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 Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at