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Michael Jackson cleared of child abuse



Michael Jackson has been dramatically cleared of child abuse and all of the other charges he was facing, including allegations he supplied alcohol to minors.The 46-year-old pop star had faced up to 20 years in prison and the end of his career. It took the jury of eight women and four men at the Santa Maria court, California, 32 hours to reach the not guilty verdicts, in the 16th week of the trial.Jackson has been cleared of sexually abusing the then 13-year-old cancer sufferer Gavin Arvizo, plying him with alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.The investigation into the pop star was triggered in Feb 2003 after a documentary by Martin Bashir, the British journalist, in which Jackson admitted sharing his bed with young boys.Charges were brought nine months later after police raided his sprawling Neverland estate. When a warrant was issued, Jackson turned himself in to Santa Barbara police.In court, Gavin Arvizo claimed the singer had molested him twice and gave graphic descriptions. His younger brother, Star, claimed to have witnessed the acts, but the credibility of both came under fierce attack. The Arvizo family claimed that when the Bashir documentary was screened in the US, they were whisked to Miami and told they were going to take part in a press conference to defend the star.As it transpired, there was no news conference. On the flight home, Gavin Arvizo claims Jackson gave him wine disguised in Coke cans. His mother, Janet Arvizo, testified that she saw the singer licking the top of her son’s head as he slept.Back at Neverland the family claim they were held captive and forced to take part in a rebuttal video in the middle of the night. The footage was played for jurors several times in court.The prosecution painted Jackson as a serial child molester and Neverland as a predator’s lair. They accused him of using his celebrity and Peter Pan image to entice children while showering their mothers with lavish gifts.The defence claimed Gavin Arvizo and his family were trying to pull “the biggest con of their careers”. Of five alleged previous victims, three, including Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin, took the stand to insist they had never been mistreated in any way.Jackson never testified in his own defence, but out-takes from Bashir’s documentary allowed jurors to listen to him speak in his own words.He made three hospital visits in recent days as jurors deliberated his fate, usually concerning treatment for back problems exacerbated by stress.