Just the Facts Sir: The People v. Michael Jackson

Just the Facts Sir: The People v. Michael Jackson

by Michelle Kaminsky, Esq., December 2009

After a two week-long break because of the death of the defense attorney's sister and the defendant's bout with the flu, the much-hyped child molestation trial against Michael Jackson has finally begun.

Jury selection wrapped up in just 6 days instead of the expected several weeks and the King of Pop will finally have his day in court—a 1993 child molestation case was settled out of court when the alleged victim accepted a multimillion-dollar offer and refused to testify in a criminal trial.

So what are the charges against the 46-year-old singing legend this time around? In April 2004, Jackson was indicted on:

  • 4 counts of committing a lewd act upon a child;
  • 1 count of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child;
  • 4 counts of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony, namely child molestation; and
  • 1 count of conspiracy, which refers to allegations that Jackson and his cohorts held the accuser and his family against their will at Jackson's Neverland Ranch after the 2003 airing of the Martin Bashir documentary "Living with Michael Jackson."

It is expected that the defense strategy all during this case will be to depict Jackson as the victim of a greedy young mother's desperate plot to extort money.

Living with Michael Jackson

In many ways, it was the Bashir documentary that started Jackson's troubles with the law after almost a decade of relative quiet. In this special that aired first in England on February 3, 2003, and in the United States three days later, the accuser and Jackson appeared on camera together holding hands as the accuser praised the pop singer and rested his head on Jackson's shoulder. Jackson acknowledged sharing his bed with boys and defended it by famously proclaiming that "the most loving thing to do [is] to share your bed with someone."

The Public Outcry

Public outcry regarding Jackson's sentiments got Tom Sneddon, District Attorney of Santa Barbara County, working again on a case against Jackson. However, an investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Child Protective Services from February 14th to the 28th found no abuse. The information that the accuser and his family subsequently provided prosecutors, though, would tend to show a much different story.

A Look at the Charges

The accuser was 13 and suffering with cancer at the time of the alleged molestation incidents. He first met Michael Jackson in 2000 in a kind of Make-a-Wish contact in which a gravely ill child is able to meet a favorite famous personality. Jackson called the boy while he was in being treated in a Los Angeles hospital and the two began talking on the phone frequently. When the boy began to recover and was released from the hospital, he visited Neverland for the first of many times.

Any alleged abuse, however, didn't begin until after the airing of the documentary in 2003 according to court records. From this point, the accuser says that on several occasions, the singer gave him wine (which Jackson allegedly called "Jesus Juice") and other alcohol disguised in emptied soda cans and offered sleeping pills, bringing about the charges for administering an intoxicating agent.

The lewd acts charges relate to accusations that Jackson inappropriately touched him on several occasions. The lone charge of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child stems from Jackson's alleged request that the boy touch Jackson's private parts over his clothes.

The accuser and his younger brother also reportedly told investigators of various unsettling incidents such as surfing the internet for pornography with Jackson, their seeing Jackson nude, Jackson's questioning them on masturbation, and Jackson's making obscene phone calls for fun.

The conspiracy charge was brought against Jackson because the accuser's mother claims that her family was effectively held prisoner at the Neverland Ranch after the Bashir documentary. The motive was evidently to silence them after the damaging footage was aired. According to the accuser's mother, their lives were repeatedly threatened by Jackson associates (none of whom are charged with conspiracy) and there was even a plan to ship them to Brazil where they were told they'd be safe from death threats by Jackson's fans.

Tom Sneddon, District Attorney

Sneddon has vowed to try to get information from both the 1993 allegations and another early 1990s investigation of Jackson's conduct into the trial. Also expect to see heated discussions over the introduction of various pornographic materials, including books and magazines, which were reportedly found during a police search at Neverland.

Firing Back

Jackson's camp has already provided opening remarks this past Tuesday, much of which were aimed at painting a different portrait of Michael Jackson. Indeed, it is expected that the defense strategy all during this case will be to depict Jackson as the victim of a greedy young mother's desperate plot to extort money.

In his corner, Jackson is backed by high powered defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, Jr., who is expected to target the accuser's inability to pinpoint dates and times as well as inconsistencies between his and his family member's accounts of the alleged abuse. Mesereau, Jr. will also likely bring to light that the mother of the accuser participated in an ABC "20/20" rebuttal interview where she praised Jackson's relationship with her children.

Hollywood Drama

The Michael Jackson trial is sure to have all the drama of Hollywood movie—money, fame, sex, alcohol, conspiracy—and we can't forget the sparring of the lawyers. Interestingly, both the prosecutor and defense attorney are former boxers—skills that just may come in handy in what is sure to become a true courtroom battle over the next few weeks or even months.