M.O.N.E.Y: The Extortion of Michael Jackson
By Lisa & Christy
Lisa is an attorney and Christy, a fellow professional writer
Michael Jackson was an enigma, to say the least. Much has been written analyzing everything from his psyche to his appearance to his talent, and there are opinions across the board about the allegations of molestation leveled against him during his life. Fan sites abound with opinionated and impassioned statements and articles about his innocence, most of which simply proclaim that he was found not guilty in a court of law. But there are countless details—including FBI files released in December 2009, court records, and public records—that offer a more well-rounded and supportable claim of innocence against all the charges, not just those in the criminal case.
Lisa: I was never a big Michael Jackson fan. However, having been born in the early 1970’s, Michael’s music was always in the background, always there to be heard and enjoyed. On June 25, 2009, the only news I had received was that Farah Fawcett’s long battle with cancer was finally over. When I returned home after work that evening, I logged on to Yahoo and was horrified by the headline “Michael Jackson Is Dead.” I began to text my husband, trying to multitask by running through the news channels at the same time. I watched CNBC, Fox News, CNN, and whatever channel happened to be broadcasting information about Michael’s untimely demise. As the world knows, the media coverage about Michael was non-stop, with everyone seemingly having an opinion about every aspect of Michael’s life and death. After many weeks of following the story, I continued to be struck by the fact that while so many mourned, so many others made cruel jokes. The dichotomy of feelings engendered by this man was fascinating, albeit in a horrifying way.
Back in 1993, when the first allegations were made public, I was in college. I didn’t really read the accounts of what was happening, but I knew the basic allegations, and for some reason, they didn’t sit well with me. Even after the settlement, I didn’t believe that Michael Jackson had committed the alleged acts.
In 2005, I was sucked into the media reports and thought that Michael was going to jail. Again, I did not believe the allegations, but the evidence being reported at the time was so overwhelming that it seemed a foregone conclusion. When he was found not guilty of all 14 counts of the criminal complaint on June 13, 2005, I completely understood why Michael chose to leave his home country.
However, Michael’s death made me want to delve into the evidence of all the allegations against him in order to determine what really transpired in 1993, and then again ten years later. With some apprehension, I plowed into the research. Once I started even the most basic search I was stunned by how little evidence there was against Michael—both in the allegations of Jordie Chandler and the court case of Gavin Arvizo. I was also confounded that so few credible journalists came to the aid of Michael Jackson, reporting anything other than salacious allegations.
Christy: My husband walked into my office in the afternoon of June 25, 2009, and said, “It’s a bad day to be a celebrity.” At my puzzled look, he said, “Farrah Fawcett died. And so did Michael Jackson.” I was stunned. I skipped right over the Farrah Fawcett news; while I certainly was sorry for what she’d endured, her illness was no secret, and in many ways I was grateful that her suffering was over. But Michael Jackson… that caught my attention. Like millions of others, I immediately became glued to the TV and the Internet, trying to discern fact from fiction. After Thriller, I had lost track of Michael Jackson over the years, not really paying attention to his music or to his life—although it was hard to miss the sensational stories the tabloids frequently ran on their covers every time he dared to venture out. But as I listened to the reports, like Lisa, I was struck by how judgmental and unkind so many people were. I asked my husband if he thought Michael Jackson was a pedophile; he didn’t believe so. I didn’t either, but I didn’t know why I didn’t believe so. Neither of us had followed the 2005 criminal trial in any depth, so I thought perhaps that was why we weren’t inclined to believe the worst. My curious nature got the best of me, and I donned my ‘investigator’ hat and went to work. With so much information available at my fingertips, it was pretty simple to dig deeper.
I began with that bastion of celebrity, Vanity Fair. When I began my research, I had great respect for Maureen Orth, a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and widow of Tim Russert, the famous host of NBC’s Meet the Press. I knew Ms. Orth had covered celebrities for VF, and after only a few keystrokes, I had copies of all of her articles on Michael Jackson. As I began to read, a sense of horror came over me. Sentence after sentence screamed, “bias.” I was appalled at the bias in the reporting, the evident lack of concern about concealing that bias, and at the poor writing and editing....