiotape, and watching the videotape, Michael was not taped the whole time while he was in custody. So we want to know what happened when the cameras and the tapes were not on.

Also, we want to congratulate Sheriff Anderson for calling upon for an independent investigation. We support that completely, and that's the best way we can know what truly happened.

And one thing I do want to say is -- we heard about Michael complained about his wrists being hurt and the handcuffs were too tight. Everyone heard that on the tape. And I'm wondering, you see how big people's hands -- wrists are. Michael obviously was in pain when his handcuffs were tightened. So we thought, well, why -- how come the police did not take off the handcuffs or loosen the handcuffs on Michael Jackson? Why was he handcuffed to begin with?

But before we take any more questions, Dr. Earlofari Hutchinson, who is a civil rights leader, director of the National Alliance for Positive Action, will make some comments also.

EARLOFARI HUTCHINSON, L.A. TALK RADIO HOST: My name is Earlofari Hutchinson, E-A-R-L-O-F-A-R-I-H-U-T-C-H-I-N-S-O-N. I'm the president of the National Alliance of Positive Action.

You know, we certainly compliment the sheriff for initiating the action, he says for an independent investigation. We'll watch that very closely. We'll see where it comes and what happens and develops.

But more importantly than that, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon has made statements over and over again, every time the allegation and charge has been made that Michael Jackson was brutalized and abused by sheriff's deputies during the arrest process.

It's not just incumbent upon the sheriff. It's also incumbent upon Tom Sneddon. Tom Sneddon brought the charges against Michael Jackson. The trial will be held in Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria. It will be in his jurisdiction. It's his call. We're also challenging Tom Sneddon -- since you brought the arrest, you've brought the charges, you will try Michael Jackson. You did initiate the arrest, not the sheriff's department. It's also important for you to issue a report. Not just a verbal response, but also a written report detailing specifically everything that happened from the time that Michael Jackson got off that plane until the time he got back on the plane.

We have here allegations that are made by Michael Jackson, that he was abused by the sheriff's department. The sheriffs are saying there was no abuse. But more importantly, Tom Sneddon is saying there was no abuse.

So now, Tom Sneddon, the ball is in your court. Many people in our community are watching this case very carefully. Many people in our community are very sensitive to the issue of police abuse. It doesn't make any difference whether it's a young African-American or somebody of the stature of a Michael Jackson.

So Tom Sneddon, we're issuing the direct challenge to you today, as community activists and also representatives from the Jackson family, and also representatives from the civil rights community -- today, issue a written report detailing every step of the way what happened to Michael Jackson from the time he got off the plane until you back on the plane. And, when you issue that report, or if you do that report, it's got to be made public, so the community can respond.

Dr. Carr also wants to make a statement.

FIRPO CARR, JACKSON SPIRITUAL ADVISER: Yes, I'm Firpo Carr, and I have been described in various ways: as Michael Jackson's spiritual adviser, or leader, or whatever the case may be. I characterize myself simply as a friend of the family.

I am not with the Nation of Islam. I understand some outlets have stated that, some media outlets, that I with the Nation of Islam. I am not at all affiliated in any way with the Nation of Islam. I am a friend.

Now, having said that, I would like to emphasize the fact that according to the Constitution of the United States of America, Michael Jackson is an innocent man irrespective of how many charges he has leveled against him. Right now, he's innocent of all of them. So I'd like to predicate any further statements I'm going to make with that statement, that he is innocent.

Now, secondly, Michael Jackson has a wonderful love for law enforcement officers. In fact, he has been well documented as taking photographs with numerous police departments from around the world. He has no reason to lie on them now. He is a fan of the police department. He's a fan of law enforcement. And in fact, being raised as he was as a Jehovah's witnesses -- or at least, he subscribes to those beliefs -- he was taught some time ago in Romans Chapter 16 -- or rather, 13, to submit himself to the superior authorities. So that's why you find him being very cooperative with the Santa Barbara Police Department, or sheriff's department.

Now, one should ask himself, or herself, this question. --Why did the sheriff not play the tape when Michael said these cuffs are too tight. Interestingly enough, he did not play the tape of that. He just mentioned it. We find that curious, once again. And of course, as was mentioned, anything that was done out of the ordinary, or done illegally, allegedly, would have had to have happened off-camera. I noticed that the officers were very friendly to Mr. Jackson, would you like the air conditioning on? Mr. Jackson, would you like this or that? They knew they were being taped. Michael did not know he was being taped. So let's keep that point that in mind.

So anytime the tapes are running -- or rolling , of course you're going to -- everyone's going to be on his or her best behavior. It's what happens after that. So if what has happened with Michael -- alleged to have happened with Michael, did in fact happen, which I believe, then, of course, as has been stated, we want an independent investigation.

We also would like to say that Michael Jackson -- this whole case is not black and white, as his song says. It's multi-cultural. Many of you yourselves have grown up on Michael Jackson's music, you see. It's a thing -- it's a thing that all people of all races around the world -- his fan base is international. It's not just a black and white issue.

But as has been mentioned, absolutely, we know the history of brutality by some police departments here in the United States with regard to black men.

I'll take any questions now.

FELDMAN: Let me ask you about -- let's forget about everything except the very end of the process.

One of Mr. Jackson's main complaints is that an arm or shoulder was dislocated because of the way he says he was abused during the booking process by police. Forgetting the audiotapes, which may or may not have been played in their entirety, forgetting the videotape, which may or may not have been played in its entirety when he was off the plane, there is a videotape that I presume you all saw that was after the booking, when Michael Jackson was no longer in handcuffs. He was released from police custody. And he emerges from the police station, and can be clearly seen waving to his fans with both arms, his left arm and then his right arm. That would seem to suggest that he doesn't have, or didn't at the time, a dislocated arm.

CARR: OK. I'll say something, and then I'll allow Dr. Hitchinson to respond as well.

First of all, I would like to say that we also find it quite curious that the entire tape wasn't played. But let's talk about what was played, OK? All right.

I saw Michael Jackson not long after that, December 20, as you all know, at the ranch, where there was a support gathering that convened. When I saw Michael that evening, we shook hands, and embraced, after warm smiles. The first thing out of his mouth was, Boy, my back is killing me. You could see that he was in obvious pain. He was reported to have been scheduled to actually perform December 20. Well, guess what? He didn't perform. Why not? Because he was in pain.

Now, he said outside in that cold air, the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria air -- Santa Barbara area, just freezing. When he came in, guess what he did? As I mentioned, we shook hands. His hand felt like ice. He was freezing, and he was in pain. But for the sake of his fans, he endured the pain and discomfort. That is consistent with what he did when he left the Santa Barbara County Department Office, sheriff's office, or wherever he left.

So yes, it's -- I mean, it's Hollywood. He's an entertainer. Guess what he does? He smiles for the camera, irrespective of his discomfort or irrespective of his pain.

So -- and furthermore, I would love to meet any physician who can actually -- my goodness, be able to diagnose someone from television cameras. That would be remarkable to me. So, since I'm not a physician...

COLLINS: All right, we have been listening in to some of Michael Jackson's supporters. This, in particular is Firpo Carr, who describes himself as a friend of Michael Jackson.

Want to go back to Christopher Darden now, if we could.

There were three things that were said here, Christopher, that maybe you could help me with.

Najee Ali says that Michael was not taped the entire time, wants to know what was happening when the tapes were not rolling. Dr. Hutchinson, L.A. talk show host -- radio talk show host -- wants to know more from Tom Sneddon, who apparently brought these charges against Michael Jackson, the D.A. in Santa Barbara, asking for him to file a written report. And then Firpo Carr saying, you know, Why didn't they play the tape where Michael -- the audiotape where Michael was complaining about how tight the handcuffs were.

Those three questions, something to talk about, or not so much?

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly something to talk about, you know, when the investigation begins. Certainly, the original audiotape and videotapes in the possession of the Santa County -- Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department will be turned over to the California State Attorney General's Office. And so, what is on the tape and what is not on the tape, you know, there will be a chance to review it.

And state investigators will also have a chance to examine those tapes to determine whether or not they are full, complete, continuous and whether they've been altered in any way. And so I suspect that the entire conversations had between Michael Jackson and the deputies, beginning at the airport terminal and ending at the county jail, are going to exist and be available to all of us at some point.

COLLINS: And what about the D.A. then, Tom Sneddon? Is he obligated to file a written report?

DARDEN: I doubt that he is obligated to file a written report, quite frankly. And you know --and after all, what they want, what they've asked for is an independent investigation. Who would view any kind of investigation or report from Tom Sneddon, under these circumstances, as independent?


DARDEN: Certainly if Tom Sneddon has evidence or information that's relevant to this inquiry, he certainly ought to turn it over to the state attorney general. And I'm sure that he will when the time comes.

COLLINS: That's right, and that is something that the sheriff already asked for as well. So we will wait to see when that takes place.

Christopher Darden, thanks so much for sticking with us today. Appreciate your time a lot.


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