The Case Against Michael Jackson
The Predator: Boys detail lurid acts of alleged sexual abuse in sealed court, police, grand jury records
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 he 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.
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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.