Justice for Michael Jackson


Author’s note: Please be advised that some parts of this article contain graphic descriptions of alleged sexual abuse of minors, where it is necessary to address those claims.

I’m a perfectionist. I’m never totally satisfied. I always wish the world could be a better place. Hopefully, that’s what I do with my music—bring happiness to people, bring some joy and peace into their lives. —Michael Jackson

The story of Michael Jackson’s child abuse trial in 2005 is one of the most complex and controversial in recent memory, from both legal and ethical perspectives. In preparing to write this article, I read the court transcripts—which total nearly eight thousand pages—in their entirety. I watched all of the major films and documentaries about Jackson (so far as I know), including Living with Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror, and Leaving Neverland. I spent hundreds of hours scouring the internet and public archives, listening carefully to what both Jackson’s supporters and accusers have had to say.

Jackson was publicly accused of child abuse twice while he was still alive. In 1993, the Chandler family hired criminal attorneys and considered pursuing a criminal case against him but quickly dropped it and filed a civil case that was settled out of court. In 2003, the Arvizo family filed a criminal complaint, and the subsequent case went to trial in 2005. Jackson was fully acquitted, but four years after his death in 2009, James Safechuck and Wade Robson publicly accused him of molesting them in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Both filed civil suits against Jackson’s estate, and both suits were thrown out. In this article, we’ll examine these incidents in chronological order.

Michael Jackson was an incredible entertainer. He set and broke dozens of records during his career, produced the best-selling album of all time (Thriller, 1982—at least 100 million copies sold worldwide to date), set thirty-nine Guinness World Records, and won forty Billboard Awards, thirteen Grammys, and twenty-six American Music Awards. Even after his death, his achievements continue to rack up. He has the highest posthumous earnings of any celebrity: As of 2018, he had earned $2.1 billion since his death.1

Few people—even those who don’t like his music—would dispute that Jackson was a brilliant entertainer. But although most people know how passionate and skilled he was, his achievements have been overshadowed in recent decades by allegations that he sexually abused numerous young boys between 1988 and 2003. These allegations have become so commonplace and pervasive that many people speak of Jackson as if he were obviously guilty. As Jackson said at the outset of his trial, “Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court.” It ultimately did, but public opinion often fails to keep pace with the facts.

On March 3, 2019, the allegations against Jackson once again became a hot topic when director Dan Reed released a four-hour “documentary” titled Leaving Neverland. “Documentary” is in scare quotes because little about Leaving Neverland is factual, and Reed knows it.2 The film presents no new evidence or witnesses but relies entirely on testimony from only two alleged victims, both of whom have changed their stories many times over the years—a fact Reed declines to mention.

Jackson, of course, did himself no favors. He was eccentric, eclectic, and, at times, just plain weird. He often behaved unwisely, but lacking wisdom is not a criminal offense, and there is almost no evidence to suggest—much less prove—that he ever harmed a child. On the other hand, there is a great deal of evidence showing that many people had motives to knowingly make false claims to the contrary.

Michael Jackson received justice, but only in the legal sense, when he was acquitted in 2005. For all intents and purposes, his career and personal life both were over after that. He suffered tremendous emotional trauma as a result of the trial and the years of sensationalized, irrationally biased, and sometimes flagrantly dishonest media coverage.3 He fell deeply into debt, developed a serious drug problem, and struggled to compose music for the rest of his life. The legal system had exonerated him, but the public had not—and still hasn’t, by and large.

Jackson’s memory and his living relatives deserve justice in the fullest sense. Other publications and media outlets sometimes have told his story accurately, but not loudly, frequently, or rigorously enough to drown out the lies. This article is an effort to tell the truth about a great—and greatly misunderstood—man. . . .

Anyone willing to take the time to assess Michael Jackson’s case carefully and objectively will learn that he was no child molester. The facts simply don’t support that horrific accusation. Click To Tweet

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1. Acknowledgments: I’d like to thank Jeanne White, Amy White, Jon Hersey, Robert Begley, Carrie-Ann Biondi, Leisa Hart, Craig Franklin, and especially Timothy Sandefur for their help in editing and fact-checking this piece; “List of Awards and Nominations Received by Michael Jackson,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_Michael_Jackson#Major_Awards_&_Records (accessed October 28, 2019); Colin Stutz, “Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ Becomes First-Ever 30 Times Multi-Platinum Album: Exclusive,” December 16, 2015, Billboard, https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/6812781/michael-jackson-thriller-30x-multi-platinum-album; Zack O’Malley Greenburg, “Michael Jackson at 60: The King of Pop by the Numbers,” August 29, 2018, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2018/08/29/michael-jackson-at-60-the-king-of-pop-by-the-numbers/#18b37f5d72ed.
2. Joe Vogel, “What You Should Know about the New Michael Jackson Documentary,” Forbes, January 29, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/joevogel/2019/01/29/what-you-should-know-about-the-new-michael-jackson-documentary/#110e532b640f; “Dan Reed Dances around the Interview Question,” LeavingNeverlandFacts.com, February 5, 2019, https://leavingneverlandfacts.com/dan-reed/“; Reed has admitted that he did not interview anyone other than the alleged victims for his film and repeatedly has evaded questions about the journalistic integrity of that decision.
3. Ben Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror, March 26, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXWRyvoYnic.
4. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “Michael Jackson—Artist Biography,” AllMusic, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/michael-jackson-mn0000467203/biography (accessed May 29, 2019); Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror.
5. Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror.
6. Julie Shaw and Martin Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson, February 6, 2003, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z34BKlCr9o.
7. Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror.
8. Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror.
9. Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror.
10. Mole, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror.
11. manu gmz, “Michael Jackson—Fun at Neverland,” YouTube, July 6, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raw96oUPGLk.
12. Jackson did not create the moonwalk—it was in use by performers such as Cab Calloway as early as the 1930s—but Jackson’s rendition of the difficult dance move was the first to become an enduring global sensation.
13. Jon Blistein, “Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Devalued in Real Estate Market,” Rolling Stone, March 2, 2017, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/michael-jacksons-neverland-ranch-devalued-in-real-estate-market-110295“; La Toya Jackson and Jeffé Phillips, Starting Over (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), 297.
14. The Michael Jackson Allegations, “Differences between Leaving Neverland/Interviews and the Robson/Safechuck Lawsuits,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2019/03/17/differences-between-leaving-neverland-interviews-and-the-robson-safechuck-lawsuits/ (accessed July 10, 2019); John C. Manly, Vince W. Finaldi, and Alex Cunny, Second Amended Complaint for Damages and Demand for Jury Trial by James Safechuck against MJJ Productions Inc., MJJ Ventures Inc., and DOES 6–50, Superior Court of the State of California, https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/safechuck_v_mjj-second_amended_complaint-conformed.pdf (accessed August 13, 2019).
15. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Safechuck Alleges Sexual Abuse at the Iconic Neverland Train Station that Did Not Even Exist at the Time,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2019/03/30/safechuck-alleges-sexual-abuse-at-a-train-station-that-did-not-even-exist-at-the-time/” (accessed October 8, 2019).
16. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Safechuck Alleges Sexual Abuse.”
17. Elise Capron, “Episode 094—Harrison Funk Special,” The MJCast, http://www.themjcast.com/episode-094-harrison-funk-special/ (accessed October 8, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “Safechuck Alleges Sexual Abuse.”
18. Dan Reed, Leaving Neverland, HBO, 2019; Michael Jackson Allegations, “Safechuck Alleges Sexual Abuse”; Manly, Finaldi, and Cunny, Second Amended Complaint for Damages and Demand for Jury Trial by James Safechuck against MJJ Productions Inc., MJJ Ventures Inc., and DOES 6–50.
19. Lorenn Anderson and Ronda Anderson-Singer v. Sea/Sue Inc., et al., No. 56-2013-00435786-CU-MC-VTA (Ventura County Superior Court, 2014), https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/dad-lawsuit.pdf (accessed October 8, 2019).
20. ET Canada, “Macaulay Culkin on Michael Jackson Friendship,” YouTube, January 16, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24QuSFa3LNI.
21. Charles Thomson, “One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History,” Huffpost, May 25, 2011, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/one-of-the-most-shameful_b_610258; Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/the-court-transcripts/” (accessed July 25, 2019).
22. Michael Jackson, “Childhood Official Video,” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puQEcN_iI9o (accessed October 28, 2019).
23. Kit Culkin, Lost Boy, self-pub PDF, October 5, 2005, 43.
24. Culkin, Lost Boy, 42.
25. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Wade Robson Allegations,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/the-wade-robson-allegations/” (accessed September 6, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “The 1993 Allegations,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/the-1993-allegations/” (accessed September 6, 2019).
26. Michael Jackson Allegations, Michael Jackson and Wade Robson: The Real Story, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgSbSotJgUY (accessed September 6, 2019).
27. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Litigation—Part 2,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2018/05/12/the-litigation-part-2/” (accessed October 8, 2019).
28. Precise, reliable accounts of every instance in which Jackson and Robson spent time together are nearly impossible to compile, but most sources who knew both of them agree that they were rarely alone together. Other members of Robson’s family, Jackson’s staff, and/or employees of the venues where Jackson’s concerts were held almost always were present.
29. Michael Jackson Allegations, “A Critical Analysis of Leaving Neverland,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2019/02/25/a-critical-analysis-of-leaving-neverland/” (accessed October 28, 2019).
30. Recall that in the James Safechuck section, I wrote that none of Jackson’s security staff ever reported witnessing abuse. The employees I refer to here are non-security personnel—housekeepers, gardeners, and the like.
31. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Wade’s Witnesses—Part 1,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2018/05/12/wades-witnesses-part-1/” (accessed October 8, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “Wade’s Witnesses—Part 2,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2018/05/12/wades-witnesses-part-2/ (accessed October 8, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
32. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Wade Robson Allegations (Summary Version),” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2018/09/23/the-wade-robson-allegations/” (accessed October 28, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
33. Michael Jackson Allegations, Michael Jackson and Wade Robson: The Real Story.
34. Michael Jackson Allegations, Michael Jackson and Wade Robson: The Real Story.
35. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Wade Robson’s Emails,” https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/2016-12-27-robsonemailswatermark.pdf (accessed October 8, 2019).
36. Wade Robson, “Break to Heal, Part I,” Wade’s Window, https://waderobson.com/wadeswindow/breaktoheal1 (accessed September 6, 2019).
37. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Wade Robson Allegations (Summary Version).”
38. Michael Jackson Allegations, Michael Jackson and Wade Robson: The Real Story.
39. The Michael Jackson Allegations, “Robson’s Route to Changing His Story—Part 9,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2018/05/12/robsons-route-to-changing-his-story-part-9/” (accessed October 8, 2019).
40. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Wade Robson Deposition Extracts,” https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/wade-robson-deposition-extracts.pdf (accessed October 28, 2019).
41. It’s unlikely that Jackson remembered who the Chandlers were right away or that he knowingly sought them out when his car broke down. It was almost certainly the Chandlers who pursued Jackson, not the other way around. One of David Schwartz’s employees observed: “It was almost like [Jordan’s mother] was forcing [Jordan] on [Michael]. . . . I think Michael thought he owed the boy something, and that’s when it all started.” Other people who knew both Jackson and the families he spent time with, such as Jackson’s personal assistant, Frank Cascio, and his employee of seventeen years, Grace Rwaramba, have made similar observations.
42. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The 1993 Allegations.”
43. Shaw and Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson.
44. Shaw and Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson.
45. Barbara Sternig and David Duffy, “Michael Jackson’s Secret Family—A Millionaire’s Wife and Her Two Kids,” May 25, 1993, https://vindicatemj.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/a-surprising-case-of-the-national-enquirer-telling-the-truth-about-michael-jackson/“.
46. Ray Chandler, All That Glitters: The Crime and the Cover-up (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2005), 25.
47. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The 1993 Allegations.”
48. Michael Jackson Allegations, “How Did the Allegations of the Chandlers Emerge?,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/26/how-did-the-allegations-of-the-chandlers-emerge/” (accessed October 8, 2019).
49. Although I’m neither a doctor nor a pharmacologist, I was a nurse for ten years and I have knowledge of the drugs most commonly used to sedate patients for surgical procedures. I never have heard of sodium amytal being used or even considered for routine medical or dental procedures.
50. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Use of Sodium Amytal?,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/26/the-use-of-sodium-amytal/” (accessed October 7, 2019).
51. Jim Newton and Sonia Nazario, “Police Say Seized Tapes Do Not Incriminate Jackson: Investigation: Officials Continue to Interview Children in Connection with Molestation Allegations,” Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1993, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-08-27-mn-28516-story.html.
52. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Michael Jackson’s First Accuser—Meet the Chandler Family!,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/26/michael-jacksons-first-accuser-meet-the-chandler-family/” (accessed October 8, 2019).
53. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Michael Jackson’s First Accuser—Meet the Chandler Family!”
54. Michael Jackson Allegations, “Taped Phone Conversations between Evan Chandler and David Schwartz on July 8, 1993,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/26/taped-phone-conversations-between-evan-chandler-and-david-schwartz-on-july-8-1993/” (accessed October 7, 2019).
55. Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, “Autopsy Report for Michael Jackson,” http://www.autopsyfiles.org/reports/Celebs/jackson,%20michael_report.pdf (accessed August 13, 2019).
56. Chandler, All That Glitters: The Crime and the Cover-up, 202–3.
57. Frank Cascio, My Friend Michael (New York: Harper Collins, 2011), 287.
58. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The 2005 Allegations,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/the-2005-allegations/” (accessed October 8, 2019).
59. Michael Jackson Allegations, “An Introduction of the Arvizo Family and How Their Relationship with Michael Jackson Started,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/26/an-introduction-of-the-arvizo-family-and-how-their-relationship-with-michael-jackson-started/” (accessed October 7, 2019).
60. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The 2005 Allegations;” Shaw and Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson.
61. Luru Linh, “The Truth about Michael Jackson Part 1: The Arvizo Family Tells the Truth,” September 13, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bez7QCXJJV4; Luru Linh, “The Truth about Michael Jackson Part 2: Terror Captives at Neverland,” September 13, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUlDSoPzLLs.
62. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Conspiracy Charge,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/27/the-conspiracy-charge/” (accessed October 7, 2019).
63. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
64. Michael Jackson Allegations, “General Credibility Problems with the Arvizo Family,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2017/05/14/general-credibility-problems-with-the-arvizo-family/” (accessed October 7, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Changing Content of the Allegations and Contradictions,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/27/the-changing-content-of-the-allegations-and-contradictions/” (accessed October 7, 2019); Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Crucial Period: February 7–March 12, 2003,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/27/the-crucial-period-february-7-march-12-2003/” (accessed October 7, 2019).
65. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
66. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts”; Michael Jackson Allegations, “Has Child Pornography Ever Been Found in Michael Jackson’s Possession?,” https://themichaeljacksonallegations.com/2016/12/27/has-child-pornography-ever-been-found-in-michael-jacksons-possession/#forgeries, December 27, 2016.
67. Kingsherry, “Tom Sneddon Had a Vendetta against Michael Jackson,” YouTube, November 25, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfjEuMp3gC0&t=66; William Wagener, “Michael Jackson’s Lead Defense Atty. Thomas ‘Hurricane’ Mesereau, Part 2,” YouTube, December 13, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_uSuUzqby8&feature=youtu.be&t=126; Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
68. Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
69. Jonna M. Spilbor, “Why the DA’s Search of Michael Jackson’s PI’s Office Was Unlawful,” CNN, July 26, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/07/26/spilbor.jackson.sneddon/index.html; Charles Thomson, “One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History”; Michael Jackson Allegations, “The Court Transcripts.”
70. The Smoking Gun, “Jackson Accuser’s Mom Hit with Fraud Rap,” http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/jackson-accusers-mom-hit-fraud-rap (accessed October 28, 2019); Peter Y. Hong, “Mother in Jackson Case Accepts Plea,” Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2006, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-nov-14-me-arvizo14-story.html.

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