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Jackson inquiry goes on

DESPITE widespread scepticism, prosecutors in Los Angeles have vowed to soldier on with a criminal investigation into allegations that Michael Jackson sexually abused a 14-year-old boy during a relationship last year.

There is no doubt they were angered by the announcement that the singer, whose career has been left in tatters by the claims, had struck a deal with the youngster in a civil lawsuit which accused him of abuses including sexual battery, seduction and fraud. The deal, involving an undisclosed sum above dollars 10m (pounds 6.7m), means that, after six months' work involving two police forces, prosecutors may have lost their key witness - the child - in a possible criminal case. So far they have not filed any charges against Jackson, 35.

The Los Angeles District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, responded to the settlement with a statement that his criminal investigation 'will not be affected'. He was 'taking at his word' assurances from the child's lawyer that the youngster would be allowed to testify in a criminal case.

But the overwhelming view among legal experts yesterday was that Jackson no longer faced the risk of criminal prosecution and that the scandal is over. Few believe the boy, Jordan Chandler, is likely to appear in court. Even his lawyer, Larry Feldman, suggested as much by stressing how much the youngster wanted to put the ugly business behind him and get on with his life.

Theoretically prosecutors can subpoena a reluctant victim and force him to testify under the threat of committing contempt of court. But Californian law prevents a court from finding a sex-abuse victim in contempt for refusing to co-operate. Mr Garcetti's predecessor, Ira Reiner, said: 'Technically it (the deal) will have no effect on the criminal investigation. But I said technically. As a practical matter, the impact it will have is that it will bring it to an absolute halt.'