1993 child sexual abuse accusations against Michael Jackson
In the summer of 1993, Evan Chandler accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing Chandler's 13-year-old son, Jordan. The relationship between Jackson and Jordan had begun in May 1992; Chandler initially welcomed and encouraged the friendship, and bragged about his connection to a celebrity. The friendship became well known as the tabloid media reported that Jackson became a member of the Chandler family. In 1993, Chandler confronted his ex-wife June, who had custody of Jordan, with suspicions that their son had been in an inappropriate relationship with Jackson but June dismissed his worries. According to several sources, Chandler threatened to go public with the evidence he claimed he had on Jackson, who asked his lawyer Bert Fields to intervene. Chandler's lawyer, Barry K. Rothman, called psychiatrist Mathis Abrams and reported a hypothetical situation of sexual molestation mirroring what his son had alleged.
Without meeting Jordan, Abrams then sent Rothman a letter on July 15 stating there was "reasonable suspicion" of sexual abuse and if it had been a real case, he would be required by law to contact the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services (DCS). On August 4, Chandler and Jordan met with Jackson and Anthony Pellicano, Jackson's private investigator, and Chandler read out Abrams' letter. He then opened negotiations to resolve the issue with a financial settlement. On August 16, three days after Chandler and Rothman had rejected a $350,000 offer from Jackson's camp, June's attorney notified Rothman that he would be filing papers next morning to force Chandler to return Jordan to allow him to go on the Asian leg of Jackson's Dangerous World Tour.
On the day Jackson began the third leg of his tour, news of the allegations broke to the public and received worldwide media attention. Jackson ultimately cancelled the remainder of the tour due to health problems arising from the scandal. In January 1994 Jackson reached a financial settlement with the Chandlers to resolve the matter and in September a criminal investigation was closed due to lack of evidence. Five months after Jackson's death, Evan Chandler killed himself on November 5, 2009, in his apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Friendship, tape recording, allegations and negotiations
By the summer of 1993, it was revealed that Jackson had children sleep over in his bed with him at his Neverland ranch, a fact which came under much media scrutiny when child sexual abuse allegations were brought against him. Jackson became firm friends with Jordan Chandler and his family after a meeting in May 1992, as he was a fan of Jackson. Their friendship became so close that the National Enquirer ran a featured story with the title "Michael's New Adopted Family", which implied that Jackson had "stolen" the boy from his estranged father, Evan Chandler, a dentist, who was admittedly jealous over Jackson's influence on his son. According to celebrity biographer, J. Randy Taraborrelli, Chandler asked, "Look, are you having sex with my son?" and after Jackson denied doing so, Chandler's opinion of Jackson changed. Jackson invited Jordan, his stepsister and his mother to visit Neverland on the weekends and they would also take trips to Las Vegas and Florida. These weekend trips began to interfere with Jordan's scheduled visits with his father, with Jordan preferring to visit Neverland. In May 1993, when Jackson and Jordan stayed with Chandler, he urged Jackson to spend more time with his son at his house and even suggested that Jackson build an addition onto the house so that Jackson could stay there. After the zoning department told Chandler it could not be done, he suggested that Jackson just build him a new home. That same month, Jordan and June flew with Jackson to Monaco for the World Music Awards. According to June's lawyer, Michael Freeman, "Evan began to get jealous of the involvement and felt left out." Upon their return, Chandler was pleased with a five-day visit from Jackson, during which Jackson slept in a room with Jordan and his stepbrother. Chandler claimed this was when his suspicions of sexual misconduct by Jackson began, although he admitted that Jackson and Jordan always had their clothes on when he saw them in bed together and has never claimed to have witnessed any sexual misconduct between the two.
On July 2, 1993, in a private telephone conversation, Chandler was tape-recorded as saying,
There was no reason why he (Jackson) had to stop calling me ... I picked the nastiest son of a bitch I could find [Evan Chandler's lawyer, Barry Rothman], all he wants to do is get this out in the public as fast as he can, as big as he can and humiliate as many people as he can. He's nasty, he's mean, he's smart and he's hungry for publicity. Everything's going to a certain plan that isn't just mine. Once I make that phone call, this guy is going to destroy everybody in sight in any devious, nasty, cruel way that he can do it. I've given him full authority to do that. Jackson is an evil guy, he is worse than that and I have the evidence to prove it. If I go through with this, I win big-time. There's no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever ... Michael's career will be over.
In the same conversation, when asked how this would affect his son, Chandler replied,
That's irrelevant to me ... It will be a massacre if I don't get what I want. It's going to be bigger than all us put together ... This man [Jackson] is going to be humiliated beyond belief ... He will not sell one more record.
The recorded conversation was a critical aspect of Jackson's defense against the upcoming allegation made against him. He and his supporters argue that he was the victim of a jealous father whose only goal was to extort money from the singer. In October 1994, Mary A. Fischer of GQ magazine reported it was Evan Chandler who initially accused Jackson of molesting his son, before he demanded a screenwriting deal from Jackson instead of going to the police.
According to Taraborrelli, Chandler was forced to admit the controversial sedative sodium amytal was used when he extracted a tooth from Jordan in early August. On May 3, 1994, KCBS-TV news reported that Chandler claimed the drug was used for tooth extraction and that the allegations came out while Jordan was under the influence of the drug. Mark Torbiner, the dental anesthesiologist who administered the drug, told GQ if sodium amytal was used, "it was for dental purposes." Sodium amytal is a barbiturate that puts people in a hypnotic state when injected intravenously. Studies done in 1952 debunked the drug as a truth serum and demonstrated it enabled false memories to be easily implanted.
Dr. Phillip Resnick, a noted Cleveland psychiatrist said it was "a psychiatric medication" and "People will say things under sodium amytal that are blatantly untrue." In mid-May 1994 in Napa County, California, Gary Ramona won his lawsuit against his daughter's therapist and the psychiatrist who had given her sodium amytal. The psychiatrist claimed the drug helped Ramona's daughter remember specific details of sexual molestation by Ramona, but a court brief written by Martin Orne, a University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist who pioneered research of hypnosis and sodium amytal, stated that the drug is "not useful in ascertaining 'truth' . . . The patient becomes sensitive and receptive to suggestions due to the context and to the comments of the interviewers." This was the first successful legal challenge to the "repressed memory phenomenon". Dr. Kenneth Gottlieb, a San Francisco psychiatrist said, "It’s absolutely a psychiatric drug...I would never want to use a drug that tampers with a person’s unconscious unless there was no other drug available. And I would not use it without resuscitating equipment, in case of allergic reaction, and only with an M.D. anesthesiologist present." According to Dr. John Yagiela, coordinator of the anesthesia and pain control department of UCLA’s school of dentistry, "It’s unusual for it to be used [for pulling a tooth]" and "better, safer alternatives are available."
According to Diane Dimond of Hard Copy, Torbiner's records show that Robinul and Vistarol was administered instead of sodium amytal. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was investigating Torbiner's administration of drugs in house calls, where he mostly gave patients morphine and Demerol. His credentials with the Board of Dental Examiners indicated that he was restricted by law to administering drugs solely for dental-related procedures, but he had not adhered to those restrictions. For instance, he had given general anesthetic to Barry Rothman during hair-transplant procedures. Torbiner had introduced Chandler and Rothman in 1991, when Rothman needed dental work.
Over the next couple of months both parties engaged in unsuccessful (out of court) financial negotiations, with Chandler and his legal team asking for $20 million, or the issue would be taken to criminal court. Jackson declined the offer, saying, "No way in Hell". A few weeks later, Jackson's legal team gave a counter-offer to the value of $1 million, which was declined by Chandler. Pellicano said he made the offers he said in an attempt to catch the Chandler's negotiating and tape recorded one of the telephone calls to Rothman to demonstrate this. The father then lowered his request to $15 million; Jackson rejected this and lowered his original counter-offer to $350,000. With both sides unable to reach an agreement, Chandler decided he would take it to court. Chandler then took his son to see a psychiatrist called Dr. Mathis Abrams, and during the three-hour session with the doctor, Jordan Chandler said he had had a sexual relationship with Jackson that went on for several months, and which included incidents of kissing, masturbation and oral sex. He then repeated these allegations to police and gave a detailed description of what he alleged was Jackson's penis.
Allegations made public, investigation and La Toya Jackson
On August 18, the Los Angeles Police Department's Sexually Exploited Child Unit began a criminal investigation on Jackson. The same day, Jordan Chandler's mother told police that she did not believe Jackson had molested her son. On August 21, a search warrant was issued, allowing police to search Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Police questioned 30 children who were friends of Jackson, with all denying that the singer was a child molester. A police officer involved in the investigation told The Los Angeles Times that no evidence (medical, photographic or video) could be found that would support a criminal filing. The same day the allegations were made public, Jackson began the third leg of his Dangerous World Tour in Bangkok. On August 24, Jackson's investigator held a press conference accusing Chandler of trying to extort $20 million from the singer, although the investigator failed to mention that Jackson had given several counter-offers. On August 25, Jackson's young friends Brett Barnes and Wade Robson held a press conference in which they stated that they had slept in the same bed as Jackson, but nothing sexual in nature had occurred. Jackson's family soon held a press conference of their own to show support, saying it was their "unequivocal belief" that Michael had been made a victim of a cruel and obvious attempt to take advantage of his fame and wealth." The police then began an investigation into Evan Chandler's prior actions and found that he was $68,400 behind in his child support payments, even though he was well-paid as a dentist. On November 8, police searched the Jackson family home, Hayvenhurst, but found nothing of importance to add to their investigation. According to internal reports from the LA County DCFS at the time, Chandler's story remained largely consistent but dates, places, times and some details were inconsistent. According to reports the DCFS had investigated Jackson beginning in August 1993 with the Chandler allegation and again in 2003. Reports show the LAPD and DCFS did not find credible evidence of abuse or sexual misconduct.
In the winter of 1993, despite not seeing or speaking to Jackson for a number of years, La Toya Jackson claimed that her brother was a pedophile and that she had proof, which she was prepared to disclose for a fee of $500,000. A bidding war between US and UK tabloids began, but fell through when they realized that her revelations were not what she had claimed them to be. Then in Israel, she stated, "I cannot and will not be a silent collaborator in his crimes against young children ... Forget about the superstar, forget about the icon. If he was any other 35-year-old man who was sleeping with little boys, you wouldn't like this guy". She also claimed that checks had been made out to several boys and that Jackson's own physical abuse as a child had turned him into an abuser. She would later claim that Jackson had tried to kidnap and kill her. The rest of the family disowned her, and in subsequent years she would insist that she was forced to make the allegations by her then husband for financial gain. Just prior to making the allegations, her husband was arrested for striking her in the face, arms and legs with a chair. By the turn of the millennium Jackson had forgiven his sister.
Lisa Marie Presley, health concerns, rehabilitation and Elizabeth Taylor
Jackson first met Lisa Marie Presley (and Elvis Presley) in 1974, during a Jackson 5 engagement at the MGM Grand. In November 1992, Jackson was reconnected with Presley through a mutual friend, staying in contact almost every day by telephone. As the child sexual abuse accusations became public, he became dependent on Presley for emotional support; she was concerned about his faltering health and his addiction to drugs. She explained, "I believed he didn't do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it." In one phone call he made to her, she described him as high, incoherent and delusional. He proposed to her over the phone towards the fall of 1993, saying, "If I asked you to marry me, would you do it?". The marriage was, in her words, "a married couple's life ... that was sexually active". They divorced fewer than two years later, remaining friendly.
Jackson had begun taking painkillers, Valium, Xanax and Ativan to deal with the stress of the allegations made against him. A few months after the allegations became news, he had lost approximately 10 pounds in weight and had stopped eating. According to Jackson, he had a tendency to stop eating when "really upset or hurt" and Elizabeth Taylor had to make him eat during this ordeal; "She took the spoon and would put it into my mouth." He said that he eventually became unconscious and had to be fed intravenously. In a court deposition unrelated to alleged child abuse, he was visibly drowsy, lacked concentration and repeatedly slurred while speaking. He could not remember the dates of his prior album releases or names of people he had worked with and took several minutes to name some of his recent albums. His health had deteriorated to the extent that he canceled the remainder of his tour and flew with Taylor and her husband to London. When Jackson arrived at the airport, he had to be held up; he was then rushed to the home of Elton John's manager and afterwards to a clinic, but when he was searched for drugs on entry, 18 vials of medicine were found in a suitcase. Jackson booked the whole fourth floor of the clinic, and was put on a Valium IV to wean him from painkillers. The singer's spokesperson told reporters that Jackson was "barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level". While in the clinic, he took part in group and one-on-one therapy sessions.
In December 1993, Jackson was served with a warrant for a strip search of his body, as police wanted to verify Jordan Chandler's description of Jackson's private anatomy. The order stated that officers were to examine, photograph and videotape Jackson's entire body, "including his penis, anus, hips, buttocks and any other part of his body". The warrant stated they were looking for discoloration or any other signs of vitiligo which he had previously spoken about, or any other skin disorder, and that refusal to comply would be used in court as an indication of guilt. The strip search took place on December 20, 1993 at Jackson's ranch. Those present for the prosecution were Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, a detective, a photographer and a doctor. Those present on behalf of Jackson were his two attorneys, a physician, a detective, a bodyguard and a photographer. The attorneys and Sneddon agreed to leave the room when the examination took place, and Jackson demanded that the prosecution detective should also leave, which he subsequently did. In an emotional state, Jackson stood on a platform in the middle of the room, took off all his clothes and the search lasted for approximately 25 minutes, although he was never physically touched.
Reports vary on whether or not the photographs of Jackson corroborated with Chandler's allegations. Reuters reported that an unidentified source informed them on January 27, 1994 that "photos of Michael Jackson’s genitalia do not match description given by the boy", which was reported in USA Today on January 28. However, according to child sexual abuse consultant Bill Dworin who was one of the lead detectives from the LAPD to the allegations, Jordan Chandler's description comported with the photos taken of Michael Jackson's genitalia. Dr. Richard Strick who conducted the examination of Jackson's genitals claimed, "I was told later that the photos and description absolutely matched" According to Sneddon in a 2005 memorandum in People v. Jackson, "The photographs reveal a mark on the right side of Defendant's penis at about the same relative location as the dark blemish located by Jordan Chandler on his drawing of Defendant's erect penis" and "Chandler's graphic representation of the discolored area on Defendant's penis is substantially corroborated by the photographs." Sneddon ended his declaration with "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct except for those statements made on information and belief, as to those statements, I believe them to be true." Sergeant Gary Spiegel, the sheriff’s photographer, claims he observed a dark spot on the lower side of Jackson’s penis.
It was reported that Jordan Chandler claimed that Jackson was circumcised. Jackson's autopsy report reveals that he had not been circumcised and his foreskin appeared naturally intact and showed no signs of having been restored from a circumcision. Taraborrelli claims that Jordan correctly noted patchy colored skin on his buttocks, short pubic hair, and testicles marked pink and brown, however, initially investigators claimed Chandler said Jackson had splotches on his genitals a color "similar to the color of his face" rather than pink and brown. On February 10, 1993, Jackson had revealed to Oprah that he had a skin disorder that destroyed skin pigmentation and left blotches on his skin, and that make-up was used to even out his skin. The live interview was watched by 90 million viewers and after it aired, expert information on vitiligo was widely shared in the media. According to private investigator Anthony Pellicano who questioned Jordan in July 1993 after hearing Evan's taped phone call, Jordan denied that he ever saw Jackson's body but said he did lift his shirt once to show him the blotches on his skin. At the behest of a grand jury, investigators made a probe into Jackson's history, including familial interviews, to see if he had any surgeries or procedures done to alter his body's appearance as the jury felt there was a lack of a clear match with Jordan Chandler's description.
Publicized later was an internal report within the LAPD and Los Angeles County DCFS which showed the DCFS had cleared Jackson early on of unfounded molestation charges from the Chandlers, and later from the Arvizos in 2003.
On December 22, Jackson responded to the allegations and everything that had occurred for the first time via satellite from his ranch:
As you may already know, after my tour ended I remained out of the country undergoing treatment for a dependency on pain medication...There have been many disgusting statements made recently concerning allegations of improper conduct on my part. These statements about me are totally false...I will say I am particularly upset by the handling of the mass—matter by the incredible, terrible mass media. At every opportunity, the media has dissected and manipulated these allegations to reach their own conclusions. I ask all of you to wait and hear the truth before you label or condemn me. Don't treat me like a criminal, because I am innocent. I have been forced to submit to a dehumanizing and humiliating examination...It was the most humiliating ordeal of my life...But if this is what I have to endure to prove my innocence, my complete innocence, so be it.— Michael Jackson
A poll at the time, conducted by A Current Affair, found that nearly 75 percent of Americans believed Jackson was telling the truth in his response. While Jackson sought medical help for his faltering health, his legal team and friends, such as Presley and Taylor, took control of his defense and finances. Much of Jackson's legal team would meet three times a week at Taylor's home to discuss the case. Taylor then called in more legal professionals on Jackson's behalf. Eventually Presley, Taylor, and Jackson's team all agreed that the singer should settle out of court; it was their opinion that the entertainer's health had deteriorated to such a degree that he could not endure a lengthy trial.
Media reaction and civil suit settlement
Most of information available on the allegations was released (officially or unofficially) by the prosecution and unchallenged by Jackson. Jackson was largely portrayed as guilty by the media. The media bias was evident in the use of sensational headlines to draw in readers and viewers when the content itself did not support the headline, the purchasing of stories of his alleged criminal activity, the purchasing of confidential leaked material from the police investigation, deliberately using pictures of his appearance at its worst, using headlines that strongly implied his guilt, and a general lack of objectivity.
The New York Post ran the headline "Peter Pan or Pervert", despite minimal information being disclosed by the police. Just two weeks after the allegations were reported, the headline, "Michael Jackson: A Curtain Closes" reflected the attitude of most tabloid-orientated media. In a piece for Hard Copy, Diane Dimond—a journalist who would spend the next 15 years trying to prove Jackson was a pedophile—ran a story stating, "And one more shocker, Hard Copy has obtained new documents in the criminal investigation of Michael Jackson, and they are chilling; they contain the name of child movie actor Macaulay Culkin". The document itself stated that Culkin strongly denied being harmed by Jackson.
Two tabloid television shows accepted confidential leaked documents from the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services for $20,000. A number of Jackson's former employees—most of whom had worked at his ranch—sold stories to the tabloids of alleged prior sexual misconduct on Jackson's part, instead of reporting their claims to police. One couple initially asked for $100,000 claiming that Jackson sexually caressed Macaulay Culkin. They were prepared to expand upon this allegation for a fee of $500,000, whereby they would allege that Jackson put his hands down Culkin's pants. When the story broke, Culkin strongly denied the allegation, and did so again in court during the 2003 trial of Michael Jackson. A former security guard made various allegations about Jackson, saying he was fired because he "knew too much", and alleged that he was ordered by Jackson to destroy a photo of a naked boy. Instead of reporting this to police, Hard Copy accepted the story in return for $150,000. Afterwards, Jackson's maid, Branca Francia, alleged that she "quit in disgust" after seeing Jackson in a shower with a child, but did not inform the police. It later emerged that Francia was actually fired in 1991, but nevertheless sold her story to Hard Copy for $20,000.
When Jackson left the US to go into drug rehabilitation, the media showed the singer little sympathy. The Daily Mirror (UK) held a "Spot the Jacko" contest, offering readers a trip to Disney World if they could correctly predict where the entertainer would appear next. A Daily Express headline read, "Drug Treatment Star Faces Life on the Run", while a News of the World headline accused Jackson of being a fugitive. These tabloids also falsely alleged that Jackson had traveled to Europe to have cosmetic surgery that would make him unrecognizable on his return. Geraldo Rivera set up a mock trial, with a jury made up of audience members, even though Jackson had not been charged with a crime.
A civil lawsuit was filed by Jordan Chandler and his parents on September 14, 1993. In late 1993, district attorneys in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties both convened grand juries to assess whether criminal charges should be filed against Jackson. By January 1, 1994, $2 million had been spent by prosecution departments in California and the grand juries had questioned 200 witnesses, but Jordan's allegations could not be corroborated. On January 4, 1994, Chandler's attorney, Larry Feldman, filed a motion for the photos from Jackson's December 1993 body search from investigators, saying Jackson's attorneys and the L.A. district attorney had refused to give him copies. A few weeks later, Feldman petitioned the court that he should be allowed access to Jackson's finances over concerns that the singer's wealth would give him an unfair advantage in court. One adviser to Jackson stated, "You can take pictures of Michael's dick and he's not gonna like it, but once you start trying to figure out how much money he has, that's where he stops playing around." Initially Jackson and his lawyers filed a motion for Superior Court Judge David M. Rothman to postpone the civil case until the criminal investigation was concluded. Feldman filed a counter-motion, saying the delay would hurt Jordan's chances for recovery and make it more difficult to gather evidence. It is legal to postpone a civil lawsuit past the criminal statute of limitations as a lawsuit can still be filed past that date, such as the case of Pacers, Inc. v. Superior Court. Also, the constitutional right to a "speedy trial" only applies to criminal cases according to the Sixth Amendment, not civil cases.
On November 23, Judge Rothman accepted Feldman's motion and set March 21, 1994 as the start date for the civil trial. Rothman ordered Jackson's deposition scheduled before the end of January 1994, but noted he might reconsider if Jackson was indicted on criminal charges. Jackson agreed to be deposed on January 18. His attorneys said he was eager to testify, but also said they might oppose the deposition if criminal charges were filed or were still under consideration on his deposition date. They said if charges were filed, they would want the criminal trial to go first. However, when authorities notified Jackson's lawyers that they expected their investigation to continue at least through February, Jackson's team still failed to win a delay of the civil case. Jackson's lawyers also lost a motion to prevent Feldman from turning over information (e.g. from the civil deposition) to prosecutors pursuing possible criminal charges.
The concerns about a civil trial during an ongoing criminal investigation, and about the prosecutor's access to the plaintiff's information in the civil trial, stemmed from Jackson's Fifth Amendment rights. As two grand juries had deemed there was insufficient evidence for charges as of January 1, the prosecution might have been able to form the elements of a criminal case around the defense strategy in the civil trial; creating a situation akin to double jeopardy. For instance, prosecutor Tom Sneddon altered fundamental elements of his case in 2004 after evidence undermining the Arvizo family's 2003 allegations appeared after Jackson's initial arraignment. Upon discovery of two taped interviews in which the Arvizo family praised Jackson and denied any abuse, Sneddon introduced a conspiracy charge and claimed they were forced to lie against their will. And when Jackson was re-arraigned in April 2004 for the conspiracy charge, the dates of the alleged molestation on the charge sheet had been shifted by almost two weeks. Jackson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, had announced on NBC in January 2004 that his client had a "concrete, iron-clad alibi" for the dates on the charge sheet.
On January 24, 1994, prosecutors announced that they would be not bringing charges against Evan Chandler for attempted extortion as Jackson's camp has been slow to report the extortion claim to the police and had tried to negotiate a settlement with Chandler for several weeks. Evan had first made his demand for a financial settlement on August 4, 1993 and the Jackson camp filed extortion charges against Evan and his attorney Barry K. Rothman in late August 1993. After tape recordings supporting the extortion claim were released to the media on August 30, a lawyer for Jackson explained they had not gone to the police earlier because, "It was our hope that this would all go away. We tried to keep it as much in-house as we could." Jackson had already experienced years of bizarre rumors and speculation. In the extortion investigation, a search warrant was never sought to search the homes and offices of Evan Chandler and Barry Rothman and no grand jury was convened when both men declined to be interviewed by police. In contrast, the police searched Jackson's residences solely based on Jordan's allegations reported by a psychiatrist with no particular expertise in child sexual abuse and increased their efforts to investigate Jackson after no supporting evidence was found in their raids and after questioning almost 30 children (Jackson's phonebooks were seized) and their families, all of whom said Jackson had done nothing wrong. Officers flew to the Philippines to interview two ex-housekeepers who had sold a molestation story to the tabloids but decided it lacked credibility. Several parents also complained to one of Jackson's attorneys of aggressive investigative techniques by the police; allegedly frightening their children with lies, e.g. ‘We have nude photos of you', to pressure them into accusing Jackson and unequivocally telling parents their children had been molested even though their children had denied being victimized.
On January 25, 1994, the Chandlers' lawsuit was settled out of court with $15,331,250 to be held in a trust fund for Jordan, $1.5 million for each of his parents and the family's lawyer slated to receive $5 million for a total of approximately $23 million (although another source showed Feldman was to receive $3 million based on a September 1993 retainer, for a total of $21 million). According to a motion passed to Judge Melville in 2004, leading up to the 2005 trial, Evan Chandler himself is the one who initiated the settlement with Jackson's insurer. Jackson's insurance company "negotiated and paid the settlement, over the protests of Mr. Jackson and his personal legal counsel" and was "the source of the settlement amounts"; as noted in a 2005 memorandum in People v. Jackson. It also noted "an insurance carrier has the right to settle claims covered by insurance where it decides settlement is expedient and the insured may not interfere with nor prevent such settlements", as established by a number of precedents in California. Defeating the right would involve convincing a court with the power to overrule the precedent that the earlier decision was either wrongly decided or more often, 'clearly' wrong (depending on the criteria of the court) or the court must be convinced to distinguish the case. That is, to make the ruling narrower than that in the precedent due to some difference in facts between the current and precedent case, while still supporting the result reached in the earlier case. In 2004, Jackson's attorney Thomas Mesereau in People v. Jackson said "People who intended to earn millions of dollars from his record and music promotions did not want negative publicity from these lawsuits interfering with their profits. Michael Jackson now regrets making these payments. These settlements were entered into with one primary condition – that condition was that Mr. Jackson never admitted any wrongdoing. Mr. Jackson always denied doing anything wrong...Mr. Jackson now realizes the advice he received was wrong." Jackson explained why had he tried to settle: "I wanted to go on with my life. Too many people had already been hurt. I want to make records. I want to sing. I want to perform again...It's my talent. My hard work. My life. My decision." He also wanted to avoid a "media circus".
Closure of the criminal investigation
Although some perceive the settlement as an admission of guilt, the settlement agreement specifically stated that Jackson admitted no wrongdoing and no liability and legally, a settlement cannot be used as evidence of guilt in future civil and criminal cases. The settlement payment was "for alleged personal injuries arising out of claims of negligence and not for claims of intentional or wrong acts of sexual molestation." In the settlement, both parties agreed they would not speak about the case details in public but it did not prevent the Chandlers from testifying in a criminal trial or sharing information with authorities in a criminal investigation. The settlement document adamantly states there is no admission of wrongdoing on Jackson's part and no admission of molestation or immodesty and that under no circumstances shall any payment be withheld from the complainants, even if they were to testify against Jackson.
The Chandlers' lawyer Mr. Feldman explicitly stated "nobody bought anybody's silence". Bribery to not testify in a trial is a felony according to California Penal Code 138. Receiving such a bribe is also a felony according to this law. District Attorney Gil Garcetti stated the settlement didn't affect criminal prosecution of the molestation allegations, "The criminal investigation of singer Michael Jackson is ongoing and will not be affected by the announcement of the civil case settlement."
Jordan Chandler was interviewed after the settlement by detectives seeking evidence of child molestation, but "no criminal charges were filed as a result of that interview." A Santa Barbara County grand jury disbanded on May 2, 1994 without indicting Jackson, while a Los Angeles County grand jury continued to investigate the sexual abuse allegations. After which time the Chandlers stopped co-operating with the criminal investigation around July 6, 1994. The police never pressed criminal charges. Citing a lack of evidence without Jordan's testimony, the state closed its investigation on September 22, 1994. According to the grand juries, the evidence presented by the Santa Barbara police and the LAPD was not convincing enough to indict Jackson or subpoena him, even though grand juries can indict the accused purely on hearsay evidence. According to a 1994 report by Variety, a source in contact with the grand juries stated, "none of the witnesses so far have offered anything that would directly implicate the singer." According to a report in 1994 by Showbiz Today, one of the 1994 grand jurors claimed they "did not hear any damaging testimony" during the hearings.
A week after the settlement of the Chandler's lawsuit was announced on January 25, 1994, L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti announced he supported amending a law that prohibits forcing people who say they have been sexually assaulted to testify in criminal proceedings. The amendment introduced into the state assembly the week of February 7 would have immediately allowed Garcetti to compel Jordan to testify. Around that time, Santa Barbara police interviewed the 13-year-old son of one of Jackson's former maids (who had told them her son had spent time with Jackson) and then arranged for him to see a therapist after he repeatedly denied being abused. In a deposition, his mother stated when she asked the police about who she could speak to about her concerns about their meetings and phone conversations with her son without her present, they arranged for her and her son to see separate therapists. On April 11, 1994, the grand jury session in Santa Barbara was extended for an additional 90-day term to allow Sneddon to gather more evidence and prosecution sources admitted to being frustrated in their grand jury probe, failing to find direct evidence of the molestation charges. The final grand jury ultimately disbanded without ever returning an indictment against Jackson.
Three years later, Jordan Chandler's alleged account of the relationship was detailed in a book by journalist Victor M. Gutierrez. The book was said to be based on a diary the boy had kept at the time and included details of alleged sexual encounters between Jackson and him. In 1995, Jackson filed a civil suit against Gutierrez for slander; the jury found in Jackson's favor, awarding him $2.7 million in damages. However, that suit was unrelated to the book and the judgement does not serve to refute the allegations contained within. In 1996, Evan Chandler sued Jackson for around $60 million, claiming Jackson had breached an agreement never to discuss the case. In 1999, a court ruled in Jackson's favor and threw out the lawsuit.
But the 1993 case would be revisited again with the 2003 allegations. There was more than a year between Jackson's 2003 arrest and the beginning of his trial and he was prevented by a gag order from responding to any stories in the media. As in 1993, there were leaked documents e.g. Jordan Chandler's 1993 police statement. The media was again eager to report on the allegations, with a tendency for sensationalism. And allegations sold to tabloid TV shows by disgruntled ex-employees in the 1990s were constantly in the news again. Also similar to 1993, details of the Arvizo family's 2003 allegations were leaked. These stories were mostly reported as allegations rather than facts, but the volume and frequency of stories, combined with Jackson's inability to refute them, had a devastating impact on public opinion of him.
In a 2005 lecture at Harvard after Jackson's trial, Jackson's attorney Thomas Mesereau said the following about Jordan Chandler: "The prosecutors tried to get him to show up and he wouldn't. If he had, I had witnesses who were going to come in and say he told them it never happened and that he would never talk to his parents again for what they made him say. It turned out he'd gone into court and got legal emancipation from his parents." In 2006, Jordan accused Evan of attacking him with a barbell, choking him and spraying his face with Mace. The charges were later dropped. On November 5, 2009, fourteen weeks after Jackson's death, Evan Chandler was found dead following an apparent suicide.
Music journalist Charles Thomson noted a continued media bias against Jackson after the Chandler suicide. Thomson said he was contacted by a British tabloid to supply information about the 1993 allegations, only to have them replace his carefully researched information with the common myths he advised them to avoid and that the same misinformation was in every article he read about the suicide. He noted when Jackson's FBI file was released the following month, the contents were portrayed by the media as giving an impression of guilt even though the file strongly supported his innocence. He noted how Gene Simmons' allegations in 2010 about Jackson molesting children received over a hundred times more coverage than his interview with Jackson's long-time guitarist, Jennifer Batten, who rebutted Simmons' claims.
Effect on Jackson's career
Jackson's commercial appeal and public image declined in the wake of the case.
The album released prior to the allegations was Dangerous. The album stands as one of the world's best-selling records. The album's appeal meant that singles were still being released through 1993 (at the time of the allegations) and Jackson was still traveling the world on his Dangerous World Tour. The last charting single from Dangerous was the ballad "Gone Too Soon", released in December 1993 and dedicated to the memory of Jackson's friend Ryan White, a teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who came to national attention after being expelled from his school for having HIV/AIDS. A rumored tenth single release of the title track "Dangerous" was canceled. The government of Dubai barred Jackson from performing in response to an anonymous pamphlet campaign that attacked him as immoral. After performing 24 shows of the third leg of the Dangerous Tour, Jackson canceled the remainder of the tour to seek treatment for his pain medication addictions.
PepsiCo stopped all promotional activities with Jackson, ending their ten-year partnership. Jackson's fans responded by boycotting the company. Jackson had contracted to create a new horror-themed song and video that would be cross-promoted with the film Addams Family Values. He was unable to finish shooting the video, and his song was dropped from the soundtrack. A brand of his-and-hers fragrances was canceled because of Jackson's drug problems at the time. A spokesman for the marketing group behind the fragrance deal called it "somewhat of a fiasco".
His next studio album was HIStory, released in the summer of 1995. Jackson also produced a special show for cable-network HBO titled For One Night Only, with the show to be recorded in front of a special invited audience at New York City's Beacon Theater on December 8 and 9, 1995 for transmission on HBO on December 10. However, the shows were canceled after Jackson collapsed at the theater on December 6 during rehearsals. Jackson was admitted overnight to Beth Israel Medical Center North. The shows and the HBO special were never rescheduled. The following year, Jackson began the HIStory World Tour. Despite the show's success, Jackson's only concerts in the USA were two shows performed at the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Jackson never performed another world tour.
The allegations also had an effect on the content of Jackson's music: HIStory, which was released shortly after the allegations, "creates an atmosphere of paranoia," according to one writer. Its content focuses on the public struggles Jackson went through just prior to its production. In the songs "Scream" and "Tabloid Junkie", along with the ballad "You Are Not Alone", Jackson directs much of his anger and personal hurt at the media. In the track "D.S.", Jackson launches a verbal attack against a character who is often cited to be Tom Sneddon, the District Attorney that requested his strip search. He describes the person as an antisocial white supremacist who wanted to "get my ass, dead or alive". Of the song, Sneddon said, "I have not, shall we say, done him the honor of listening to it, but I’ve been told that it ends with the sound of a gunshot." In the introspective ballad "Stranger in Moscow", Jackson laments his "swift and sudden fall from grace". He completed the video that was originally supposed to accompany Addams Family Values and released it as Ghosts; the finished video included a framing story about an eccentric maestro who entertains children and is pursued by a bigoted local official.
Jackson's last album, Invincible, was released six years later, in 2001, his longest period between full studio records. Following a conflict between Jackson and his record label, Sony Music stopped promoting the album. Invincible would go on to be seen as a relative commercial disappointment when compared to Jackson's prior solo material, although it sold 13 million copies worldwide.
As part of Jackson's contract with Sony, a number of compilations of greatest hits packaged with previously unreleased material were released, including Number Ones in 2003, the 4-CD/1-DVD box set The Ultimate Collection in 2004 and double-album The Essential Michael Jackson in 2005. New agreements between Sony and Michael Jackson saw the release of the singles collection Visionary: The Video Singles in 2006, a 25th anniversary edition of Thriller in 2008 and Jackson's final release before his death – the King of Pop album celebrating Michael's 50th birthday with tracks voted for by fans.
People v. Jackson
On December 18, 2003, Jackson was formally charged with seven counts of child sexual abuse and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in order to commit a child sexual abuse felony against Gavin Arvizo. Earlier that year, a Granada Television documentary, called Living with Michael Jackson, showed the pop star holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with Arvizo. Jackson denied these allegations, saying that the sleepovers were in no way sexual in nature. Sneddon again led the effort to prosecute Jackson. These prosecutions led to complaints that Sneddon was motivated by a "vendetta" against Jackson. Evidence to support these claims include Sneddon joking about Jackson's greatest hits album being released on the same day as his arrest and saying, "Like the sheriff and I really are into that kind of music." He then proceeded to call Jackson "Wacko Jacko" and shouting "We got him, we finally got him" to the media, when he had only just began an investigation and had gathered limited information or evidence.
The People v. Jackson trial began in Santa Maria, California on January 31, 2005. During the trial, the judge allowed testimony about past allegations, including the 1993 case, to establish whether the defendant had a propensity to commit certain crimes. However, Jordan Chandler had left the country to avoid testifying. In a lecture at Harvard after the trial, Thomas Mesereau said, "The prosecutors tried to get him to show up and he wouldn't. If he had, I had witnesses who were going to come in and say he told them it never happened and that he would never talk to his parents again for what they made him say. It turned out he'd gone into court and got legal emancipation from his parents." June Chandler testified that she hadn't spoken to her son in 11 years. At one point in her testimony, she claimed that she couldn't remember being sued by Jackson (who had counter-sued for extortion) and at another point said that she'd never heard of her own attorney. However, she said she never witnessed any molestation.
2013 child molestation allegations
On May 1, 2013, a lawyer for choreographer Wade Robson filed a complaint against the Michael Jackson Estate for "childhood sexual abuse". Howard Weitzman, the lawyer for Jackson's estate, called Robson's accusations "outrageous and pathetic."
Robson appeared on The Today Show on May 16, 2013 to discuss the allegations. Robson told interviewer Matt Lauer that Jackson was "a pedophile and a child sexual abuser" who "performed sexual acts on me and forced me to perform sexual acts on him" over a seven-year period, beginning in 1990 when Robson was seven years old when he visited Jackson's Neverland Ranch for the first time. In a 1993 deposition Robson's mother, Joy Robson, said that Jackson had "special friends", boys with whom he spent extra time with that he replaced each year, and that Wade was Jackson's "special friend" in 1990. In August 1993, after the allegations against Jackson were made public, Wade Robson and Jackson's other "special friend", Brett Barnes, held a press conference in which they stated that they had slept in Jackson's bed but nothing sexual had occurred. Robson said in the Today Show interview that his denial of wrongdoing on Jackson's part during the 1993 investigation was a result of Jackson's "complete manipulation and brainwashing" of him. Robson alleged that at the time Jackson "would call me every day and role play and tell me the same sort of things and also tell me then that if anyone ever thought that we did these things, any of these sexual things, that both of us would go to jail for the rest of our lives." Robson was also a star witness for Jackson's defense at his 2005 trial. He said that his change of story was provoked by becoming a father and experiencing nervous breakdowns in 2011 and 2012.
Robson filed an amended complaint on July 1, 2013, which stated, "The long-term psychological consequences of (Jackson’s) threats, sexual trauma and mental manipulation imprisoned (Robson’s) mind and prevented him from filing a timely claim just as effectively as if he had been physically imprisoned."
On June 2, 2014, the trial for Robson's lawsuit against Jackson's estate for 'childhood sexual abuse' began. On August 4, 2014, James Safechuck filed court papers against Jackson's estate which alleged that Jackson abused him after he appeared alongside him in a Pepsi commercial.
The lawsuit was dismissed May 26, 2015 by a Los Angeles judge who ruled that Robson waited too long to seek legal action. Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff wrote in his decision that Robson could file a lawsuit "only for a reasonable time period after any violence, intimidation or threatening conduct by the decedent ceases."
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