Pixel Tracker

Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 2:54 pm | Light Rain 55º


Michael Jackson Prosecutor Tom Sneddon Dies of Cancer at Age 73

Retired Santa Barbara County DA gained notoriety for charging pop star with child molestation, but served in post for 26 years

Tom Sneddon, the hard-nosed former Santa Barbara County district attorney best known for prosecuting pop star Michael Jackson on child-molestation charges, died Saturday in Santa Barbara.

Sneddon, 73, died at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with his family at his side, according to Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

“It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of our former district attorney ... who died today from complications following his cancer diagnosis,” Dudley said in an email to her staff.

Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. was elected to the district attorney’s post in 1983, and served until his retirement in 2010.

On two occasions — in 1993 and 2005 — Sneddon pursued child-molestation charges against Jackson, who lived at Neverland Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.

No charges were filed after the 1993 investigation, but the 2005 case went to trial, which drew international attention.

Jackson, who died in 2009, was accused of four counts of molesting a minor, four counts of intoxicating a minor in order to molest him, one count of attempted child molestation, and one count of conspiring to hold the boy and his family captive at his 2,800-acre ranch on Figueroa Mountain Road near Los Olivos.

Thomas W. Sneddon Jr.

Sneddon decided to lead the prosecution himself during a trial that drew hundreds of journalists from around the world.

On June 13, 2005, a Superior Court jury found Jackson not guilty on all charges.

Earlier, Jackson took aim at Sneddon in a track on his 1995 double album, HIStory Past, Present and Future, Book 1.

Jackson can be heard singing, “Tom Sneddon is a cold man.”

Fans of Jackson accused Sneddon of having a vendetta against him, an accusation he vehemently denied.

Sneddon, an Army veteran, was raised in California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Notre Dame, and received his law degree from UCLA.

He joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1969, rising through the ranks before being elected to the department’s top spot in 1983.

Sneddon and his wife, Pamela, had nine children.

Dudley told Noozhawk on Saturday night that Sneddon was “a pioneer in many areas of prosecution, especially crimes against vulnerable victims,” noting that he founded the county’s Sexual Assault Response Team.

“He was also a mentor to most of the deputy district attorneys in our county, as well as many DAs throughout our country,” Dudley said.

Funeral arrangements for Sneddon were pending Saturday night. 

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >