Tom Sneddon. Photo via CNN
Tom Sneddon. Photo via CNN

Tom Sneddon, a retired Santa Barbara County district attorney whose best-known prosecution ended in the acquittal of pop star Michael Jackson on child molestation charges, died in a Santa Barbara hospital over the weekend. He was 73.

Sneddon died of complications from cancer, District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in an email to her staff, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Dudley, who was elected in 2010 and had worked under Sneddon for 16 years, said that “his expectations were always clear: Be the most prepared person in the courtroom, use all of your intellect, work hard, step right up to the line but never over it,” The Times reported. But Sneddon’s most vocal critics contended his pursuit of Jackson had become a vendetta.

In the early 1990s, Sneddon tried to build a case against Jackson after the family of a 13-year-old boy sued the singer over alleged molestations, but when the family settled with Jackson for more than $20 million, Sneddon’s case, and a parallel investigation in Los Angeles, fell apart.

In 2003, Sneddon led a new Jackson investigation. He directed a 14-hour search of Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch near Los Olivos, and, later, held a news conference announcing a warrant for Jackson’s arrest.

In a move that sitting district attorneys make only rarely, he chose to personally participate in the highly publicized trial, The Times reported. After a Santa Maria jury acquitted Jackson on all counts, he expressed disappointment.

Thomas William Sneddon Jr. was born in Los Angeles in May 1941 and raised in Lynwood. He graduated in 1963 from the University of Notre Dame, where he boxed, and attended law school at UCLA, where he met his wife, Pamela Shires Sneddon, according to The Times.

In 1969, he joined the district attorney’s office in Santa Barbara and was first elected to the office’s top job in 1982. He retired in 2006.

In addition to his wife, Sneddon’s survivors include nine children and 14 grandchildren, The Times reported.

—City News Service

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