Controversies involving Michael Jackson

1993 child sexual abuse accusations against Michael Jackson

In 1993, Michael Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by Evan Chandler, on behalf of his then-13-year-old child, Jordan Chandler. Jackson and Jordan had become friends in May 1992, to the father's disapproval and concern. The friendship became well known, as the tabloid media reported that Jackson became a member of the Chandler family unit. Under the influence of a controversial sedative administered by Evan Chandler, his son said that Jackson had touched his penis. Evan Chandler was tape-recorded threatening to damage the singer's music career, and engaged Jackson in unsuccessful negotiations to resolve the issue with a financial settlement. Jordan Chandler then told a psychiatrist and later police that he and Jackson had engaged in acts of kissing, masturbation, and oral sex, as well as giving a description of what he alleges were the singer's genitals.

Jackson's home, Neverland Ranch, was searched, even though other children and family members strongly denied that Jackson was a pedophile. Jackson's older sister, La Toya Jackson, accused her brother of being a pedophile, but later retracted her statement. Jackson became dependent on drugs as the stress of the allegations mounted, and canceled the remainder of his tour. He went into rehabilitation overseas, and began a relationship with Lisa Marie Presley. On his return to the US, Jackson agreed to a 25-minute strip search, which was required to see if the description of his genitals provided by Jordan Chandler was accurate. Doctors concluded that there were some strong similarities but it was not a definitive match. Jackson proclaimed his innocence, and criticized the media coverage. Jackson's friends and legal advisers took over his defense and finances, persuading him to settle the allegations out of court.

Tabloid reaction to the allegations were negative towards Jackson, and complaints about the coverage included bias and accepting stories of criminal activity for money, and engaging in illegal activities themselves. Public polls at the time reported that a large majority of people believed Jackson was innocent. On January 1, 1994, Jackson settled a civil suit out of court with the Chandler family and their legal team for $22 million. Jordan Chandler refused to testify in the criminal proceedings, the state closed its criminal investigation citing lack of evidence, Jackson was not charged with a crime. Jackson's support amongst the public then began to waver, and Jackson's own career and image was significantly damaged, which became a recurring theme in Jackson's future music. Prosecution evidence from the 1993 allegations would also be used against the entertainer in the 2005 People v. Jackson child sexual abuse trial, where he was acquitted on all counts.

Friendship, tape recording, allegations and negotiations

By the summer of 1993, it was revealed that Jackson allowed children to sleep over 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 family from the father, Evan Chandler, who was admittedly jealous over Jackson's influence on his son. Communications between Jackson and the father broke down further when Chandler asked, "Look, are you having sex with my son?". The father's opinion of Jackson then changed, to the extent that he invited Jackson to build an extra wing on their home so that the singer could move in with them permanently. Chandler's concerns about the close friendship returned, and he tried to prevent Jackson from seeing his son, using a prior custody agreement.

On July 2, 1993, in a private telephone conversation, Chandler was tape recorded as saying, 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 who's only goal was to extort money from the singer.

In early August, Chandler, a registered dentist, extracted a tooth from his son's mouth, and was later forced to admit that he used the controversial sedative sodium Amytal during the procedure. Under the influence of the drug Jorden alleged that Jackson had touching his penis. Experts state that the drug sodium Amytal "makes patients extremely susceptible to suggestions". Dr Lewis Strong, a Los Angeles psychiatrist stated, "You can't trust it, I never use it in my practice. I have found it to be unreliable. It's certainly not a truth serum". Dr Kenneth Gottlieb, a San Francisco psychiatrist who has used the drug, stated, "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 resuscitation equipment in case of allergic reaction".

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. 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 included incidents of kissing, masturbation and oral sex that went on for months. 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 into 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 second 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 where 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 has 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 Chandlers'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.

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 realised 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 (the daughter of Elvis Presley) in 1974, during one of Jackson's family engagements at the MGM Grand. In 1993, Jackson was reconnected with Presley through a mutual friend, staying in contact every day by telephone. As the child sexual abuse accusations became public, Jackson became dependent on Lisa Marie for emotional support; she was concerned about his faltering health and his addiction to drugs. Lisa Marie 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. Jackson proposed to Lisa Marie over the telephone 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 less than two years later, remaining friendly. The entertainer began 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, Jackson had lost approximately 10 pounds in weight and had stopped eating. In a court deposition unrelated to alleged child abuse, Jackson 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. Jackson's health had deteriorated to the extent that he canceled the remainder of his tour and flew with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband to London. When the singer 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 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, Jackson took part in group and one-on-one therapy sections.

Strip search

In December, 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 genitals, and details of patches of vitiligo on the singer's body; an illness Jackson was diagnosed with in the mid 1980s. 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 that refusal to comply would be used in court as a possible indication of guilt. The strip search took place on December 20 at the entertainer's ranch. Those present for the prosecution were 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 was examined for approximately 25 minutes, although he was never physically touched. The search report concluded that there were some strong similarities between Chandler's description and Jackson's body, but there wasn't a definite match.

Jackson speaks out

On December 22, Jackson responded to the allegations and everything that had occurred for the first time via satellite from his ranch: A poll at the time, conducted by A Current Affair, found that nearly 75 percent of people 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 settlement

Complaints about the coverage and media included using sensational headlines to draw in readers and viewers when the content itself did not support the headline, accepting stories of Jackson's alleged criminal activity in return for money, accepting confidential leaked material from the police investigation in return for money paid, deliberately using pictures of Jackson's appearance at its worst, a lack of objectivity and using headlines that strongly implied Jackson's guilt.

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. 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 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.

Public reaction prior to settlement

Despite the negative attitude of the media, the public (at least before the out-of-court settlement) still supported Jackson. A phone-in poll conducted by A Current Affair—known for its unfavorable coverage of the allegations—found that more than 80 percent of callers did not believe the Chandlers. A poll of teenagers—Jackson's central fan base at the time—also reported that 75 percent did not believe the allegations; this rose to nearly 90 percent amongst African American teenagers. Two thirds of children between the ages of 13 to 15—the approximate age of Jordan Chandler at the time—believed he was innocent. A poll conducted by Entertainment Weekly showed that only 12 percent of adults believed the allegations, and only 8 percent of people were less likely to buy a product endorsed by the entertainer. The same poll also concluded that public opinion of Jackson had risen since the allegations, with Jackson's past records selling at a faster rate.

Out of court settlement

By January 1, 1994, $2 million had been spent by prosecution departments in California, two Grand Juries had questioned two hundred witnesses, but Jordan's allegations could not corroborated. A few weeks later, Chandler's attorney, Larry 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." On January 25, Jackson settled a civil suit out of court. He agreed to pay a total of $22 million to Jordan, Chandler, June Chandler (the mother) and prosecution attorney Larry Feldman. Jordan refused to testify in a criminal trial, neither the police or the Grand Jury pressed criminal charges, citing a lack of evidence, Jackson was not be charged with a crime. Both parties signed a legal agreement declaring they would not speak about the case details. When asked why he paid off his accuser, Jackson answered, "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".


Three years later Jordan Chandler's 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 himself. In 1996, 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.

Today, Jordan Chandler is in his late twenties living in a $2.35 million home in Long Island under an assumed name. He and his family also own a high-rise apartment in Manhattan and a condominium in Santa Barbara. Chandler lives in Long Island under an assumed name, and June Chandler's second marriage ended sometime afterward. Jordan Chandler and Jackson never spoke to each other again; he received his last installment from Jackson in June 1999.

Effect on Jackson's career

Jackson's commercial appeal and public image declined, and further controversies involving Jackson, as well as a general decline within the music industry were also factors. The allegations had other notable affects: the singer released material less frequently, toured less and the allegations against him became a recurring theme in his music.

The album he had released prior to the allegations was Dangerous in 1991, and with shipments of seven million copies in the US and 27 million copies sold worldwide, it 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. However, by the fall of 1993, with criticism mounting, the ninth single "Gone Too Soon" did not sell enough in the UK, and the tenth single "Dangerous" was canceled. Jackson's canceled the end of the tour, before performing in the US.

After the allegations broke, songs specifically recorded by Jackson for the Addams Family Values movie and soundtrack were dropped. Plans to market new Michael Jackson fragrances for Men and Women were shelved by the maker because of Jackson's drug problems. By the end of 1994, the ten year partnership between Jackson and drinks manufacturer Pepsi was dissolved, even though Jackson had grossed the company $500 million in a decade. Jackson's fans then boycotted the company; its stock value fell 20 percent the following year.

His next studio album was HIStory; released in the summer of 1995. It was a double album, making its level of success difficult to compare up against Dangerous. Worldwide sales were 18 million copies, but as a double disc album, it sold 36 million individual units. It was Jackson's second-best album in terms of grossed revenue, behind Thriller, and is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all time. He promoted the album with the HIStory World Tour; it remains his most successful show to date with 4.5 million tickets sold. Despite the show's success the singer avoided taking it to his home country; Jackson has not toured the world since.

The allegations also had an affect 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 launched 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 over his "fall from grace".

Released in 1997, and premiering at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Ghosts was a short film written by Jackson and Stephen King (directed by Stan Winston). The story was based loosely on how Jackson felt after he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. In the plot, the Maestro—played by Jackson—is nearly chased out of his town by the residents and the mayor, because they believe him to be a "freak".

Jackson's last album to date, Invincible, was released six years later in 2001, which was the longest period the singer has ever taken between records. It was seen as a relative commercial disappointment when compared to Jackson's prior solo material; it shipped two million copies in the US (worldwide sales stand at approximately 10 million copies). The album spawned three singles: "You Rock My World", "Cry" and "Butterflies", but only one reached the top 10 in the US. The low sales were accredited to the lack of a supporting world tour, only one music video being released to promote the album, and hampered by a label dispute. Just before the release of Invincible, Jackson had informed the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola, that he was not going to renew his contract. As a result, all singles releases, video shootings and promotions concerning the Invincible album were canceled.

People v. Jackson (Evidence Code 1108)

In 2003, Jackson was 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, who was under 14 at the time. 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 preceded 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, two years after Jackson was originally charged. During the trial the judge allowed the prosecution to bring in evidence needed to determine whether or not a defendant had a propensity to commit certain crimes. This meant that the prosecution were allowed to use any evidence they had against Jackson from the 1993 allegations to help secure a conviction. Although evidence from 1993 was used, Jordan Chandler did not appear in the Jackson trial. The trial lasted five months, until the end of May 2005, Jackson was found not guilty on all counts in June.



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