By: George Garneau
UPI stringer fined for trespassing on Michael Jackson’s ranch sp.
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL reporter Craig Santy broke the story 90 minutes before pop star Michael Jackson took to the airwaves to announce that investigators had photographed him naked and to deny that he sexually molested a 14-year-old boy.
But the reporter was nabbed trespassing on Jackson’s ranch and jailed briefly Dec. 22. Through his attorney, Santy pleaded no contest last month to a reduced charge and was fined $200.
A news and photo stringer, Santy walked onto Jackson’s Neverland ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif., through an adjacent property and roamed freely amid the confusion of crews setting up for Jackson’s live television broadcast, his first public response to allegations the boy made in a civil suit.
Entering a bustling castlelike building, Santy peered over the shoulder of somebody typing into an electronic prompter. He memorized as much as possible of what was clearly Jackson’s speech and then walked outside to call in the story via cellular phone from behind a bush.
UPI moved the story 94 minutes before Jackson began his speech at noon. The story reported Jackson’s denial of the allegations and his humiliation at having his genitals photographed by sheriff’s deputies.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as he awaited the star’s arrival and a potential photo scoop, Santy was discovered. He eventually admitted that he was a reporter, and security guards turned him over to police. He was jailed before being released on a trespassing complaint.
UPI executive editor Steve Geimann commended Santy’s “imagination” and “resourcefulness” and promised to pay the fine.
“I did what I had to do to get the story,” Santy said.
In an interview, he defended his trespass, saying that while he wouldn’t make a habit of trespassing, “I felt the story was big enough to justify that.”
Jackson’s broadcast was the equivalent of a public news conference, Santy said, replete with dozens of TV crews and trucks, and was called by a public figure who had dodged the press for weeks.
“Jackson thought he could control the media. This is proof that the media will play along only so far, and then we are going to play it our way and be reporters,” Santy said.
?( Craig Santy) [Photo]