Jurors also acquitted Jackson of getting the boy drunk and of conspiring to imprison his accuser and the boy's family at the storybook estate, a total legal victory but one that may do little to improve his bizarre image.
The courtroom was deathly still as the verdicts were read. Jackson, as motionless as he had been throughout the trial, dabbed at his eyes with a tissue. One of his lawyers burst into tears as the first verdicts were announced, and Jackson later stood and was embraced by his chief lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon sat with his head in his hands.
As he left court, Jackson, looking drawn, held his hand to his heart and blew kisses to the screaming crowd. He was escorted by his aides into a black SUV, and made no immediate public statement.
Screams of joy rang out among a throng of fans outside the courthouse. Fans jumped up and down, hugged each other and threw confetti in celebration of the news. A woman in the crowd released one white dove as each acquittal was announced.
Some of the women in the jury also wept and passed around a box of tissues.
The verdict, reached after about 30 hours of deliberations over seven days, ended a star-studded, four-month trial that offered a global audience a lurid look into the weird world of Michael Jackson and presented jurors with vastly different portraits of him: a creepy pervert who preyed on little boys, or the victim of a frame-up by mother-and-son shakedown artists.
During the trial, defense lawyers described Jackson as a humanitarian who wanted to protect kids and give them the life he never had while growing up as a child star. The boy had asked to meet the star when he thought he was dying of cancer.
The defense said the family exploited the boy's illness to shake down celebrities, then concocted the charges after realizing Jackson was cutting them off from a jet-set lifestyle that included limo rides and stays at luxurious resorts.
Prosecutors who had been pursuing Jackson for years branded him a deviant who used his playland as the ultimate pervert's lair, plying boys with booze and porn before molesting them. Jackson had faced several years in prison if convicted of all counts.
The acquittals marked a stinging defeat for Sneddon, who displayed open hostility for Jackson and eagerly tried him, an opportunity denied him in 1993 when the star settled another threatened molestation case with a boy for $15 million to $20 million. Later, Jackson derided Sneddon in song as "a cold man."
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