September 02, 2004 09:00 AM

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville refused on Wednesday to reduce Michael Jackson’s $3 million bail on child molestation charges, citing the star’s enormous wealth, his “ability to hire private jets” and the fact Jackson “has frequently traveled beyond the borders of the United States.”

In reaching his decision, the jurist said that a secret grand jury transcript “provides detailed evidence” that Jackson attempted to arrange for the family of his accuser to travel to Brazil (where Jackson would join them), and family statements indicated “this was being done against their will.”

“Assuming this evidence to be true, it demonstrates both the seriousness of the crime and the manner in which defendant handles situations perceived to be difficult,” the ruling said, according to Reuters.

The judge also noted that Jackson, whose trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31, once sought the return of his passport from authorities in order to travel to England.

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

In a related story, New York’s Daily News, citing a Dateline NBC revelation scheduled to air Friday, reports that in 1993 Jackson secretly paid $2 million in hush money to a second boy who accused the entertainer of fondling him.

A decade ago, Jackson, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing with children, reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to a boy who claimed he had been molested by the star. No charges were ever filed in that case.

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