JANUARY 6--While jury selection is scheduled to begin later this month, specific details of the criminal molestation case against Michael Jackson have been shrouded through a judicial gag order, heavily redacted legal filings, sealed court proceedings, and other secrecy measures. But now, for the first time, The Smoking Gun has compiled an authoritative, behind-the-scenes account of the prosecution's case against the King of Pop, who was indicted last April on ten felony counts for the alleged sexual abuse of a Los Angeles boy in early 2003. This story (and the ones linked at right) are based on a review of confidential law enforcement and government reports, grand jury testimony, and sealed court records provided to TSG by sources.
If the harrowing and deeply disturbing allegations in these documents are true, Jackson is a textbook pedophile, a 46-year-old predator who plied children with wine, vodka, tequila, Jim Beam whiskey, and Bacardi rum. A man who gave boys nicknames like Doo Doo Head and Blowhole and then quizzed them about whether they masturbated and if "white stuff" came out. A man who conducted drinking games with minors and surfed porn with them on a laptop in his Neverland Ranch bedroom, noting that if anyone asked what they were looking at, the kids should just say they were watching "The Simpsons." A man who frequently talked sex with his little companions and explained that "boys have to masturbate or they go crazy." A man who told one pajama-clad boy that he wanted to show him how to "jack off." When the tipsy child declined the demonstration, Jackson announced, "I'll do it for you," and buried his hand in the boy's Hanes briefs, size small. And a man who emphasized to his little friends that these activities were "their little secret" and should not be disclosed to anyone, even if a gun was at their head.
The heart of the Jackson prosecution rests largely on accounts provided to investigators by the teenage boy, his younger brother, older sister, and the children's mother (at the time of the alleged molestation, the victim, who had been diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2000, was 13, his brother was 12, and their sister was 16). In the documents reviewed by TSG, the brothers appear a potent one-two punch of first-hand accounts of alleged Jackson misdeeds. They corroborated many of each other's lurid stories, providing the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department and District Attorney Thomas Sneddon with a stereophonic sleaze compendium.
While their sister did not witness any sexual abuse--nor was she ever invited to stay in Jackson's bedroom--she told investigators that the entertainer provided her and her brothers with wine at Neverland and also said that her siblings each confided in her about Jackson's explicit sex talk. The older boy, she said, told her that Jackson gave them tequila and Skyy vodka and asked her not to tell their parents about his drinking (Jackson, the boys reported, often concealed the pair's wine (a/k/a "Jesus Juice") in cans of Diet Coke and Sprite). In addition, she told detectives that the older boy said Jackson would touch his behind outside his clothes, something that made her brother feel uncomfortable.
According to the documents, the children's mother is a critical witness to the alleged conspiracy to imprison her family at Neverland in the wake of the February 2003 broadcast of "Living with Michael Jackson," the devastating Martin Bashir documentary. It was during that program that Jackson admitted--and strongly defended--sleeping with boys. At one point in the documentary--which first aired in England on February 3 and then in the U.S. three days later--the performer is seen with the 13-year-old accuser, who rests his head on Jackson's shoulder and talks glowingly about the singer. The woman contends that Jackson and several business associates began illegally scheming to keep her family caged up at Neverland the day after the Bashir documentary aired on Great Britain's ITV.
Though Jackson is the only person charged in connection with this purported plot, five of his business associates were identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the performer's heavily redacted April 2004 indictment. Aides Frank Tyson and Vincent Amen, business managers Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer, and video producer Marc Schaffel are accused of helping Jackson orchestrate the conspiracy, which included plans to ship the family off for safekeeping in Brazil. Family members were repeatedly told by the Jackson camp that the foreign move was necessary because numerous death threats had been directed at the family, according to investigative records.
In a bid to buttress the conspiracy claim, prosecutors elicited grand jury testimony from several Jackson associates, most of whom dealt with the family post-Bashir. Those witnesses included Neverland employees like security chief Jesus Salas, guards Christopher Carter and Brian Barron, public relations aide Ann Gabriel, and Schaffel cohort Christian Robinson, who testified with limited "use immunity" about the filming of the family's so-called rebuttal statement, a videotape they later told detectives they were strong-armed into making.
Also, as they did during last year's grand jury presentment, prosecutors will display items seized from Jackson's ranch during a November 2003 court-authorized raid. Agents went in searching for pornography, underwear, and any material--photos, correspondence, etc.--further linking Jackson to the alleged victim. They left with more than they could have expected, netting items corroborative of the accounts provided to them by the two boys.
The children's 36-year-old mother is, of course, a principal target of the Jackson defense team, which views her as a scheming grifter who has fabricated the abuse accounts, programmed these tawdry tales of masturbation and soiled underwear into her children, and, despite assertions that she is not chasing money, is expecting some kind of future financial windfall. The confidential law enforcement records also document how the family's story changed shortly after the mother hired legal counsel in mid-2003. Until that point, the family had vehemently denied any improprieties by Jackson in interviews with Los Angeles child welfare officials and Santa Barbara Sheriff's deputies. And they sang Jackson's praises in the rebuttal videotape shot by Schaffel's film crew two weeks after the Bashir documentary aired on ABC's "20/20." In addition, Jackson's lawyers have pointed out that, according to Sneddon, the alleged conspiracy to silence the family began more than two weeks before the first molestation incident is alleged to have occurred. The cover-up, Team Jackson argues, began before any crimes occurred.
In mid-November 2003, investigators drafted a lengthy and remarkably thorough affidavit in support of their court request to raid Neverland, the Beverly Hills office of Bradley Miller, a private investigator working for Jackson attorney Mark Geragos, and the L.A. home where Jackson's accusers filmed their rebuttal videotape. Noting that Jackson's "three-year long interest" in the adolescent victim was "grossly abnormal" and, in itself, corroborative of the family's story, Detective Paul Zelis concluded that criminal probers had established "reasonable probable cause" to "believe Michael Joe Jackson is a pedophile and one with the means to inhibit disclosure of his offenses by bribery and intimidation."
What follows is an inside account of how investigators came to that conclusion.
* * *
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2000, the gravely ill boy, then only ten, told his family that he would like to meet one of his favorite entertainers, specifically naming Michael Jackson and comedians Adam Sandler, Chris Tucker, and Jim Carrey.
That kind of Make-a-Wish request was something Jackson had often fulfilled and he soon contacted the child by phone in a Los Angeles hospital. In short order, the pair--a world-famous entertainer and a grade schooler from East L.A. --became phone pals while the child remained hospitalized. Upon the boy's discharge, Jackson invited him and his family to visit Neverland in August 2000. Jackson sent a car to pick up the family in L.A. and later presented the boy with an Apple laptop. During that initial visit, the mother told detectives, she met Tyson, who was introduced as a longtime friend of Jackson's and who told her he handled "damage control" for the entertainer. The 24-year-old Tyson, whose actual surname is Cascio, is a scrawny New Jersey native who, the alleged victim and his family claimed, repeatedly threatened their lives during their 2003 imprisonment at Neverland. The children returned to Neverland later that year, accompanied only by their father David, according to police interviews. Around this time, Jackson gave the family a white Ford Bronco, which they used to transport the sick child to medical appointments.
Asked by investigators what transpired during those first two Neverland trips, the brothers recounted two unsettling incidents, though neither could pinpoint during which visit they occurred.
The younger boy, 9 at the time, said that while he and his brother were riding in a golf cart with Jackson, the star asked them, "What's your favorite curse word?" The child also recalled being in Jackson's bedroom along with his brother, Tyson, Jackson, and the performer's son, Prince Michael, who was 3 at the time. Tyson, the younger boy told investigators, connected his brother's laptop to the Internet, "and Michael started searching for pornographic web sites," according to the Zelis search warrant affidavit. The child said Jackson typed in either www.pussy.com or www.teenpussy.com and he and his brother saw photos of "naked ladies." The boy "described seeing a female holding her shirt up and exposing her breasts and Michael commented, 'Got Milk?'" The boy said that Jackson's son was sleeping nearby and the entertainer "told Prince he was 'missing out.'" The older brother gave investigators a similar account of the web surfing, adding that Jackson told him not to tell his parents what they were doing. When the younger brother told his sister about the naked photos, the older boy "told her not to say anything because Michael would get mad. [He] told her everything is secret and that they can't say anything," according to Zelis.
The girl told detectives that she was mostly excluded from joining her brothers when they were with Jackson at Neverland, and that days would go by without her seeing them. She was a decidedly third wheel and did not rate a Jackson nickname nor a sleepover invitation. She bunked with her parents in a separate guest house while her brothers stayed in Jackson's bedroom during those initial visits (the boys slept on the bed while Jackson and Tyson crashed on the floor in sleeping bags). In fact, during the early Neverland trips, the younger brother also apparently did not figure in Jackson's plans. In one interview, the older child said Jackson wanted only him to stay in the bedroom, but the boy insisted that his sibling be allowed to stay as well.
Girls as second-class citizens is a well-established fact at Neverland. In fact, when agents raided the Los Olivos, California ranch in November 2003, they found a handwritten letter from a girl named Renia in a black leather case in Jackson's bedroom. A search warrant return reviewed by TSG notes that the missive "discusses boys sleeping with subject. She was not allowed into 'Apple Head Club' because she was a girl." That description of evidence item #361 was one of more than 40 entries wholly or partially redacted from a Neverland search warrant inventory released last year.
[Click here to learn what else--porn, videos, erotic books--was found in Jackson's bedroom and bathroom]
The older brother saw Jackson once more in 2000, around Christmas, when he spent time with the performer and his two children at the Hilton hotel near Universal Studios in Hollywood. Jackson and the kids watched a movie while lying in bed and "talked, hung out, and wrestled around," the boy told detectives. The child's mother said Jackson gave the boy a Nintendo or PlayStation unit and video games, but did not give his siblings any presents.
While Jackson and the boy spoke for hours at a time on the phone, there were no Neverland visits in 2001 because the child was undergoing progressive chemotherapy for cancer and was too sick to travel. The disease, now reportedly in remission, cost the boy a kidney and his spleen.
The boy's mother said that, during 2001, she complained to Jackson about the length of his telephone chats with her son--and that Jackson was upset with her criticism. Asked by investigators about her recollections of those calls, she said that her son mentioned things that struck her as "peculiar." For instance, Jackson's favorite color was the same as her son's favorite color. And "whatever [her son] liked, Michael liked as well." Her after-the-fact inference was clear: the adult Jackson was carefully cultivating her son. The woman added that soon after Jackson learned that the boy was sharing details of their phone calls with her, the boy began clamming up about the chats. Investigators contend that these "endless phone conversations" and other "extravagant attention" paid to the boy by Jackson mirrors the story told to authorities ten years ago by Jordan Chandler, another 13-year-old boy who once "caught the eye of Michael Jackson." The criminal investigation of Chandler's abuse allegations was stymied when the boy's family entered into a $20 million civil settlement with the pop star and declined to further pursue criminal charges against Jackson. Sneddon recently announced that he will seek to introduce evidence gathered from the Chandler investigation and a second early-90s probe to establish that Jackson engaged in prior acts of molestation. The original probe still casts such a shadow over Jackson that when Schaffel's Calabasas home was raided last January, deputies actually discovered a file folder titled "Chandler Statement." Inside was a printout from TSG of a sworn declaration by the boy, which we first posted in February 2003.
[Click here for new revelations about the Chandler case, including Jackson's telltale body "splotches" and how Sneddon & Co.'s candid camera reportedly corroborated the teenager's tale.]
* * *
While they often provided investigators with very specific accounts of Jackson's wrongdoing, the boy and his family are uniformly hazy when it comes to exact dates and times of these alleged transgressions, which could tend to undermine aspects of their expected future testimony. The accusers, who were interviewed separately by Santa Barbara Sheriff's detectives, said that they did not compare notes about their individual accounts. However, both boys and the children's mother explained away their temporal deficiencies almost identically: the trio claimed that since there were no clocks or calendars at Neverland, they simply lost track of dates. The younger boy claimed that Jackson kept him and his brother away from "clocks and dates." The older brother told investigators that he was "not allowed" to keep track of dates and times while at the entertainer's ranch.
Forgetting for a moment that no family member apparently owned a wristwatch, their description of Neverland sounds more like a hermetically sealed Vegas casino floor. It is even stranger considering that a centerpiece of Jackson's estate is a gigantic outdoor clock built into a berm facing Neverland's main house, where the boys stayed. On the working clock's face, numbers are formed by flowers and shrubs and the word "Neverland" is spelled out in neat yellow shrubbery. In fact, the clock is so large that the time is easily discernible in aerial photographs of Jackson's residence. In addition, Jackson actually gave the older boy a watch in early-February 2003, right before the family's supposed imprisonment began. Jackson provided the Rado timepiece, the boy claimed, to keep him from telling anyone that he had been given white wine (concealed in a Diet Coke can) by the entertainer. While actually valued at a fraction of the $75,000 Jackson claimed it was worth, the watch likely did tell time (and probably even had one of those revolutionary new date features).
Chipping away at contradictions, memory lapses, and inconsistencies in the accounts of family members--especially the brothers--will be a crucial part of the Jackson defense. For instance, the boys both said that they saw Jackson nude on one occasion while watching television in the star's Neverland bedroom. But while the older child told a psychologist that Jackson "just stood there naked for a moment," his sibling provided detectives with a far more damaging account. The younger brother said that when they saw Jackson naked (except for a pair of socks), they quickly looked away. The boy then said Jackson sat down with them and said, "It's okay, it's okay. You guys should do the same." He then claimed that Jackson's penis was erect during the incident, but told investigators that he could not provide a description because he "only glanced at it." But, motioning with his hands, the child was able to offer an approximation of its length.
The younger boy also claimed that, during an early visit to Neverland, he was groped by Jackson while the two were in a golf cart. The child, who said he was driving at the time, told investigators that Jackson reached over with his left hand and touched his "testicles and penis" over his clothes. According to the boy, he continued driving and said nothing to Jackson. In a July 2003 interview with detectives, the child also claimed that, on one occasion, Jackson wanted to give him and his brother sleeping pills, directing the younger boy to get the drugs from a Neverland chef. However, according to an investigative report, "somehow the subject changed and the pills were forgotten." The child, though, kept the "sleeping pill" and later turned it over to his family's civil attorney. A subsequent government analysis of the pill showed it to be an over-the-counter cold capsule.
The younger boy's accounts of his family's experiences with Jackson and the star's aides, are notable for their detail and the child's uncanny ability to directly quote Jackson, as he did when describing how, during a flight from Miami, the singer made crank calls from the plane, asking those who answered the phone, "Does your pussy stink?" His exact recollection of which porno urls were surfed from Jackson's bedroom--not to mention the star's "Got Milk?" quip--is striking (and probably seen as incredible by defense lawyers).
While some of the youngster's tales can't be corroborated, the child provided investigators with a spot-on description of Jackson's two-level bedroom, recalled the four-digit code for the suite's combination lock, and pinpointed for detectives the location of a black suitcase that, he said, held porno magazines like Playboy and Hustler. When Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department deputies raided Neverland in November 2003, they found a black Samsonite briefcase containing several porno magazines in a closet directly below Jackson's bedroom.
Of course, the child's accounts (and those of his older brother) have been deemed credible enough by Superior Court judges who have signed off on search warrants and Jackson's arrest warrant, which relied largely on the pair's statements to law enforcement officers. Additionally, a Santa Barbara county grand jury indicted the singer on serious felony charges, most of which hinge entirely on the pair's sworn testimony.
The nature of those charges--and the timeframe in which they are alleged to have occurred--has shifted since prosecutors first filed charges against Jackson. A December 2003 criminal complaint accused the performer of committing seven separate lewd acts upon the body of the older boy. Jackson was also hit with separate felonies for allegedly providing the child with booze on two occasions. Those counts tracked with charges the brothers made in police interviews in July and August 2003 (the boys met with detectives at an L.A. hotel and at the headquarters of CALM, a Santa Barbara child abuse prevention group).
During those sessions, the older boy answered general questions about school and his favorite sports. He provided a chronological account of his relationship with Jackson, which mirrored his brother's claims of viewing pornography and drinking wine at Neverland. When Sgt. Steve Robel asked him if Jackson had ever touched him inappropriately, the child' s demeanor changed, he "sighed, became quiet, lowered his head, and took some time to answer," according to one sealed affidavit. The boy then described what he said was his first sexual encounter with Jackson in the celebrity's bedroom.
After drinking alcohol that left him feeling "kinda drunk," the child said Jackson told him that boys have to masturbate or they go crazy, and related a story about a boy who had sex with a dog. Jackson, he said, then told him he wanted to show him how to masturbate. "He told Michael, 'No,' but Michael said, 'I'll do it for you' and 'I'll show you,'" according to the affidavit, which continued, "Michael then grabbed him in his private area. [The boy] said that both he and Michael were wearing pajamas and lying on Michael's bed. Michael placed his hand down the front of [the boy's] pajamas and started masturbating him. [The boy] said he told Michael he didn't want to do it, but Michael kept masturbating him. Michael told him, 'It's okay' and 'It's natural.' Michael did not stop masturbating him for a long time. [The boy] added that Michael asked him, 'If you masturbate, does white stuff come out?' [The boy] could not recall if he ejaculated." The child said the molestation occurred during his final stay at Neverland, between mid-February and early-March 2003, when, following the broadcast of the Bashir documentary, his family members were supposedly being held against their will at the California ranch.
The boy told investigators that Jackson similarly masturbated him on succeeding nights when his younger brother was not also sleeping in Jackson's bedroom. The boy claimed that after he ejaculated in his pants, Jackson directed him to place his soiled underwear into Jackson's hamper before showering. The Hanes garments were not returned, he reported, and Jackson provided him with new underwear. When sheriff's deputies raided Neverland in November 2003, a search warrant authorized them to seize underwear belonging to the alleged victim, "described as white cotton 'Hanes' brand briefs, size 'small.'" A nine-page inventory of items seized from Jackson's home--which TSG has reviewed--reveals that agents confiscated white boys Hanes underwear from the bathroom of Paris Jackson, the entertainer's six-year-old daughter.
According to the teenager, he did not masturbate Jackson, nor did her see the entertainer's penis during these alleged Neverland encounters.
During the course of an August 2003 police interview, the boy alternately said that Jackson molested him "less than five times," "a total of five times," and "about seven times," according to a law enforcement account of the Q&A. Based on the December 2003 criminal complaint, it appears prosecutors settled on five as the number of times Jackson masturbated the child. However, when Jackson's indictment was unsealed four months later, the number of molestations claimed by the child had been reduced to two. The prosecution's tailoring of its case with regard to these alleged masturbations has not been addressed in court filings made public, though it will surely be raised at trial by Jackson's defense team.
What has not changed between the criminal complaint and the indictment is the number of separate incidents of molestations that the younger boy said he witnessed in Jackson's bedroom. In police interviews and grand jury testimony, the younger boy told of two instances in which his brother was fondled by Jackson while the older child was either asleep or drunkenly passed out on the entertainer's bed. According to the boy, he was walking up a staircase leading to Jackson's bedroom when he saw the singer and his pajama-clad brother lying on the bed on top of the sheets. Jackson, he said, was wearing a t-shirt, underwear, and socks, and had his left hand under the front of his bother's pajama pants. Jackson, the boy said, was "jacking off" under his underwear with his right hand. The child said he then left the room to sleep in Neverland's guest quarters. On a second occasion, the child testified, he was again walking up the staircase when he spotted Jackson with his hand in the older boy's pajama pants. This time, however, Jackson had his "hard" penis out of his underwear and was "stroking it," according to the younger sibling's account. The child said that he again left the bedroom and went to a guest suite. He told investigators that his stairway presence went undetected by Jackson during the two incidents.
On another occasion, the younger brother said he was half-asleep in a chair next to Jackson's bed--where his brother was asleep on his side--when the entertainer came into the room and got into bed with the older boy. According to the younger child's account, he watched Jackson "scoot up" to his brother and begin "moving his hips back to front" against the backside of the sleeping youngster, who was in pajamas. Jackson, the boy said, was wearing underwear. The younger boy, who told investigators he believed Jackson thought he was asleep, said he then pretended to wake and "Michael quickly moved away from [his brother] and pretended to be asleep," according to an investigative report.
Last month, when Neverland was searched for a second time, investigators took measurements of Jackson's bedroom and are expected to use those recorded specs (and perhaps even a model of the chamber) to help establish for jurors that a clear sightline existed between the bed and the younger boy's stairway observation post.
The Jackson indictment includes a single felony count alleging that the star attempted to have the teenage victim perform a lewd act upon the performer's body. That charge apparently stems from the child's statement that Jackson once made him touch the star's "private part" over his clothes. However, as with many of the family's allegations, there could be room for defense counsel to question this claim. During the same August 2003 police interview in which he mentioned touching Jackson, the boy contradicted himself. According to an investigative report, "[The boy] believes Michael asked him something about touching Michael, but he told Michael he didn't want to." When asked about his prior statement that Jackson made him touch him, the young accuser said he "couldn't remember that." Those conflicting accounts, though, were apparently reconciled enough for grand jurors, who voted to indict Jackson on the attempted charge.
* * *
The path to prosecution began in September 2002, when Bashir filmed Jackson holding hands and snuggling at Neverland with the alleged victim. According to the boy's mother, she got a message that month from Jackson's longtime personal assistant, Evelyn Tavasci, who said that the entertainer wanted to talk with her son. Shortly thereafter, Jackson spoke by telephone with the boy and invited him and his siblings to the ranch, the mother told investigators. In a July 2003 interview, the boy told detectives that Jackson told him to say on camera how he had been helped by the star. The child added, according to a police report, "Michael told him he would put him in the movies and that this was [the boy]'s audition."
As his two siblings looked on, the boy lavishly praised Jackson for Bashir's camera. With his head sometimes resting on Jackson's shoulder, the youngster called his adult friend a "child at heart," one who helped him beat cancer. The child told Bashir how Jackson once rejected the boy's suggestion that he sleep on the floor of Jackson's bedroom, saying, "Look, if you love me, you'll sleep in the bed." At one point, Jackson referred to his telephone chats with the child: "Sometimes I call your house so late. But you tell me to call, you tell me to call late." The child told Bashir that his mother was "very, very, very happy" that he spent time Neverland, though he added,"I wasn't really with my parents. I was mainly with Michael." Jackson would also famously tell Bashir, "Why can't you share you bed? That's the most loving thing to do is share your bed with someone."
The repercussions of those Jackson admissions to Bashir would not be felt for five months, but they would prove cataclysmic.
Almost instantly, upon the February 3, 2003 ITV broadcast of "Living with Michael Jackson," there was a public outcry over the performer's acknowledgment that he was still sharing his bed with boys to whom he was not related. By the time the documentary aired in the U.S. on February 6, hundreds of television and print stories about Jackson's cavorting with minor boys were published, with many of the reports referring to the singer's previous $20 million settlement with a Los Angeles boy who accused him of sexual abuse (the 13 year-old's allegations were widely reported after TSG, on February 6, posted his graphic sworn legal declaration).
According to prosecutors, at the time of the Bashir broadcast--nearly three years after Jackson's first contact with the young cancer patient--the performer had never molested the boy or provided him or his brother with alcohol. It was only after the documentary aired and Jackson's relationship with the boy went public, D.A. Sneddon contends, that the entertainer began committing sex crimes against the child--and illegally started scheming with aides to imprison and intimidate the boy and his family.
According to prosecutors, Jackson became a participant in that alleged conspiracy a day or two after the Bashir program first aired, when he called the boy's mother and claimed that death threats were being directed at her son as a result of the ITV broadcast. Concerned for her family's safety, she told detectives of agreeing to Jackson's request to fly the family to Miami for a press conference to "clear things up" with regard to the creepy impressions left by the Bashir production. The next day, the woman and her three children flew to Florida on Chris Tucker's jet (the comedian was along for the flight) and checked into the luxurious Turnberry Isle Resort, where they stayed in a suite almost directly below Jackson's lodgings.
The press conference never materialized. And when the Bashir documentary aired on ABC, her family was kept in Jackson's suite and not allowed to watch it, according to a police interview of the woman.
It was during the family's 2-1/2 days in Miami that Jackson first provided the older boy with wine, according to investigative reports. The child told detectives that Jackson emptied a Diet Coke can, filled it with red wine, and told the boy to "just drink it," claiming the alcohol would relax him. The child reported consuming the wine, which he said gave him a headache. The boy's brother told probers that his sibling was acting strange in Miami, and confided that Jackson provided him with wine. In addition, the youngster told detectives that his brother would often meet with the recording star in the suite's bathroom. When he asked what they were doing in there, the older brother replied that the pair was "just talking."
The day after the February 6 U.S. broadcast, the family flew back to Neverland on Jackson's plane along with the singer, his two young children, a pair of nannies, and his personal physician, Dr. Alimorad Farshchian. During the flight, Jackson gave the younger brother a can of Diet Coke containing red wine, which the boy told investigators "tasted like rubbing alcohol." The child remarked that Jackson was "acting funny" on the flight, "poking others in the butt with his foot" and passing the time by placing obscene crank calls.
The younger boy also said that when his brother fell asleep with his head on Jackson's chest, he saw the performer licking the top of his sibling's head. In an interview with investigators, the boy "physically showed us Michael's action by sticking his tongue out and moving his head, much like a cat would do when grooming," according to one investigative affidavit. The children's mother said that she, too, saw the alleged licking. At one point she got up to use the restroom and noticed that everyone else onboard was asleep. That's when she spotted Jackson tonguing her child. As she recounted this episode during her first interview with detectives--on July 6, 2003 at Santa Barbara sheriff's headquarters--the woman became "emotionally upset," explaining that she "thought at the moment that she was seeing things," according to a police account of her questioning. However, she confirmed the licking episode was no mirage when later comparing notes with her younger son.
Asked if she saw anything else on the plane from Miami, the woman "mentioned seeing soda pop drinks," according to investigators. This seems like a particularly strange observation, considering that, even on a private jet, a Diet Coke can is as remarkable as a bag of peanuts or bottled water. For prosecutors, however, her account is just another fortuitous example of one family member neatly corroborating another's story.
The woman, who did nothing while her son was supposedly being licked, was equally hesitant to act when--after the family "escaped" from Neverland in mid-March--her boys told her about some of Jackson's more objectionable behavior (though not the alleged molestation). She told investigators that her initial response was to interrupt them and advise the children to "forgive and forget." She thought she was doing the right thing, the woman told detectives, adding that she subsequently learned that "this was wrong of her to do." A law enforcement affidavit reviewed by TSG does not disclose who or what triggered her tardy parental epiphany. Upon first learning of Jackson's questionable--and quite likely criminal--behavior, the woman wanted her boys to "make the disclosures to a priest or someone else," reported investigators.
* * *
In his November 2003 Neverland search warrant application, Detective Paul Zelis stated that the family was held "virtual prisoners" upon their return with Jackson from Miami. Apart from the lush grounds, maid service, chef-prepared meals, furloughs, lax captors, and the amusement park outside their front door, the family's month-long Neverland stay was just like any stretch at San Quentin or Pelican Bay. Oh, and when the estate's security manager agreed--in the middle of their imprisonment--to drive the entire family back to its Los Angeles home, their two-hour repatriation south on the 101 Freeway was a comfortable one. Security boss Jesus Salas chauffeured them home in a black Rolls Royce, which is far cozier than a Spartan bus (though Greyhound apparently doesn't operate a Los Olivos-Los Angeles route).
The family told investigators and grand jurors that their repeated requests to leave the ranch were rejected by Jackson's unindicted co-conspirators--Tyson, Amen, Konitzer, and Wiesner--all of whom warned that the children would not be allowed to leave Neverland unless they agreed to their participation in the filming of a videotaped rebuttal to the Bashir documentary. The mother told investigators that her phone calls were monitored and she was kept apart from her boys. When Wiesner insisted that the family could not leave due to the supposed death threats, the woman did not argue with him because, she told investigators, she feared Jackson's manager would harm her. She quoted Konitzer as saying that if she went to the police or spoke with anyone, he would "make the kids disappear." Her older son claimed that Tyson warned him at one point, "I could have your mother killed." The child told detectives that he believed threats like that to be credible "because Michael Jackson is a billionaire." Though he did acknowledge never being threatened by Jackson himself.
Santa Barbara Police Department records reveal that several days after the family returned to Neverland, the woman's boyfriend, Jay Jackson, called police to report that she was being held against her will at the 2600-acre ranch. In his handwritten report, the officer who fielded the phoned-in complaint noted that while he was speaking with Jackson, the complainant's girlfriend called him (apparently from her cell phone). The cop told Jackson, a 42-year-old Army Reserve major, that if his girlfriend had access to a phone, perhaps she should call 911 directly. In a follow-up call to Jackson a couple of days later, the policeman sought an update from the military man, and was told that everything was okay and his girlfriend (whom he has since reportedly married) was safe and back in Los Angeles.
During the month her family was in residence at Neverland, the woman came and went numerous times, often without her children. When she agreed to have her kids videotape testimonials about Jackson on February 20, she met them at the West Hills home of videographer Hamid Moslehi (whose property was raided on the same November 2003 day that Jackson's ranch was searched). While her three children were driven to the taping from Neverland, she was picked up by Amen from her boyfriend's apartment. In police interviews, family members said that they were intimidated by Jackson aides into filming the "rebuttal" vignettes, which were orchestrated by Marc Schaffel, whose sidekick Christian Robinson conducted the interviews with the children. For his part, Moslehi told detectives that the siblings were relaxed and used his video game console while waiting for video equipment to be set up.
A week after ABC's February 6 broadcast of "Living with Michael Jackson," L.A.'s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a call to its child abuse hotline from an official with the Los Angeles Unified School District. The school worker, who apparently watched the Bashir program, lodged charges of general neglect against the children's mother and sexual abuse against Jackson. Almost immediately, in mid-February, DCFS workers assigned to the agency's Sensitive Case Unit contacted the woman and set up interviews with her and the children at Major Jackson's home (by this time, the family was two weeks into its purported captivity).
According to a DCFS report, when three agency representatives arrived at her boyfriend's L.A. home for the February 20 interviews, the mother "immediately went over to the VCR and started to play a video" showing her older son with Jackson. The social workers watched as Jackson and the boy were seen walking through Neverland, riding on the ranch's train, sitting on a blanket, and watching swan's in the estate's lake. The woman described Jackson as "like a father" to her children and said he "was an important part of [her son]'s recovery from cancer." In separate interviews, the three siblings also repeated the "like a father" line, with the older brother becoming upset when social worker Karen Walker asked if he had ever been touched inappropriately. "People think that something's happened sexually between Michael and me," he answered. "That's not true." His sister got "teary eye," according to the DCFS report, when she defended Jackson as "so kind and loving." The youngest boy said that trips to Neverland "make me real happy. We have fun with Michael, we all give each other nicknames. My name is Blowhole, like the fish."
With strong, separate denials of impropriety from the children and their mother, DCFS brass closed the agency probe, categorizing the abuse allegations as "unfounded" (as TSG first reported in December 2003). Asked later by detectives why they did not tell the social workers about their Neverland imprisonment or their mistreatment at the hands of Jackson and his henchmen, the family members said they were too scared. They also pointed to the intimidating presence of a Jackson security guard named Asef, who was present when the DCFS workers arrived, but was ordered to leave by the social workers as the confidential interviews commenced. Before the DCFS session began, an investigative report notes, "Asef warned her not to say anything wrong about Michael Jackson because they knew where her parents lived." She said Asef planted one recording device in the house and handed another to her to tape her interview. While she turned off the recorder she was given, the woman believed Asef later retrieved the other device from the home's living room, where the DCFS interviews occurred.
Acting on a referral from DCFS (since Neverland was in its jurisdiction), the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department also conducted its own child abuse probe. While relying on the DCFS interviews of the woman and her children, Detective Terry Flaa supplemented the L.A. review with an interview of the children's father David (from whom their mother filed for divorce in October 2001). After a one-month review, the sheriff's office declared in mid-April 2003, according to an internal report, that "the elements of criminal activity were not met. No further action required."
Within three months, however, the Santa Barbara Sheriff would revisit those same abuse allegations and come to a markedly different conclusion.
* * *
The family's eventual cooperation with law enforcement was, essentially, an outgrowth of their remarkably heavy-handed treatment by the Jackson camp.
During the period of the family's in-and-out stay at Neverland, their scant belongings--which barely filled what the mother called her "bachelor's apartment"--were placed into storage by private eye Bradley Miller. According to an affidavit, the woman told investigators that "the interest in moving her things manifested itself" when Jackson representatives found out "she had kept the notes Michael Jackson had sent or written [her son]." Those notes were hidden, she said, in a "planted clay pot" that was among items eventually stored by Miller at Dino's Moving & Storage in North Hollywood.
After splitting from Jackson & Co. in mid-March 2003 ("escaped" is how investigators prefer to describe it), the woman repeatedly asked for the return of her household goods. When she was rebuffed, she hired lawyer William Dickerman, who engaged in a lengthy and contentious fight with Jackson attorney Mark Geragos for the return of her belongings. It wasn't until she began assisting sheriff's investigators that the woman was able to retrieve her belongings from Dino's. However, there were no letters growing in that potted plant, and investigators have accused Miller of unlawfully taking the material.
In police interviews, the woman told of her disenchantment with Jackson and his aides, claiming that they broke promises to place her children in private school and to purchase a house and an apartment (so her family would have two places to shuttle between so nobody would find them). She also spoke of her anger upon learning that Jackson had provided booze to her children, especially since alcohol was a significant threat to her older son's medical condition.
She also pointed to the frenzied and aggressive attempt to pack the family off to South America, to a remote Brazilian city "that would have no Americans, so nobody would recognize them and be able to send the killers there." She told detectives of thinking that if Jackson's aides really cared about her children, they would want her oldest son to be in L.A. to receive treatment from his doctor. "She could not understand the urgency of them wanting the family to leave the country," noted one affidavit. At the conclusion of one interview, the woman was asked why she thought Jackson and his cohorts lied about the existence of death threats targeting her family (and the related need for the Brazil trip). "Because they did wrong," she said. "Because of the things they knew they did to [her children]." She concluded, the affidavit reported, that the wealthy performer and his employees "thought because she lived in East Los Angeles that nobody would care or miss them."
When police asked family members how the older boy has changed since his alleged abuse by Jackson, they described him as a far more volatile child. His sister said he is becoming progressively more argumentative. His brother said he "gets angry more often and at times is quieter than before." The boy's mother said he "gets angry for no reason or cause" and noted that the teenager recently shot her in the leg with a BB gun.
While aspects of the family's false imprisonment story appear shaky, there can be little argument that the scheme to disappear the alleged victim's family reflects a consciousness of guilt on the part of someone, for something. Whether Jackson's associates knew something--or just assumed the worst--much of their well-documented behavior is highly suspect. For example, detectives have a forged letter that was submitted to the school attended by the alleged victim and his brother. During the period that Team Jackson was arranging the pair's international exodus, someone submitted a phony document purporting to authorize the pair's release from the L.A. school for their placement in an Arizona school.
* * *
In May 2003, civil lawyers representing the accuser and his family were alarmed at details of the children's relationship with Jackson. One of the attorneys, Larry Feldman, represented the teenage boy who first accused the entertainer of molestation a decade earlier (and who settled that case for eight figures). Feldman, as he had done with Jordan Chandler in 1993, referred his young clients to a psychologist.
Dr. Stanley Katz interviewed the three children on June 3, and listened to their tawdry stories about "white stuff" and "Jesus Juice." In an interview later that month with police, Katz described the older boy as "very emotional and scared," noting that he purposefully did not press the child too hard during their session. He said the boy was "really honest and forthcoming" and scared that people would tease him "if this comes out." He was also concerned that a "crazed fan of Michael's" would try and kill him. Katz reported that when he asked if Jackson ever demonstrated how to masturbate, the boy "started crying and didn't want to talk about it."
The forensic and clinical psychologist concluded that while the information the minors provided was "very complex," he judged them to be credible witnesses regarding abuse by Jackson, assorted threats, and a "sort of" false imprisonment at Neverland.
It was during his recap of the children's interviews that Katz provided Detective Zelis with an unsolicited, and surely surprising, analysis of Jackson. The entertainer, he offered, was really just a regressed adolescent who behaved like any 10-year-old boy prone to "whacking off" with his buddies. That is a professional opinion not shared by Santa Barbara county detectives and prosecutors, who have spent 18 months building the case that Michael Joe Jackson preys on young boys.