LOS ANGELES -- Michael Jackson, who ended his world tour last week and promptly dropped out of sight, is so addled by his addiction to pain killers that he is "barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level," one of his lawyers said yesterday.
But Mr. Jackson's attorneys insisted that the entertainer is not fleeing allegations that he sexually molested a 13-year-old boy. They addedthat Mr. Jackson expects to return to the United States after he completes a six- to eight-week drug-treatment program at an undisclosed facility outside the country.
"This is his home," one lawyer, Bertram Fields, said at a news conference here. "He's coming back. . . . He doesn't intend to desert the United States." Mr. Jackson owns a ranch in Southern California.
Mr. Fields said that Mr. Jackson was "barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level" and that the singer's life "was in danger had he continued to take these massive quantities of drugs."
Neither Mr. Fields nor Howard Weitzman, another Jackson attorney, would disclose the singer's whereabouts, saying they hoped to keep the location a secret so that he could enjoy some privacy while he recuperates from the addiction to pain killers. Mr. Fields added that the particular drug-rehabilitation program was picked because it would expedite his recovery, not because it puts him beyond the reach of U.S. authorities investigating allegations that he fondled, masturbated and performed oral sex on a boy over a period of months.
No charges have been brought against Mr. Jackson, and there is no warrant for his arrest.
Mr. Jackson, 35, was last seen publicly in Mexico and was scheduled to perform Sunday in Puerto Rico. Mr. Fields said the cancellation of Mr. Jackson's "Dangerous" tour cost the entertainer millions of dollars.
On Sunday, Pepsico ended its lucrative endorsement deal with Mr. Jackson.
After reports surfaced that Mr. Jackson had passed through London, tabloids there speculated that he might be checking into an exclusive drug-treatment facility in that city. Yesterday, a flurry of photographers frantically jostled for position when a limousine pulled up in front of that facility and a man resembling Mr. Jackson jumped out. The man was a Jackson look-alike sent by a local television station.
The situation was just as frantic in France. Early yesterday, a hotel manager at a chic ski resort in Avoriaz in the French Alps said that Mr. Jackson had stayed at his hotel but had left for an unknown destination.
At yesterday's news conference in Los Angeles, Mr. Fields would only say that Mr. Jackson was in a "professional-care facility."
Mr. Fields, who was with Mr. Jackson in Mexico City, said the entertainer's addiction was becoming increasingly obvious to those around him during the closing days of the tour. Mr. Fields added: "He was barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level. I'm not going to talk about his individual symptoms, but they were manifest."
Despite more than a half-hour of sometimes animated and even graphic questioning, neither Mr. Weitzman nor Mr. Fields offered many new details on the molestation investigation of Mr. Jackson. Instead, they reiterated several times that the singer denies the allegations against him, and they stressed that his tour was only ended reluctantly after some of Mr. Jackson's closest friends and associates, including Elizabeth Taylor, urged him to seek immediate treatment.