Readers' 'verdict'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Michael Jackson's plea Wednesday that he is innocent of allegations of child sexual abuse spurred several hundred calls to The Sun from readers voicing their opinions about his guilt or innocence. The "verdict" tilted toward innocent, but the informal polling was close.

The Sun asked readers yesterday to dial one of two Sundial extensions to indicate whether they believed the performer is innocent or guilty. As of 5 p.m., 182 said guilty and 140 said innocent.

In addition, 2,051 readers had called Sundial to hear the tape recording of Mr. Jackson's statement, which he read in a live television address from his Neverland Ranch in California.

A 13-year-old boy has sued the 35-year-old entertainer in civil court in Los Angeles, charging the singer molested him last year. Law enforcement authorities are also investigating charges.

During his statement, the performer said he was humiliated earlier this week by having to submit to photographs of his body, aimed at checking claims by his accuser of identifying marks on his genitals.

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