Trouble follows Sneddon all the way up to Canada Santa Maria Times Michael Jackson prosecutor Tom Sneddon is in trouble again. The Santa Barbara County district attorney growls that he was taken out of context – in Canada, of all places. But the aftermath is enough to ruin the Alaska vacation that Sneddon begged the judge to allow him to take during the last pre-trial hearing in the Jackson child molestation case. The judge agreed to his request, and Sneddon will miss this week’s hearing. Still, the district attorney’s temperament and credibility are once again at issue in the wake of remarks attributed to him last week during a panel of prosecutors in Vancouver. Robert Matas, a veteran reporter for the Globe and Mail newspaper, reported Wednesday that Sneddon said during the panel discussion that he had kept people from talking about the Jackson case by sending letters notifying them that they could be called as witnesses. That’s big news, considering the gag order that prevents anyone officially involved in the case from talking about the case. It’s also big news because such letters could easily be perceived as threats to free speech. Attorneys quoted in a follow-up Associated Press story expressed shock and said that if the Canadian press report is true, Sneddon should be disciplined for abusing his power. Sneddon also lashed out at the press during the discussion and advised members of the audience at the National District Attorneys Association conference (American prosecutors) to hire public relations firms if they are involved in high-profile cases, according to Matas’ article. In an AP follow-up to the AP follow-up, Sneddon denied talking about the Jackson case or targeting people to keep them from talking about it. Sneddon had called an AP reporter to claim that his remarks had been taken out of context. Since truth is elusive, about an hour before reading Sneddon’s denial on the AP wire, I called Susan Tellem, the Los Angeles public relations consultant who volunteered to field media calls for Sneddon ever since Sneddon bombed at his first Jackson-related press conference. “So what kind of flak are you getting on this Globe and Mail story?” I asked. “I’m not sure that I can answer that question,” Tellem said. “Have you talked to Sneddon about the story and about what’s been attributed to him?” “Briefly.” “What did he say?” “Mr. Sneddon was there for a conference and he was not talking about any case, he was talking about the process of working with media.” “So he’s denying that he spoke specifically about the Jackson case?” “It was about public relations, media relations, it wasn’t about the case.” “Is he disputing (the newspaper account)?” I asked. “I can’t answer that,” Tellem said. “Did he deny (saying what the article attributed to him)?” “I can’t address that, either,” she said. “There’s a gag order. Whatever Mr. Sneddon and I talk about is really between the two of us.” Tellem said she didn’t have a phone number for Sneddon or know how to reach him. “Do you believe Sneddon violated the gag order?” I asked. “Now, see, that’s something I can’t really address,” she said. “Did you talk to him about it in your conversation?” “The conversation is really not relevant to our conversation,” she said. “Did he call you or did you call him?” “That’s not relevant, either.” [b]I hope Canadian reporter Matas has better luck with Tellem than I did. When Matas and I spoke Friday, he said he was planning to call Tellem for a follow-up story. Matas also insisted that his Sneddon story is correct. “It’s definitely accurate,” said the 57-year-old reporter, who has worked in journalism for more than 30 years. “My notes are accurate. I was sitting there and taking notes as he spoke.” Matas said Sneddon was introduced as the prosecutor of the Jackson case and during his appearance related several anecdotes about the case. The reporter said he even spoke to Sneddon after the panel discussion ended and that Sneddon answered a follow-up question about the Jackson case. “I went up and asked him what he was most surprised about,” Matas said. “He said that he’s been accused of doing this in revenge.” “Prosecuting Jackson?” I asked. “Yeah,” Matas said. “So he actually answered your specific question about the Jackson case?” “Yeah,” Matas said.[/b] * Steve Corbett’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at 739-2215 or e-mailed at scorbett@pulitzer.net. Read Corbett online at www.santamariatimes.com. July 25, 2004 :nav SOURCE: http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/2004/07/25/sections/corbett/corbett.txt

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