Chapter 19

On April 21, 2004, when a Santa Barbara County grand jury indicted Michael Jackson on ten felony counts related to his alleged sexual abuse of Gavin Arvizo, the entertainer’s circumstances—legal, personal, and financial—had deteriorated so rapidly that even those who had been closest to him assumed the end was at hand.

The raid on Neverland Ranch and Jackson’s subsequent arrest, in November 2003, had come at the worst possible time for Michael, and the district attorney who orchestrated the two events, Tom Sneddon, was fully aware of that. Sony had released Number Ones one day before the raid, sending the album into record stores at the very moment forensics experts, sheriff’s deputies, and police videographers were inspecting every square inch of the main house at Neverland. In Las Vegas, Michael had been putting his final touches on a special for CBS television, featuring both new performances and a retrospective of his entire career, that was scheduled to air the following week. That the network would offer him such a platform (and the seven-figure fee that went with it) was testimony to how successful the “rebuttal video” broadcast on Fox had been both in debunking the Bashir documentary and in demonstrating Jackson’s continuing ability to draw huge ratings. Michael was on the brink of a renaissance that exceeded what even his most ardent supporters had imagined possible a year earlier.

But within forty-eight hours of the raid, Jackson and those advising him had made two enormous mistakes that would put his future in serious jeopardy. One was to allow the Nation of Islam to move in and take almost complete control of his life. The other was to retain Mark Geragos as his criminal defense attorney.

Geragos was a controversial figure among many in the Los Angeles legal community, mainly because a lot of L.A. Lawyers believed he cared far more about getting his face on television than he did about winning cases. Geragos had become a fixture of the twenty-four-hour news cycle when he represented actress Winona Ryder after she was caught stealing $5,500 worth of designer clothes and accessories from the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills in December 2001. Geragos appeared on cable news shows almost nightly as the absurd farce dragged on, mainly because he and his client refused to accept a plea bargain and forced the case to trial. After Ryder was convicted of felony grand theft and vandalism, Geragos boasted before TV cameras that, instead of jail time, he had gotten his client a sentence of three years’ probation, 480 hours of community service, $3,700 in fines, and $6,355 in restitution—the exact sentence the prosecution had asked for. His self-proclaimed ability to manage the media was why Geragos had been hired to represent California congressman Gary Condit when Condit was a public object of suspicion in the disappearance of a young woman named Chandra Levy in Washington, D.C. Condit was never charged with a crime, but that had absolutely nothing to do with Geragos’s nightly appearances on television and everything to do with the fact that no evidence existed to link the congressman to Levy’s disappearance. Just how successful Geragos had been in protecting his client’s reputation was evident a short time later when Condit’s thirty-year political career ended with an eighteen-point loss in the Democratic primary. And yet now, in 2004, after two very public failures, Geragos was the lead defense attorney not only for Michael Jackson, but also for Scott Peterson, whose pregnant wife Laci’s dismembered body had been recovered from San Francisco Bay in April 2003. (That case would result in a trial at which Geragos promised to show that Laci Peterson’s baby had been born alive, suggesting that she was a kidnap victim. No such evidence was ever presented and, after his conviction, Peterson was sentenced to death.)

The publicity that surrounded the Jackson and Peterson cases had made Geragos into the leading man of Larry King Live, but not into a skillful criminal defense attorney. Within days of taking the Jackson case, he made a pair of crucial errors. The least of these was to permit Jackson’s appearance on 60 Minutes. Michael told Ed Bradley on camera that he had been manhandled during his arrest by Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies, who dislocated his shoulders and bruised his forearms with overtightened handcuffs, then locked him up in a filthy bathroom where he was “taunted” for forty-five minutes. This story was a gross exaggeration, and the sheriff’s department promptly proved it by, among other things, releasing an audio- tape of Jackson’s ride to the police station, where he was fingerprinted, booked, and released within just over an hour. Combined with the fact that he had lied to Martin Bashir about the extent of his plastic surgery, the 60 Minutes appearance neither helped Michael’s case nor improved his public standing. In fact, it damaged him on both fronts. Geragos’s warning on Larry King Live that the sheriff’s department would face “repercussions” for what it had done to his client only made matters worse.

More foolish was that Geragos had not only accepted but actually embraced the involvement of the Nation of Islam in the preparation of Michael’s defense. Leonard Muhammad, the NOI’s “chief of staff,” stood directly behind Geragos at the first news conference called to respond to the molestation charges, and afterward was offered space in the attorney’s law offices. The news that Jackson was affiliated with a blatantly racist and anti-Semitic organization did him no good with anyone outside a narrow spectrum of black America. More costly in the short term, though, was that Muhammad and his henchmen were destroying Jackson’s relationships with almost everyone who had done anything to help him in recent years. The most expensive exclusions were those of Marc Schaffel, who had made Michael tens of millions of dollars in 2003 and had tens of millions more in the pipeline, and Al Malnik, who was closer than a lot of people realized to sorting out Jackson’s financial problems.

Michael had first met Malnik when the movie director Brett Ratner invited him to see a house “so beautiful it will make you catatonic.” Though described by old-money types in Palm Beach County as “gauche,” Malnik’s 35,000-square-foot mansion in Ocean Ridge (reputedly the largest waterfront home in the United States) overwhelmed Michael. So did Malnik’s Asian art collection, which included carved mammoth tusks and an ivory sculpture featuring 8,000 separate figures, all with different faces. Like everyone who met Malnik, of course, Michael soon learned about the lawyer’s “mob connections.” Malnik had consorted with the likes of Meyer Lanksy and Sam Cohen as a younger man. Reader’s Digest had described Malnik as Lansky’s “heir apparent” when the biggest Jewish mobster of his era died in 1983, and that label (fairly applied or not) got Malnik banned from the casinos in Atlantic City. The fact that his Rolls-Royce was blown up in a parking garage in 1982 no doubt contributed to the attorney’s spotty reputation.

In the years since, Malnik had made much of his immense fortune in the opportunistic (some would say predatory) title loan business. No matter what people said or wrote about him, Malnik had emerged as an undeniable eminence in Palm Beach County, where he was known as the developer of the Skylake Country Club and, especially, as the owner of the Forge, a legendary restaurant (Wine Spectator called it the best in the country) and nightclub in Miami Beach that had remained a major destination since the days when it was the South Florida haunt of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

Jackson and Malnik merged realities in the year 2000 within moments of a meeting that almost never happened. “I initially said no,” Malnik recalled, “because I was not a fan, so I really didn’t see the point of inviting him to come over and entertain him.” Malnik’s much younger wife had grown up with Michael Jackson posters on the wall of her bedroom, though, and insisted upon having the star over. In almost no time, Jackson and his children were living in Malnik’s house for long stretches of time. Michael was maybe the easiest houseguest he ever had, Malnik would say later: “He liked to clean his own room and make his own bed, and he taught his kids to do that, too, much to our amazement.” Malnik’s older son Shareef soon formed a foursome with Michael, Ratner, and Chris Tucker. Malnik’s triplets, who were about the same age as Jackson’s two oldest children, quickly bonded with Prince and Paris. A year after Blanket was born, Michael asked Malnik to be the boy’s godfather. When Malnik celebrated his seventieth birthday at the Forge, he sat with his wife on one side and Michael on the other. “Al made Michael part of his family,” said Schaffel. “Michael stayed at his house for months on end and absolutely loved it there.”

Jackson wrote dozens of new songs at the Malniks’ enormous Ocean Ridge home, usually while walking around the place in pajamas and singing his lyrics a cappella. One of Malnik’s favorite memories of Michael was the day he saw his houseguest walking up one set of stairs, then back down another, over and over again. “I asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m doing two songs at once. I am walking up this set doing one song, and when I walk down the other, I do the other song.’” When Michael asked him to install a portable dance floor, Malnik obliged. The biggest favors he did for Jackson, though, were financial. How much money he spent on Michael, Malnik wouldn’t say, but it was substantial. “Al personally wrote checks to pay down a lot of Michael’s bills,” Schaffel recalled. “He really came to feel a warm affection for Michael. He felt that Michael was vulnerable and that people had taken advantage of him. And he really wanted to help him. But he understood the type of person Michael was. He knew that as well as cleaning up Michael’s debt, he had to rehabilitate Michael’s spending. Among other things, he tried to teach Michael to negotiate instead of just paying top dollar for whatever he wanted.” Malnik demonstrated the art of haggling in his dealings with a number of Jackson’s major creditors. Given Malnik’s wealth, power, and reputation, very few of the people he telephoned were unwilling to hear him out. “Al called the head of Bank of America, and the guy immediately came to have dinner with Al at his house,” remembered Schaffel, who was even more impressed by a conversation he listened to on speakerphone between Malnik and George W. Bush. The president of the United States was calling in the autumn of 2003 to ask for an introduction to rap mogul Russell Simmons, whom he hoped would help with “getting some of the black vote” in the 2004 election. “That’s the kind of stature Al has,” Schaffel observed. “And he used it to help Michael.” By late 2003, after the disposition of the Myung Ho Lee and Marcel Avram lawsuits, “Al almost had Michael’s finances to the point of a turnaround,” Schaffel recalled, “and then it all just blew up.”

It was Malnik who posted Jackson’s bail following his arrest on the molestation charges in Santa Barbara County, but almost immediately afterward communication between the two ceased. “I told Michael that it was the worst mistake of his life when he allowed the Nation of Islam to come in and convince him to stop speaking to Al Malnik,” Schaffel said. With Leonard Muhammad and associates whispering in Michael’s ear, the relationship with Malnik deteriorated far beyond the point of not talking to one another. By the spring of 2004, Jackson, as drug-addled as he’d ever been, was convinced that Malnik was part of a conspiracy against him that included Sony, Bank of America, and Tom Sneddon, and that all of them were after the Beatles songs.

Many of the people surrounding Michael at that point were playing on both his sense of persecution and his delusional thinking. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was vying with Louis Farrakhan for first position. He saw something distinctly sinister in the way Bank of America had off-loaded Michael’s debt to Fortress Investments, Jesse Jackson told USA Today. “Who was forcing the bank’s hand and what did they stand to gain?” he asked. “That must come under scrutiny. I think the bank sold the loan rather than face the heat.”

Louis Farrakhan wasn’t going to be easily shouldered aside by the likes of Reverend Jackson, though, and he continued to work Michael’s sensitivity on the subject of those “Hollywood Jews”—Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in particular—who had strung him along for years but were nowhere to be seen now, when he needed support and protection. Both Farrakhan and Michael appeared to have forgotten that back in Thriller Time the Nation of Islam leader had denounced Michael for his “female-acting, sissified-acting expression,” warning that “it is not wholesome for our young boys nor our young girls.”

What Michael seemed not to understand was that whether or not he won black people over to his side would have absolutely nothing to do with what was going to happen to him in Santa Barbara County. Mark Geragos didn’t get that, either, just one reason among many why it was so fortunate for Michael that Geragos, distracted by the Scott Peterson case, was on his way out as Jackson’s lawyer.

Something like poetic justice imbued Johnnie Cochran’s role as the key figure in selecting Geragos’s replacement as Michael Jackson’s defense attorney. It was Cochran, after all, who had persuaded Jackson to make the terrible and enduring mistake of settling the Jordan Chandler case for millions of dollars. “Michael never forgave Johnnie Cochran for that,” Schaffel recalled. Cochran hadn’t helped Michael’s reputation much, either, with a subsequent comment that suggested Michael’s insistence upon pleading the Fifth Amendment when asked about his relationships with young boys during a deposition in 1994 had been an implied admission of guilt. The attorney famed for helping O. J. Simpson avoid a murder conviction was on his deathbed in April 2004, wasting away rapidly from the effects of a fatal brain tumor, when Michael’s brother Randy called Cochran to ask him to recommend an attorney to take Geragos’s place. “If it was me,” Johnnie said, “I’d want Tom Mesereau.”

Imposingly tall and broad-shouldered, with a shoulder-length mane of white hair and ice-blue eyes, Mesereau looked as if he could hold his own with any movie lawyer onscreen. He had been raised as the son of a U.S. Army officer (and military academy football coach) and briefly pursued a career as a boxer before attending Harvard. Mesereau had become a nationally known attorney only a few months earlier, in the autumn of 2003, when his defense of actor Robert Blake on murder charges at a preliminary trial in Los Angeles Superior Court put his face on television for a solid month. Blake was accused of the 2001 murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, as she sat in the car outside a Studio City restaurant where the two had eaten dinner. Convinced that the “egomanical” prosecutors on the case had decided Blake’s guilt was so obvious it didn’t need to be proven, Mesereau approached the prelim as if it were a real trial, and eviscerated the state’s witnesses on cross-examination. The analysts on cable TV all agreed it had been brilliant work, especially after Blake became the first defendant charged with a special circumstances murder case in California to be granted bail.

Mesereau had taken a vacation in Big Sur after the prelim, and spent an entire week in November 2003 with his cell phone shut off. When he turned the phone back on during the drive back down 101 to Los Angeles, it began to ring repeatedly. “All these friends of Michael Jackson’s were calling me from Las Vegas, begging me to come and see him,” Mesereau remembered. One of the callers was Larry Carroll, who for more than twenty years had been the most prominent black newscaster in Los Angeles, until he was charged with securities fraud by a grand jury in San Bernardino County. Mesereau had represented Carroll at trial and won his acquittal. Of course he was intrigued by the idea of representing Michael Jackson, Mesereau told Carroll, but the Blake case was scheduled to go to trial in February and he needed to give that his full attention. The calls from Michael’s friends kept coming, though. “They were in shock, I think,” the attorney said. “You would turn down Michael Jackson?” they all said. Michael’s brother Randy, now in control of the star’s business affairs, had watched the entire Blake prelim on Court TV and was especially insistent, but Mesereau kept saying that he couldn’t take on both of these cases at once.

Mesereau was familiar to the city’s African-American elite not just because he lived with a former Miss Black Los Angeles—the cabaret performer Minnie Foxx—and was among the few white people seen regularly in the pews at the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Crenshaw Boulevard, arguably the most august institution in LA’s black community. The attorney had made a virtual alternate career out of his pro bono work for poor black clients both in the Los Angeles Basin and in the Deep South. Nearly every African-American leader in the country, including Louis Farrakhan, was aware of the acquittal Mesereau had won for Terry Wayne Bonner, a homeless black man accused of murdering a white woman in Birmingham, Alabama. Mesereau was admired as well for persuading the San Bernardino district attorney’s office to drop the rape charges it had filed against boxer Mike Tyson in 2001.

During Blake’s pretrial hearings in early 2004, Court TV began to report on “growing tensions” between Blake and his defense team. One report had Blake unhappy with Mesereau’s partner and cocounsel Susan Yu, insisting she be removed from the case at the same time Mesereau refused to attend court without her. Another story recounted Mesereau’s frustration with his inability to control Blake, who had given an interview to Barbara Walters on ABC against the attorney’s advice. There was also a story that Blake had hired private investigators that were to report directly to him, without consulting Mesereau, and another that the actor had accused his attorney of exploiting the case to promote his career by mentioning it repeatedly in an infomercial.

Mesereau has refused to explain why he asked the court, in February 2004, to let him be released from the Blake case, but does admit that he withdrew to his offices in a glum mood, realizing that in the course of a couple of months he had lost the two biggest opportunities of his career, the Robert Blake and Michael Jackson cases, and might soon be returning to relative obscurity. Less than two weeks after he withdrew from the Blake case, though, Mesereau received another call from Randy Jackson, who said, “Look, we still want you. Can you come to Florida and meet my brother?”

The attorney flew to Orlando the next day and was driven to a “secret location” where Michael and his large team of advisors waited. “Michael didn’t say much of anything,” Mesereau recalled. “He just observed me intensely while the others asked questions.”

“We don’t like what our attorneys are doing with the media,” said Randy Jackson, who told a story about being shouldered aside by Geragos after a court hearing in the lawyer’s rush to get to the microphones. In explaining that he was “not a Hollywood type,” Mesereau found himself being, perhaps, a bit too forthcoming. He had never been much interested in show business, the attorney said, had always been something of a loner, to tell the truth, one whose favorite entertainment was to drive around Los Angeles, especially South Central LA, “just to see what’s going on and feel the people.” Other than a slight smile, Michael Jackson showed no visible response to all of this, and Mesereau walked away from the interview “figuring I was one of a hundred lawyers to come through, and might be the weirdest guy they’d talked to.” He had his own reservations about taking the job, anyway, if it was offered: “People who cared about me were warning that this case would define me for the rest of my life, especially if I lost. I’d be the guy who let Michael Jackson die in prison.” Two weeks later, though, after Michael spoke directly with Johnnie Cochran, Randy Jackson called Mesereau to tell him he had the job, if he wanted it, and the attorney immediately said yes.

Excited as he was, Mesereau soon began to impose conditions. The first was that Susan Yu would be his cocounsel. “No problem,” Randy Jackson said. Mesereau knew he risked losing the case when he made his second demand, which was that the Nation of Islam disappear from Michael’s life.

After spending some time in Santa Maria, the small city in northern Santa Barbara County where the trial would be held, Mesereau decided the entire subject of race must be removed from the case. Santa Maria was a mostly white, conservative, largely blue-collar community with a sizeable Hispanic minority but almost no black people. Mesereau spent a week hanging out in local bars and coffee shops wearing jeans and a leather jacket, and realized the place didn’t precisely accord with the effete liberal bias against it. “What I discovered was that Michael was very well thought of by most of the people there,” Mesereau recalled. “He was part of the community, employed a lot of people, and had been a good neighbor. Everyone I spoke to remarked that on the rare occasions when he came into the city he had been very polite and considerate. But the big thing that struck me was that people didn’t see Michael Jackson in terms of race. He was the rare person, maybe the one person, who truly transcended race in people’s minds. As an artist, white people loved him, Hispanics loved him, Asians loved him, everybody loved him. I admit I was surprised, but not a single person I spoke to brought up the subject of race. It just wasn’t an issue where Michael was concerned.”

Mesereau first publicly distinguished himself from Michael Jackson’s previous attorneys when he supported the prosecution request for a gag order that Mark Geragos had opposed. “I didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking to cameras and microphones,” he explained. That didn’t win him any friends in the media. Geragos’s pal Geraldo Rivera was on TV every night telling his audience what a mistake it was to hire Mesereau, who had never handled a high-profile case other than Robert Blake’s, and had lost that job before the actual trial began. Geragos himself was relentlessly lobbying members of the Jackson family, Jermaine in particular, to put him back on the case. Mesereau found an ally in Carl Douglas, who was now running Johnnie Cochran’s Los Angeles law firm. The Scott Peterson case looked like a loser to him, Douglas would explain later, and “listening to people on TV say that Michael Jackson had the same attorney as Peterson concerned me,” so he privately urged that Geragos be kept away from the case.

Mesereau’s position remained tenuous, however. Big-name attorneys were arriving at Neverland by helicopter on a regular basis to make a pitch for the job. When Mesereau announced that he intended to try the case in Santa Maria, his media critics across the board began to scourge him. The attorney’s refusal to do as suggested by the “experts” on Court TV and bus in jurors from the ostensibly more liberal city of Santa Barbara was offered up as evidence that he wasn’t ready for prime time.

“I had discovered that the people in Santa Maria were conservative and very law and order, yes, but they were also quite libertarian,” Mesereau explained. “I knew all those college professors and wealthy art patrons in the south were supposed to be more liberal than the people up north, but I wasn’t sure they would be when it came to Michael Jackson. And I learned from talking to them that the people up north were very sensitive about being compared to the people in the southern part of the county. They lived up north because they couldn’t afford the real estate in the south, and felt a deep sense of separation.” The Santa Ynez Mountains created a natural geographical division in Santa Barbara County that had been embraced as a point of pride by the people up north. As the judge assigned to the Michael Jackson criminal trial, Rodney Melville, would put it, “The attitude is, what happens north of the mountains stays north of the mountains.” For Mesereau, “What sealed it was when I found out that there had been two bills submitted to the state legislature where the north part of the county had tried to secede from the south. I had realized by then that a lot of people in the north identified Tom Sneddon with the south, because that was where he kept his offices, and where he lived. I had a feeling that if I played it right, Santa Maria was a perfect place to try Michael.”

Mesereau was alarmed when he learned that Michael and Louis Farrakhan were talking about staging a second Million Man March through the streets of Santa Maria. “I told Randy, ‘Look, this is crazy. The worst thing you can do in this community is make the Nation of Islam your most visible identifier.’ Randy listened, and he went to Leonard Muhammad and explained the situation to him.” The Nation of Islam acceded almost immediately and vanished from Michael Jackson’s entourage. “It was Louis Farrakhan’s call,” Mesereau said. “He could have swayed Michael, I think. But I believe he really did care for Michael and wanted to see him acquitted even if it meant getting less publicity for himself. As opposed to some others. And yes, I mean Jesse Jackson.”

While Michael himself accepted the departure of the black Muslims without protest, he remained vulnerable to the imprecations of Raymone Bain, who never stopped trying to sell him on the idea that bringing in prominent black leaders to raise the cry of racial injustice was a useful strategy. Mesereau identified Bain early on as an opportunist “who cared a lot less about what was best for Michael than about how she could promote herself as some sort of spokesperson for black America.” One of the most difficult moments for the attorney during pretrial preparations came when Bain placed a phone call to Mesereau with Michael on the line. “Raymone did almost all the talking,” Mesereau recalled, “and she began to tell me that ‘Michael isn’t just concerned about the outcome of this trial, he’s also concerned about his legacy,’ and that he thought it was important to bring in a series of important African-American leaders like her friends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to remind America what Michael Jackson meant to the black community.” He had to resort to deep breathing to keep control of his temper, Mesereau recalled, before explaining, for his client’s benefit more than Bain’s, “If Michael loses this trial, his legacy will be to die in a California state penitentiary. My only concern—which should be your only concern, Raymone—is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Bain backed away, but not for long. And she still had Michael’s ear, Mesereau knew, which left open the clear possibility that he could be removed as Jackson’s attorney at any time. “I never blamed Michael,” he said. “When people are under that kind of stress—the worst stress imaginable—they turn to what they know and where they came from.”

Jackson’s mounting paranoia had surged just days after his arrest, when it was revealed that the owner of XtraJet, the private air transport company that flew him from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara to be arrested, had conspired with one of his maintenance workers to install microphones and a pair of hidden digital cameras that recorded a video they were marketing to television news shows.

The people out to get him had become, in Michael’s mind, a lynch mob led by Tom Sneddon. Jackson and Sneddon had been obsessed with one another since 1993, and the contrasts between the two men could not have been more marked. Sneddon was a ruddy-faced Republican in his sixties who had graduated from Notre Dame, the father of nine children whose wife wrote abstinence manuals for Christian youth groups. The DA’s determination to corroborate Jordan Chandler’s accusations had carried him as far afield from Santa Barbara as Australia and England, where he made personal appeals to the families of boys he believed Jackson had molested, and Sneddon did little to hide his disappointment when they rebuffed him. Michael certainly hadn’t eased any strain when he added a cut titled “D.S.” to the HIStory album, which was released two years after the Chandler trial. The song was a barely disguised attack on Sneddon in which Jackson’s only concession to Sony’s attorneys had been to change his target’s name to “Dom Sheldon.” The lyrics were among the sloppiest and certainly the most infantile ever written by Michael Jackson, who had accented his attack on the “BS DA” by repeatedly chanting, “Dom Sheldon is a cold man.”

In the ten years since the end of the Chandler case, the district attorney had granted interviews to newspapers on three continents, detailing his frustration with the failure to make a molestation case against Michael Jackson. He continued to describe his investigation as “open but inactive,” and told one reporter after another that all he needed to initiate new grand jury proceedings was a single “cooperating witness.” Sneddon and former Los Angeles County district attorney Gil Garcetti had persuaded the California Legislature to pass what became known as the “Michael Jackson Law,” allowing district attorneys statewide to compel the testimony of a child they believed had been sexually abused. The Santa Barbara County DA made little secret of the fact that he was now prepared to pounce on the first viable victim he could find, cooperative or not, to make a case against Jackson.

After the first installment of Martin Bashir’s Living with Michael Jackson documentary aired in the UK in early 2003, Sneddon issued a statement to the press saying that he and the county’s sheriff, Jim Anderson, had agreed that “the BBC broadcast would be taped by the sheriff’s department” and “anticipated that it will be reviewed.” Michael Jackson’s remarks about sharing his bed with children were “unusual at best,” Sneddon said, and “for this reason, all local departments having responsibility in this are taking the matter seriously.” The DA then urged any child who believed he had been sexually abused by Jackson to come forward. Just a few days later, someone in Sneddon’s office leaked onto the Internet Jordie Chandler’s 1993 affidavit that described in detail the alleged molestations by Jackson.

District Attorney Sneddon was but one of the faces who floated through Jackson’s sense of déjà vu as a squadron of familiar foes lined up against him. Larry Feldman, the attorney who had extracted the huge settlement for the Chandlers, had been the first stop for Gavin Arvizo’s family, in early March 2003, well before they ever contacted the police. Feldman had sent the Arvizos to Dr. Stan Katz, the very psychologist who had interviewed Jordan Chandler and his family at length during the preparation of the 1994 civil case against Jackson. It was Katz, after hearing from five-year-old Nikki Chandler that he had seen Michael “touch” his half-brother Jordie, who had reported the suspected abuse to law enforcement, setting off the grand jury investigations in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.

What Michael couldn’t know in the summer of 2004 was that Katz’s interview with Gavin Arvizo had actually produced plenty that was to the advantage of his defense. The boy had told the psychologist he knew all about the Jordan Chandler allegations, for example, and Mesereau would later use this to support his claim that the entire case was an extortion plot. The fact that Gavin’s mother Janet Arvizo consulted with Feldman and Katz before talking to police would provide even stronger evidence for that argument. By the time Mesereau learned of all this, Janet Arvizo had already claimed that she first discovered her son’s molestation on September 30, 2003, when Tom Sneddon and a team of investigators broke the news to her during a meeting at a Los Angeles hotel. The question of why, then, she took her son to Feldman and Katz months before that date was one the defense attorney particularly looked forward to asking in court.

In Michael’s mind, the gallery of tormentors targeting him also included two woman journalists who had made exposing him as a pedophile their principal occupation during the past decade. Diane Dimond, formerly of Hard Copy, where she broke the Jordan Chandler story, was now at Court TV and willing to look at any sort of “evidence” she could use to prove Jackson guilty in the eyes of the American public. Dimond had managed to once again lower the bar of tabloid TV standards when she contacted a man who had a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia, persuaded him to let her display a pair of soiled, twenty-year-old underpants on camera, then phoned Tom Sneddon to urge the prosecutor to take DNA samples from the item. It was believed by many in the media and out that someone in the DA’s office had leaked the confidential settlement agreement in the Jordan Chandler case to Dimond shortly before the document was posted on the Internet in 2003.

The coziness of Dimond’s relationship with Sneddon became an open secret when other reporters realized that she had known about the raid on Neverland Ranch well before they learned of it. The Associated Press would later report that Dimond had told her bosses at Court TV that Sneddon was working on a criminal filing against Michael Jackson months before a warrant was issued for the entertainer’s arrest. During the press conference at which Sneddon announced the raid and the arrest warrant, the DA had responded to a question about the number of civil cases (involving allegations of sexual misconduct with children) that had been settled by Jackson since 1993 by saying, “Ask Diane. She knows everything about Michael Jackson.” When Sneddon gave his first sit-down interview after the press conference, it was with Dimond.

Dimond commanded even more media attention a short time later when she told Larry King that prosecutors were in possession of a “stack of love letters” written by Michael Jackson to Gavin Arvizo. “Does anyone . . . know of the existence of these letters?” King asked her. “Absolutely,” Dimond answered. “I do. I absolutely know of their existence.” Had she read them? King wondered. “No, I have not read them,” Dimond admitted. In fact, she had not even seen them. But she was certain there were such letters, having heard it from “high law enforcement sources.” No such letters ever surfaced because no such letters existed.

Vanity Fair’s Maureen Orth, meanwhile, was filing a series of lengthy articles that drew largely on anonymous or pseudonymous sources to portray Jackson in a light as lurid as anything the tabloids had ever cast upon him. The capstone of Orth’s Michael Jackson oeuvre was the March 2003 article she wrote in collaboration with Myung Ho Lee shortly after the “financial advisor” filed his lawsuit against Jackson. Among the few bits of fresh information in Orth’s piece was an allegation that Michael had used Coke cans filled with the white wine he called “Jesus juice” to aid in his seductions of a Japanese boy named Richard Matsuura. Matsuura’s response was to tell an NBC reporter that those claims were “completely false” and that Michael had never behaved improperly around him. It was impossible, of course, to rebut or verify claims by Orth that Michael had bathed in sheep’s blood or paid a voodoo chief from Mali named Baba to ritually sacrifice forty-two cows, but the outpouring of “information” on the Jackson case—true, false, and indeterminate—made clarity about any of it near to impossible.

Orth was just one among scores of journalists who had attempted to scrape together enough information about Jordan Chandler to paint a plausible portrait of a young man who was now nearing his mid-twenties and had done virtually everything possible to make himself invisible. While he believed that Jordie had grown up to be “normal,” Evan Chandler’s brother Ray said, the young man’s life was anything but. “My big worry is that, you know, even when he is sixty he is still going to be ‘that Jackson kid,’” Ray told Orth. “I don’t think it will ever go away.” He was urging his nephew to come to Santa Barbara and testify against Jackson at the criminal trial on the new charges, Ray Chandler said, “because it would be the final nail in Michael’s coffin and Jordie would be a hero.”

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!