A California jury has cleared singer Michael Jackson of charges of child molestation, conspiracy, and providing alcohol to a child.
The verdict, read by a court clerk in Santa Maria, California, was a vindication for the pop star: "Count one, verdict. We the jury in the above-entitled case find the defendant not guilty of conspiracy as charged in count one of the indictment."
For all 10 counts of the indictment, the verdict was the same: not guilty.
The 46-year-old pop star had been charged with molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003. He was also charged with plying the boy with alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy and his family captive so they could rebut a British television
documentary, which the Jackson camp considered damaging. In the program, called "Living with Michael Jackson," the singer said he shared his bed with children but insisted that the practice was innocent.
The eight women and four men on the jury deliberated over seven days, following a three-and-a-half month trial.
The singer's lawyers said the family of the boy were lying and were "con artists." Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon said he would not quarrel with the verdict, but said he was justified in filing the charges: "We evaluate the case and try to make a conscientious decision as to whether or not we have enough evidence to go forward. And that's what we did in this case."
The trial has been closely watched by the world's news media, drawing reporters from more than 30 countries. Several thousand fans were outside the courthouse for the start of the trial, and hundreds were there as the verdict was announced. Afterwards, Judge Rodney Melville told the pop star "you are free to go."
In 1993, the singer faced other allegations of child molestation, which ended with a civil settlement paid to the family of his accuser.
Jackson has been a stage performer since childhood, when he was part of his family's singing group, the Jackson Five. He went on to become a superstar as a solo performer, and his 1982 recording "Thriller" became the best-selling album of all