Saturday, November 22
'Mad Dog' believes he finally has his quarry on the run
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, Saturday November 22, 2003
Michael Jackson has met his nemesis, and it's not the 13-year-old boy who claims he molested him.
The so-called King of Pop is being pursued by Tom Sneddon, the Santa Barbara district attorney whose colleagues call him Mad Dog.
The feud has been long-running and bitter, and will ultimately destroy one of their careers.
Sneddon has denied there is anything personal in the prosecution of Jackson. But he could barely disguise his glee at the press conference to announce the arrest warrant for the singer this week.
Sneddon has been criticised by legal commentators for the jokey, grandstanding way in which he conducted the event, telling journalists to "stay long and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our office".
The two men could hardly be more different. Sneddon is a pugnacious 61-year-old, a former college boxer who earned his Mad Dog nickname because of his aggressive courtroom manner.
Born into a family who had a bakery in the Compton area of Los Angeles, he became the first member of the family to attend college, going to Notre Dame, where he studied history, and then UCLA, where he studied law.
A Vietnam veteran, he has risen to become what one local paper calls "arguably the most powerful man in Santa Barbara county".
In 1993, he was the DA given the job of investigating claims made by another 13-year-old boy against Jackson. Sneddon clearly believed that he had enough to bring Jackson to trial and was angered when the singer settled with the boy and his parents for sums estimated at between $10m and $25m (£5.9 to £14.7 m).
The fact that Jackson escaped prosecution rankles. The refusal to testify by the boy in that case led to a change in California state law, which now requires alleged victims to give evidence. This time, said Sneddon, it is different because the alleged victim is cooperative and does not have a civil action running in tandem.
At the time, Sneddon had Jackson in for questioning and had a strip-search done to see if the boy's description of him was accurate. The humiliation infuriated Jackson so much that he wrote a thinly-disguised song about Sneddon, called DS. Although the lyrics suggest it is about a fictional character called Dom Sheldon, it was recognised to have been about Sneddon.
In the song, Jackson suggests that "They wanna get my ass/ Dead or alive/ You know he really tried to take me/ Down by surprise". The chorus goes on to say "Dom Sheldon is a cold man" and "I bet he never had a social life anyway ... I bet his mother never taught him right anyway."
The song also suggests "I bet he missioned with the CIA" and links Sneddon, without any evidence, to the Ku Klux Klan. It also says "he want your vote". District attorneys are often accused of taking on high-profile cases as a way of enhancing their chances of re-election. Since his first election in 1982, Sneddon has been re-elected five times in Santa Barbara, one of the wealthiest areas in the country and a popular place for actors to live.
Sneddon is aware that he is the subject of the song, although he claims never to have heard it. "I have not, shall we say, done him the honour of listening to it, but I've been told that it ends with the sound of a gunshot," he told the Prosecutor, the magazine of the National District Attorneys' Association.
He is married and is the father of nine children, including two sets of twins. He claims to have a social life, playing golf and softball locally, and having coached a high school football team. [...more]