October 05, 2004 08:15 AM

Lawyers for Michael Jackson sought Monday to remove Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon’s office from the entertainer’s child molestation case, though documents pertaining to the motion have been kept sealed.

Jackson’s lawyers have claimed that Sneddon had a personal vendetta against the star after failing to get charges filed against him in a 1993 allegation of child molestation.

The defense’s motion is being kept secret because it “includes reference to details in under-seal material including discovery materials, grand jury transcripts, investigative reports, exhibits and identities of witnesses,” according to papers filed by attorney Robert Sanger and reported by the Associated Press.

Santa Maria, Calif., Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has imposed a gag order on much of the proceedings in the case. Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to a child. He remains free on $3 million bail while he awaits his Jan. 31 trial.

Motions to remove a district attorney from a case often are based on claims of personal involvement and conflict of interest, criminal defense attorney Steve Cron tells AP.

“The odds of being successful are very slim,” Cron said. “It would be highly unusual for a judge to take the whole district attorney’s office off a case.”

Meanwhile, CBS News reports that Jackson’s nieces and nephews will appear on the network’s “The Early Show” this Thursday and Friday and speak in support of their embattled uncle.

Genevieve Jackson, 14, told CBS that she and her cousins are teased in school because of the allegations against their uncle. “They know inside that my uncle is innocent,” she says of her classmates. “So they just want to tease us to be cruel because they’re not happy with themselves.”

Besides, Genevieve, the Jackson family members who plan to speak up on TV are Jermajesty, 4; Jaafar, 8; and twins Randy and Donte, 12. The fathers of the children are Michael’s brothers Jermaine and Randy.

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