SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Michael Jackson, saying his upcoming child molestation trial is nothing more than a grudge match by a vindictive prosecutor, wants a judge to remove District Attorney Tom Sneddon and allow the state attorney general to intervene.
Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville was expected to rule on the motion Thursday.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said in court papers that Sneddon "is motivated by personal animosity" toward Jackson," creating a conflict of interest that would prevent the pop star from receiving a fair trial.
Mesereau criticized Sneddon for being "smug" and "jocular" when he announced Jackson's arrest. He said Sneddon "bantered with reporters and drew chuckles as he poked fun at Mr. Jackson and his music. He smiled and smirked throughout the conference."
Sneddon has denied any such bias and Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a motion supporting him. If the motion were granted, the state attorney general's office likely would take over the Jackson prosecution.
Jackson's lawyers have claimed that Sneddon had a vendetta against the singer after failing to get charges filed against him in a 1993 allegation of child molestation.
Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson said it is unlikely that Mesereau will prevail even if Sneddon's behavior was inappropriate.
"There's a strong reluctance in the court system to disqualify prosecutors because their job is to be passionate in bringing cases," she said. "We tend to praise the dogged prosecutor who pursues a defendant he believes has evaded or eluded justice for years."
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to a young boy. He is set to stand trial Jan. 31.