Michael Jackson: not guilty on all charges -- Jury rules that prosecution failed to prove that Jackson molested a boy, plied him with alcohol, and conspired to hold his family hostage
Michael Jackson
Credit: Michael Jackson: Justin Sullivan,pool/AP

The fans outside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse erupted in cheers, hugged each other, and tossed confetti. After a trial lasting four months, including seven days of jury deliberations, the verdict was announced Monday afternoon in Michael Jackson’s trial. The 46-year-old singer was acquitted of all 10 felony charges, ending a legal drama that had dominated his life for 19 months.

The prosecution had spent 14 weeks trying to prove that Jackson had molested his accuser in 2003 (when the boy was 13), plied him with alcohol, and conspired to hold his family as virtual hostages at Neverland. The defense successfully cast doubt upon the credibility of the boy and his family; Jackson himself never testified on his own behalf, though videotaped statements were played during the trial. After both sides read their closing arguments a week and a half ago, the jury spent 32 hours and 40 minutes deliberating — about half an hour for each day of trial proceedings — before announcing Monday afternoon that they’d reached a verdict. Jackson was then given an hour to report to the courthouse to hear the verdict read. He was accompanied by his parents and several of his siblings.

Jackson was charged with one count of conspiracy (a charge including allegations of child abduction, false imprisonment, and extortion), four counts of commiting a lewd act on a minor child, one count of attempting to commit a lewd act on a minor child, and four counts of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in commission of a felony. The jury was instructed that it could also find Jackson guilty of a lesser offense (providing alcohol to a minor) if it found him not guilty of any of the four alcohol felony counts, but it acquitted him of these misdemeanor charges as well. If found guilty on all the original counts, Jackson could have faced more than 18 years in prison. Instead, he walked out of the courtroom a free man.