|Scandal in 93'|
The Untold Story
"There have been many disgusting statements made recently concerning allegations of improper conduct on my part. These statements about me are totally false." - Michael Jackson (1993)
Before O.J. Simpson, there was Michael
Jackson -- another beloved black celebrity seemingly brought down by allegations of
scandal in his personal life. Those allegations -- that Jackson had molested a 13-year-old
boy -- instigated a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, two grand-jury investigations and a
shameless media circus. Jackson, in turn, filed charges of extortion against some of his
accusers. Ultimately, the suit was settled out of court for a sum that has been estimated
at $20 million; no criminal charges were brought against Jackson by the police or the
grand juries. This past August, Jackson was in the news again, when Lisa Marie Presley,
Elvis's daughter, announced that she and the singer had married.
As the dust settles on one of the nation's worst episodes of
media excess, one thing is clear: The American public has never heard a defense of Michael
Jackson. Until now.
It is, of course, impossible to prove a negative -- that is,
prove that something didn't happen. But it is possible to take an in-depth look at the
people who made the allegations against Jackson and thus gain insight into their character
and motives. What emerges from such an examination, based on court documents, business
records and scores of interviews, is a persuasive argument that Jackson molested no one
and that he himself may have been the victim of a well-conceived plan to extract money
More than that, the story that arises from this previously
unexplored territory is radically different from the tale that has been promoted by
tabloid and even mainstream journalists. It is a story of greed, ambition, misconceptions
on the part of police and prosecutors, a lazy and sensation-seeking media and the use of a
powerful, hypnotic drug. It may also be a story about how a case was simply invented.
Neither Michael Jackson nor his current defense attorneys agreed
to be interviewed for this article. Had they decided to fight the civil charges and go to
trial, what follows might have served as the core of Jackson's defense -- as well as the
basis to further the extortion charges against his own accusers, which could well have
exonerated the singer.
Jackson's troubles began when his van broke
down on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles in May 1992. Stranded in the middle of the
heavily trafficked street, Jackson was spotted by the wife of Mel Green, an employee at
Rent-a-Wreck, an offbeat car-rental agency a mile away. Green went to the rescue. When
Dave Schwartz, the owner of the car-rental company, heard Green was bringing Jackson to
the lot, he called his wife, June, and told her to come over with their 6-year-old
daughter and her son from her previous marriage. The boy, then 12, was a big Jackson fan.
Upon arriving, June Chandler Schwartz told Jackson about the time her son had sent him a
drawing after the singer's hair caught on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial.
Then she gave Jackson their home number.
"It was almost like she was forcing [the boy] on him,"
Green recalls. "I think Michael thought he owed the boy something, and that's when it
Certain facts about the relationship are not in dispute. Jackson
began calling the boy, and a friendship developed. After Jackson returned from a
promotional tour, three months later, June Chandler Schwartz and her son and daughter
became regular guests at Neverland, Jackson's ranch in Santa Barbara County. During the
following year, Jackson showered the boy and his family with attention and gifts,
including video games, watches, an after-hours shopping spree at Toys "R" Us and
trips around the world -- from Las Vegas and Disney World to Monaco and Paris.
By March 1993, Jackson and the boy were together frequently and
the sleepovers began. June Chandler Schwartz had also become close to Jackson "and
liked him enormously," one friend says. "He was the kindest man she had ever
Jackson's personal eccentricities -- from his attempts to remake
his face through plastic surgery to his preference for the company of children -- have
been widely reported. And while it may be unusual for a 35-year-old man to have sleepovers
with a 13-year-old child, the boy's mother and others close to Jackson never thought it
odd. Jackson's behavior is better understood once it's put in the context of his own
"Contrary to what you might think, Michael's life hasn't
been a walk in the park," one of his attorneys says. Jackson's childhood essentially
stopped -- and his unorthodox life began -- when he was 5 years old and living in Gary,
Indiana. Michael spent his youth in rehearsal studios, on stages performing before
millions of strangers and sleeping in an endless string of hotel rooms. Except for his
eight brothers and sisters, Jackson was surrounded by adults who pushed him relentlessly,
particularly his father, Joe Jackson -- a strict, unaffectionate man who reportedly beat
Jackson's early experiences translated into a kind of arrested
development, many say, and he became a child in a man's body. "He never had a
childhood," says Bert Fields, a former attorney of Jackson's. "He is having one
now. His buddies are 12-year-old kids. They have pillow fights and food fights."
Jackson's interest in children also translated into humanitarian efforts. Over the years,
he has given millions to causes benefiting children, including his own Heal The World
But there is another context -- the one having to do with the
times in which we live -- in which most observers would evaluate Jackson's behavior.
"Given the current confusion and hysteria over child sexual abuse," says Dr.
Phillip Resnick, a noted Cleveland psychiatrist, "any physical or nurturing contact
with a child may be seen as suspicious, and the adult could well be accused of sexual
Jackson's involvement with the boy was welcomed, at first, by all
the adults in the youth's life -- his mother, his stepfather and even his biological
father, Evan Chandler (who also declined to be interviewed for this article). Born Evan
Robert Charmatz in the Bronx in 1944, Chandler had reluctantly followed in the footsteps
of his father and brothers and become a dentist. "He hated being a dentist," a
family friend says. "He always wanted to be a writer." After moving in 1973 to
West Palm Beach to practice dentistry, he changed his last name, believing Charmatz was
"too Jewish-sounding," says a former colleague. Hoping somehow to become a
screenwriter, Chandler moved to Los Angeles in the late Seventies with his wife, June
Wong, an attractive Eurasian who had worked briefly as a model.
Chandler's dental career had its precarious moments. In December
1978, while working at the Crenshaw Family Dental Center, a clinic in a low-income area of
L.A., Chandler did restoration work on sixteen of a patient's teeth during a single visit.
An examination of the work, the Board of Dental Examiners concluded, revealed "gross
ignorance and/or inefficiency" in his profession. The board revoked his license;
however, the revocation was stayed, and the board instead suspended him for ninety days
and placed him on probation for two and a half years. Devastated, Chandler left town for
New York. He wrote a film script but couldn't sell it.
Months later, Chandler returned to L.A. with his wife and held a
series of dentistry jobs. By 1980, when their son was born, the couple's marriage was in
trouble. "One of the reasons June left Evan was because of his temper," a family
friend says. They divorced in 1985. The court awarded sole custody of the boy to his
mother and ordered Chandler to pay $500 a month in child support, but a review of
documents reveals that in 1993, when the Jackson scandal broke, Chandler owed his ex-wife
$68,000 -- a debt she ultimately forgave.
A year before Jackson came into his son's life, Chandler had a
second serious professional problem. One of his patients, a model, sued him for dental
negligence after he did restoration work on some of her teeth. Chandler claimed that the
woman had signed a consent form in which she'd acknowledged the risks involved. But when
Edwin Zinman, her attorney, asked to see the original records, Chandler said they had been
stolen from the trunk of his Jaguar. He provided a duplicate set. Zinman, suspicious, was
unable to verify the authenticity of the records. "What an extraordinary coincidence
that they were stolen," Zinman says now. "That's like saying 'The dog ate my
homework.' " The suit was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Despite such setbacks, Chandler by then had a successful practice
in Beverly Hills. And he got his first break in Hollywood in 1992, when he cowrote the Mel
Brooks film Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Until Michael Jackson entered his son's life,
Chandler hadn't shown all that much interest in the boy. "He kept promising to buy
him a computer so they could work on scripts together, but he never did," says
Michael Freeman, formerly an attorney for June Chandler Schwartz. Chandler's dental
practice kept him busy, and he had started a new family by then, with two small children
by his second wife, a corporate attorney.
At first, Chandler welcomed and encouraged his son's relationship
with Michael Jackson, bragging about it to friends and associates. When Jackson and the
boy stayed with Chandler during May 1993, Chandler urged the entertainer to spend more
time with his son at his house. According to sources, Chandler even suggested that Jackson
build an addition onto the house so the singer could stay there. After calling the zoning
department and discovering it couldn't be done, Chandler made another suggestion -- that
Jackson just build him a new home.
That same month, the boy, his mother and Jackson flew to Monaco
for the World Music Awards. "Evan began to get jealous of the involvement and felt
left out," Freeman says. Upon their return, Jackson and the boy again stayed with
Chandler, which pleased him -- a five-day visit, during which they slept in a room with
the youth's half brother. Though Chandler has admitted that Jackson and the boy always had
their clothes on whenever he saw them in bed together, he claimed that it was during this
time that his suspicions of sexual misconduct were triggered. At no time has Chandler
claimed to have witnessed any sexual misconduct on Jackson's part.
Chandler became increasingly volatile, making threats that
alienated Jackson, Dave Schwartz and June Chandler Schwartz. In early July 1993, Dave
Schwartz, who had been friendly with Chandler, secretly tape-recorded a lengthy telephone
conversation he had with him. During the conversation, Chandler talked of his concern for
his son and his anger at Jackson and at his ex-wife, whom he described as "cold and
heartless." When Chandler tried to "get her attention" to discuss his
suspicions about Jackson, he says on the tape, she told him "Go fuck yourself."
"I had a good communication with Michael," Chandler
told Schwartz. "We were friends. I liked him and I respected him and everything else
for what he is. There was no reason why he had to stop calling me. I sat in the room one
day and talked to Michael and told him exactly what I want out of this whole relationship.
What I want."
Admitting to Schwartz that he had "been rehearsed"
about what to say and what not to say, Chandler never mentioned money during their
conversation. When Schwartz asked what Jackson had done that made Chandler so upset,
Chandler alleged only that "he broke up the family. [The boy] has been seduced by
this guy's power and money." Both men repeatedly berated themselves as poor fathers
to the boy.
Elsewhere on the tape, Chandler indicated he was prepared to move
against Jackson: "It's already set," Chandler told Schwartz. "There are
other people involved that are waiting for my phone call that are in certain positions.
I've paid them to do it. Everything's going according to a certain plan that isn't just
mine. Once I make that phone call, this guy [his attorney, Barry K. Rothman, presumably]
is going to destroy everybody in sight in any devious, nasty, cruel way that he can
do it. And I've given him full authority to do that."
Chandler then predicted what would, in fact, transpire six weeks
later: "And if I go through with this, I win big-time. There's no way I lose. I've
checked that inside out. I will get everything I want, and they will be destroyed forever.
June will lose [custody of the son]...and Michael's career will be over."
"Does that help [the boy]?" Schwartz asked.
"That's irrelevant to me," Chandler replied. "It's
going to be bigger than all of us put together. The whole thing is going to crash down on
everybody and destroy everybody in sight. It will be a massacre if I don't get what I
Instead of going to the police, seemingly the most appropriate
action in a situation involving suspected child molestation, Chandler had turned to a
lawyer. And not just any lawyer. He'd turned to Barry Rothman.
"This attorney I found, I picked the nastiest son of a bitch
I could find," Chandler said in the recorded conversation with Schwartz. "All he
wants to do is get this out in the public as fast as he can, as big as he can, and
humiliate as many people as he can. He's nasty, he's mean, he's very smart, and he's hungry for the publicity." (Through his attorney, Wylie
Aitken, Rothman declined to be interviewed for this article. Aitken agreed to answer
general questions limited to the Jackson case, and then only about aspects that did not
involve Chandler or the boy.)
To know Rothman, says a former colleague who worked with him
during the Jackson case, and who kept a diary of what Rothman and Chandler said and did in
Rothman's office, is to believe that Barry could have "devised this whole plan,
period. This [making allegations against Michael Jackson] is within the boundary of his character, to do something like this."
Information supplied by Rothman's former clients, associates and employees reveals a pattern of manipulation and deceit.
Rothman has a general-law practice in Century City. At one time,
he negotiated music and concert deals for Little Richard, the Rolling Stones, the Who, ELO
and Ozzy Osbourne. Gold and platinum records commemorating those days still hang on the
walls of his office. With his grayish-white beard and perpetual tan -- which he maintains in a tanning bed at his house
-- Rothman reminds a former client of "a leprechaun." To a former employee,
Rothman is "a demon" with "a terrible temper." His most cherished
possession, acquaintances say, is his 1977 Rolls-Royce Corniche, which carries the license
plate "BKR 1."
Over the years, Rothman has made so many enemies that his ex-wife
once expressed, to her attorney, surprise that someone "hadn't done him in." He
has a reputation for stiffing people. "He appears to be a professional deadbeat... He
pays almost no one," investigator Ed Marcus concluded (in a report filed in Los
Angeles Superior Court, as part of a lawsuit against Rothman), after reviewing the
attorney's credit profile, which listed more than thirty creditors and judgment holders
who were chasing him. In addition, more than twenty civil lawsuits involving Rothman have
been filed in Superior Court, several complaints have been made to the Labor Commission
and disciplinary actions for three incidents have been taken against him by the state bar
of California. In 1992, he was suspended for a year, though that suspension was stayed and
he was instead placed on probation for the term.
In 1987, Rothman was $16,800 behind in alimony and child-support
payments. Through her attorney, his ex-wife, Joanne Ward, threatened to attach Rothman's
assets, but he agreed to make good on the debt. A year later, after Rothman still hadn't
made the payments, Ward's attorney tried to put a lien on Rothman's expensive Sherman Oaks home. To their surprise, Rothman
said he no longer owned the house; three years earlier, he'd deeded the property to Tinoa
Operations, Inc., a Panamanian shell corporation. According to Ward's lawyer, Rothman
claimed that he'd had $200,000 of Tinoa's money, in cash, at his house one night when he
was robbed at gunpoint. The only way he could make good on the loss was to deed his home
to Tinoa, he told them. Ward and her attorney suspected the whole scenario was a ruse, but
they could never prove it. It was only after sheriff's deputies had towed away Rothman's
Rolls Royce that he began paying what he owed.
Documents filed with Los Angeles Superior Court seem to confirm
the suspicions of Ward and her attorney. These show that Rothman created an elaborate
network of foreign bank accounts and shell companies, seemingly to conceal some of his
assets -- in particular, his home and much of the $531,000 proceeds from its eventual
sale, in 1989. The companies, including Tinoa, can be traced to Rothman. He bought a
Panamanian shelf company (an existing but nonoperating firm) and arranged matters so that
though his name would not appear on the list of its officers, he would have unconditional
power of attorney, in effect leaving him in control of moving money in and out.
Meanwhile, Rothman's employees didn't fare much better than his
ex-wife. Former employees say they sometimes had to beg for their paychecks. And sometimes
the checks that they did get would bounce. He couldn't keep legal secretaries. "He'd
demean and humiliate them," says one. Temporary workers fared the worst. "He
would work them for two weeks," adds the legal secretary, "then run them off by
yelling at them and saying they were stupid. Then he'd tell the agency he was dissatisfied
with the temp and wouldn't pay." Some agencies finally got wise and made Rothman pay
cash up front before they'd do business with him.
The state bar's 1992 disciplining of Rothman grew out of a
conflict-of-interest matter. A year earlier, Rothman had been kicked off a case by a
client, Muriel Metcalf, whom he'd been representing in child-support and custody
proceedings; Metcalf later accused him of padding her bill. Four months after Metcalf
fired him, Rothman, without notifying her, began representing the company of her estranged
companion, Bob Brutzman.
The case is revealing for another reason: It shows that Rothman
had some experience dealing with child-molestation allegations before the Jackson scandal.
Metcalf, while Rothman was still representing her, had accused Brutzman of molesting their
child (which Brutzman denied). Rothman's knowledge of Metcalf's charges didn't prevent him
from going to work for Brutzman's company -- a move for which he was disciplined.
By 1992, Rothman was running from numerous creditors. Folb
Management, a corporate real-estate agency, was one. Rothman owed the company $53,000 in
back rent and interest for an office on Sunset Boulevard. Folb sued. Rothman then
countersued, claiming that the building's security was so inadequate that burglars were
able to steal more than $6,900 worth of equipment from his office one night. In the course
of the proceedings, Folb's lawyer told the court, "Mr. Rothman is not the kind of
person whose word can be taken at face value."
In November 1992, Rothman had his law firm file for bankruptcy,
listing thirteen creditors -- including Folb Management -- with debts totaling $880,000
and no acknowledged assets. After reviewing the bankruptcy papers, an ex-client whom
Rothman was suing for $400,000 in legal fees noticed that Rothman had failed to list a $133,000 asset. The former client threatened to
expose Rothman for "defrauding his creditors" -- a felony -- if he didn't drop
the lawsuit. Cornered, Rothman had the suit dismissed in a matter of hours.
Six months before filing for bankruptcy, Rothman had transferred
title on his Rolls-Royce to Majo, a fictitious company he controlled. Three years earlier,
Rothman had claimed a different corporate owner for the car -- Longridge Estates, a
subsidiary of Tinoa Operations, the company that held the deed to his home. On corporation
papers filed by Rothman, the addresses listed for Longridge and Tinoa were the same, 1554
Cahuenga Boulevard -- which, as it turns out, is that of a Chinese restaurant in
It was with this man, in June 1993, that Evan Chandler began
carrying out the "certain plan" to which he referred in his taped conversation
with Dave Schwartz. At a graduation that month, Chandler confronted his ex-wife with his
suspicions. "She thought the whole thing was baloney," says her ex-attorney,
Michael Freeman. She told Chandler that she planned to take their son out of school in the
fall so they could accompany Jackson on his "Dangerous" world tour. Chandler
became irate and, say several sources, threatened to go public with the evidence he
claimed he had on Jackson. "What parent in his right mind would want to drag his
child into the public spotlight?" asks Freeman. "If something like this actually occurred, you'd want to protect your child."
Jackson asked his then-lawyer, Bert Fields, to intervene. One of
the most prominent attorneys in the entertainment industry, Fields has been representing
Jackson since 1990 and had negotiated for him, with Sony, the biggest music deal ever --
with possible earnings of $700 million. Fields brought in investigator Anthony Pellicano
to help sort things out. Pellicano does things Sicilian-style, being fiercely loyal to
those he likes but a ruthless hardball player when it comes to his enemies.
On July 9, 1993, Dave Schwartz and June Chandler Schwartz played
the taped conversation for Pellicano. "After listening to the tape for ten minutes, I
knew it was about extortion," says Pellicano. That same day, he drove to Jackson's
Century City condominium, where Chandler's son and the boy's half-sister were visiting.
Without Jackson there, Pellicano "made eye contact" with the boy and asked him,
he says, "very pointed questions": "Has Michael ever touched you? Have you
ever seen him naked in bed?" The answer to all the questions was no. The boy
repeatedly denied that anything bad had happened. On July 11, after Jackson had declined
to meet with Chandler, the boy's father and Rothman went ahead with another part of the
plan -- they needed to get custody of the boy. Chandler asked his ex-wife to let the youth
stay with him for a "one-week visitation period." As Bert Fields later said in
an affidavit to the court, June Chandler Schwartz allowed the boy to go based on Rothman's
assurance to Fields that her son would come back to her after the specified time, never
guessing that Rothman's word would be worthless and that Chandler would not return their
Wylie Aitken, Rothman's attorney, claims that "at the time
[Rothman] gave his word, it was his intention to have the boy returned." However,
once "he learned that the boy would be whisked out of the country [to go on tour with
Jackson], I don't think Mr. Rothman had any other choice." But the chronology clearly
indicates that Chandler had learned in June, at the graduation, that the boy's mother
planned to take her son on the tour. The taped telephone conversation made in early July,
before Chandler took custody of his son, also seems to verify that Chandler and Rothman
had no intention of abiding by the visitation agreement. "They [the boy and his
mother] don't know it yet," Chandler told Schwartz, "but they aren't going
On July 12, one day after Chandler took control of his son, he
had his ex-wife sign a document prepared by Rothman that prevented her from taking the
youth out of Los Angeles County. This meant the boy would be unable to accompany Jackson
on the tour. His mother told the court she signed the document under duress. Chandler, she said in an affidavit, had threatened that"I would not have [the boy] returned to me." A bitter custody battle ensued, making even murkier any charges Chandler made about wrong-doing on Jackson's part. (As of this August , the boy was still living with Chandler.) It was during the first few weeks after Chandler took control of his son -- who was now isolated from his friends, mother and stepfather -- that the boy's allegations began to take shape.
At the same time, Rothman, seeking an expert's opinion to help
establish the allegations against Jackson, called Dr. Mathis Abrams, a Beverly Hills
psychiatrist. Over the telephone, Rothman presented Abrams with a hypothetical situation.
In reply and without having met either Chandler or his son, Abrams on July 15 sent Rothman a two-page letter in which he stated that
"reasonable suspicion would exist that sexual abuse may have occurred."
Importantly, he also stated that if this were a real and not a hypothetical case, he would
be required by law to report the matter to the Los Angeles County Department of Children's
According to a July 27 entry in the diary kept by Rothman's
former colleague, it's clear that Rothman was guiding Chandler in the plan. "Rothman
wrote letter to Chandler advising him how to report child abuse without liability to
parent," the entry reads. At this point, there still had been made no demands or
formal accusations, only veiled assertions that had become intertwined with a
fierce custody battle. On August 4, 1993, however, things became very clear. Chandler and
his son met with Jackson and Pellicano in a suite at the Westwood Marquis Hotel. On seeing
Jackson, says Pellicano, Chandler gave the singer an affectionate hug (a gesture, some
say, that would
seem to belie the dentist's suspicions that Jackson had molested his son), then reached
into his pocket, pulled out Abrams's letter and began reading passages from it. When
Chandler got to the parts about child molestation, the boy, says Pellicano, put his head
down and then looked
up at Jackson with a surprised expression, as if to say "I didn't say that." As
the meeting broke up, Chandler pointed his finger at Jackson, says Pellicano, and warned
"I'm going to ruin you."
At a meeting with Pellicano in Rothman's office later that
evening, Chandler and Rothman made their demand - $20 million.
On August 13, there was another meeting in Rothman's office.
Pellicano came back with a counteroffer -- a $350,000 screenwriting deal. Pellicano says
he made the offer as a way to resolve the custody dispute and give Chandler an opportunity
to spend more time with his son by working on a screenplay together. Chandler rejected the
offer. Rothman made a counterdemand -- a deal for three screenplays or nothing -- which
was spurned. In the diary of Rothman's ex-colleague, an August 24 entry reveals Chandler's
disappointment: "I almost had a $20 million deal," he was overhear telling Rothman.
Before Chandler took control of his son, the only one making
allegations against Jackson was Chandler himself -- the boy had never accused the singer
of any wrongdoing. That changed one day in Chandler's Beverly Hills dental office.
In the presence of Chandler and Mark Torbiner, a dental
anesthesiologist, the boy was administered the controversial drug sodium Amytal -- which
some mistakenly believe is a truth serum. And it was after this session that the boy first
made his charges against Jackson. A newsman at KCBS-TV, in L.A., reported on May 3 of this
year that Chandler had used the drug on his son, but the dentist claimed he did so only to
pull his son's tooth and that while under the drug's influence, the boy came out with
allegations. Asked for this article about his use of the drug on the boy, Torbiner
replied: "If I used it, it was for dental purposes."
Given the facts about sodium Amytal and a recent landmark case
that involved the drug, the boy's allegations, say several medical experts, must be viewed
as unreliable, if not highly questionable.
"It's a psychiatric medication that cannot be relied on to
produce fact," says Dr. Resnick, the Cleveland psychiatrist. "People are very
suggestible under it. People will say things under sodium Amytal that are blatantly
untrue." Sodium Amytal is a barbiturate, an invasive drug that puts people in a
hypnotic state when it's injected intravenously.
Primarily administered for the treatment of amnesia, it first
came into use during World War II, on soldiers traumatized -- some into catatonic states
-- by the horrors of war. Scientific studies done in 1952 debunked the drug as a truth
serum and instead demonstrated its risks: False memories can be easily implanted in those
under its influence. "It is quite possible to implant an idea through the mere asking
of a question," says Resnick. But its effects are apparently even more insidious:
"The idea can become their memory, and studies have shown that even when you tell
them the truth, they will swear on a stack of Bibles that it happened," says Resnick.
Recently, the reliability of the drug became an issue in a
high-profile trial in Napa County, California. After undergoing numerous therapy sessions,
at least one of which included the use of sodium Amytal, 20-year-old Holly Ramona accused
her father of molesting her as a child. Gary Ramona vehemently denied the charge and sued his daughter's therapist and the
psychiatrist who had administered the drug. This past May, jurors sided with Gary Ramona,
believing that the therapist and the psychiatrist may have reinforced memories that were
false. Gary Ramona's was the first successful legal challenge to the so-called "repressed memory
phenomenon" that has produced thousands of sexual-abuse allegations over the past
As for Chandler's story about using the drug to sedate his son
during a tooth extraction, that too seems dubious, in light of the drug's customary use.
"It's absolutely a psychiatric drug," says Dr. Kenneth Gottlieb, a San Francisco
psychiatrist who has administered sodium Amytal to amnesia patients. Dr. John Yagiela, the
coordinator of the anesthesia and pain control department of UCLA's school of dentistry,
adds, "It's unusual for it to be used [for pulling a tooth]. It makes no sense when
better, safer alternatives are available. It would not be my choice."
Because of sodium Amytal's potential side effects, some doctors
will administer it only in a hospital. "I would never want to use a drug that tampers
with a person's unconscious unless there was no other drug available," says Gottlieb.
"And I would not use it without resuscitating equipment, in case of allergic
reaction, and only with an M.D. anesthesiologist present."
Chandler, it seems, did not follow these guidelines. He had the
procedure performed on his son in his office, and he relied on the dental anesthesiologist
Mark Torbiner for expertise. (It was Torbiner who'd introduced Chandler and Rothman in
1991, when Rothman needed dental work.)
The nature of Torbiner's practice appears to have made it highly
successful. "He boasts that he has $100 a month overhead and $40,000 a month
income," says Nylla Jones, a former patient of his. Torbiner doesn't have an office
for seeing patients; rather, he travels to various dental offices around the city, where
he administers anesthesia during procedures.
This magazine has learned that the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration is probing another aspect of Torbiner's business practices: He makes
housecalls to administer drugs -- mostly morphine and Demerol -- not only postoperatively
to his dental patients but also, it seems, to those suffering pain whose source has nothing to do with dental work. He arrives at the homes of his clients -- some of them celebrities -- carrying a kind of fishing-tackle box that
contains drugs and syringes. At one time, the license plate on his Jaguar read
"SLPYDOC." According to Jones, Torbiner charges $350 for a basic
ten-to-twenty-minute visit. In what Jones describes as standard practice, when it's
unclear how long Torbiner will need to stay, the client, anticipating the stupor that will
soon set in, leaves a blank check for Torbiner to fill in with the appropriate amount.
Torbiner wasn't always successful. In 1989, he got caught in a
lie and was asked to resign from UCLA, where he was an assistant professor at the school
of dentistry. Torbiner had asked to take a half-day off so he could observe a religious
holiday but was later found to have worked at a dental office instead.
A check of Torbiner's credentials with the Board of Dental
Examiners indicates that he is restricted by law to administering drugs solely for
dental-related procedures. But there is clear evidence that he has not abided by those
restrictions. In fact, on at least eight occasions, Torbiner has given a general
anesthetic to Barry Rothman, during hair-transplant procedures. Though normally a local
anesthetic would be injected into the scalp, "Barry is so afraid of the pain,"
says Dr. James De Yarman, the San Diego physician who performed Rothman's transplants,
"that [he] wanted to be put out completely." De Yarman said he was
"amazed" to learn that Torbiner is a dentist, having assumed all along that he
was an M.D.
In another instance, Torbiner came to the home of Nylla Jones,
she says, and injected her with Demerol to help dull the pain that followed her
On August 16, three days after Chandler and Rothman rejected the
$350,000 script deal, the situation came to a head. On behalf of June Chandler Schwartz,
Michael Freeman notified Rothman that he would be filing papersituation came to a head. On
behalf of June Chandler Schwartz, Michael Freeman notified Rothman that he would be filing
papers early the next morning that would force Chandler to turn over the boy. Reacting
quickly, Chandler took his son to Mathis Abrams, the psychiatrist who'd provided Rothman
with his assessment of the hypothetical child-abuse situation. During a three-hour
session, the boy alleged that Jackson had engaged in a sexual relationship with him. He
talked of masturbation, kissing, fondling of nipples and oral sex.
The next step was inevitable. Abrams, who is required by law to
report any such accusation to authorities, called a social worker at the Department of
Children's Services, who in turn contacted the police. The full-scale investigation of
Michael Jackson was about to begin.
Five days after Abrams called the authorities, the media got wind
of the investigation. On Sunday morning, August 22, Don Ray, a free-lance reporter in
Burbank, was asleep when his phone rang. The caller, one of his tipsters, said that
warrants had been issued to search Jackson's ranch and condominium. Ray sold the story to
L.A.'s KNBC-TV, which broke the news at 4 P.M. the following day.
After that, Ray "watched this story go away like a freight
train," he says. Within twenty-four hours, Jackson was the lead story on seventy-three TV news broadcasts in the Los Angeles area alone and was on the front page
of every British newspaper. The story of Michael
Jackson and the 13-year-old boy became a frenzy of hype and
unsubstantiated rumor, with the line between tabloid and mainstream media virtually eliminated.
The extent of the allegations against Jackson wasn't known until
August 25. A person inside the DCS illegally leaked a copy of the abuse report to Diane
Dimond of Hard Copy. Within hours, the L.A. office of a British news service also got the
report and began selling copies to any reporter willing to pay $750. The following day,
the world knew about the graphic details in the leaked report. "While laying next to
each other in bed, Mr. Jackson put his hand under [the child's] shorts," the social
worker had written. From there, the coverage soon demonstrated that anything about Jackson
would be fair game.
"Competition among news organizations became so
fierce," says KNBC reporter Conan Nolan, that "stories weren't being checked
out. It was very unfortunate." The National Enquirer put twenty reporters and editors
on the story. One team knocked on 500 doors in Brentwood trying to find Evan Chandler and
his son. Using property records, they finally did, catching up with Chandler in his black
Mercedes. "He was not a happy man. But I was," said Andy O'Brien, a tabloid
Next came the accusers -- Jackson's former employees. First,
Stella and Philippe Lemarque, Jackson' ex-housekeepers, tried to sell their story to the
tabloids with the help of broker Paul Barresi, a former porn star. They asked for as much
as half a million dollars but wound up selling an interview to The Globe of Britain for $15,000. The Quindoys, a Filipino couple
who had worked at Neverland, followed. When their asking price was $100,000, they said
" 'the hand was outside the kid's pants,' " Barresi told a producer of
Frontline, a PBS program. "As soon as their price went up to $500,000, the hand went
inside the pants. So come on." The L.A. district attorney's office eventually
concluded that both couples were useless as witnesses.
Next came the bodyguards. Purporting to take the journalistic
high road, Hard Copy's Diane Dimond told Frontline in early November of last year that her
program was "pristinely clean on this. We paid no money for this story at all."
But two weeks later, as a Hard Copy contract reveals, the show was negotiating a $100,000
payment to five former Jackson security guards who were planning to file a $10 million
lawsuit alleging wrongful termination of their jobs.
On December 1, with the deal in place, two of the guards appeared
on the program; they had been fired, Dimond told viewers, because "they knew too much
about Michael Jackson's strange relationship with young boys." In reality, as their
depositions under oath three months later reveal, it was clear they had never actually seen Jackson do anything improper with Chandler's son
or any other child:
"So you don't know anything about Mr. Jackson and [the boy],
do you?" one of Jackson's attorneys asked former security guard Morris Williams under
"All I know is from the sworn documents that other people
have sworn to."
"But other than what someone else may have said, you have no
firsthand knowledge about Mr. Jackson and [the boy], do you?"
"Have you spoken to a child who has ever told you that Mr.
Jackson did anything improper with the child?"
When asked by Jackson's attorney where he had gotten his
impressions, Williams replied: "Just what I've been hearing in the media and what
I've experienced with my own eyes."
"Okay. That's the point. You experienced nothing with your
own eyes, did you?"
"That's right, nothing."
(The guards' lawsuit, filed in March 1994, was still pending as
this article went to press.)
Note: The case was thrown out of court in July 1995. The Press Reports.
Next came the maid. On December 15, Hard Copy presented "The
Bedroom Maid's Painful Secret." Blanca Francia told Dimond and other reporters that
she had seen a naked Jackson taking showers and Jacuzzi baths with young boys. She also
told Dimond that she had witnessed her own son in compromising positions with Jackson --
an allegation that the grand juries apparently never found credible.
A copy of Francia's sworn testimony reveals that Hard Copy paid
her $20,000, and had Dimond checked out the woman's claims, she would have found them to
be false. Under deposition by a Jackson attorney, Francia admitted she had never actually
see Jackson shower with anyone nor had she seen him naked with boys in his Jacuzzi. They
always had their swimming trunks on, she acknowledged.
The coverage, says Michael Levine, a Jackson press
representative, "followed a proctologist's view of the world. Hard Copy was
loathsome. The vicious and vile treatment of this man in the media was for selfish
reasons. [Even] if you have never bought a Michael Jackson record in your life, you should
be very concerned. Society is built on very few pillars. One of them is truth. When you
abandon that, it's a slippery slope."
The investigation of Jackson, which by October 1993 would grow to
involve at least twelve detectives from Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, was
instigated in part by the perceptions of one psychiatrist, Mathis Abrams, who had no
particular expertise in child sexual abuse. Abrams, the DCS caseworker's report noted,
"feels the child is telling the truth." In an era of widespread and often false
claims of child molestation, police and prosecutors have come to give great weight to the
testimony of psychiatrists, therapists and social workers.
Police seized Jackson's telephone books during the raid on his
residences in August and questioned close to thirty children and their families. Some,
such as Brett Barnes and Wade Robson, said they had shared Jackson's bed, but like all the
others, they gave the same response -- Jackson had done nothing wrong. "The evidence
was very good for us," says an attorney who worked on Jackson's defense. "The
other side had nothing but a big mouth."
Despite the scant evidence supporting their belief that Jackson
was guilty, the police stepped up their efforts. Two officers flew to the Philippines to
try to nail down the Quindoys' "hand in the pants" story, but apparently decided
it lacked credibility. The police also employed aggressive investigative techniques --
including allegedly telling lies -- to push the children into making accusations against
Jackson. According to several parents who complained to Bert Fields, officers told them
unequivocally that their children had been molested, even though the children denied to
their parents that anything bad had happened. The police, Fields complained in a letter to
Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams, "have also frightened youngsters with
outrageous lies, such as 'We have nude photos of you.' There are, of course, no such
photos." One officer, Federico Sicard, told attorney Michael Freeman that he had lied to the children he'd interviewed and told them that he himself had been molested as a child, says Freeman. Sicard did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.
All along, June Chandler Schwartz rejected the charges Chandler
was making against Jackson -- until a meeting with police in late August 1993. Officers
Sicard and Rosibel Ferrufino made a statement that began to change her mind. "[The
officers] admitted they only had one boy," says Freeman, who attended the meeting,
"but they said, 'We're convinced Michael Jackson molested this boy because he fits
the classic profile of a pedophile perfectly.' "
"There's no such thing as a classic profile. They made a
completely foolish and illogical error," says Dr. Ralph Underwager, a Minneapolis
psychiatrist who has treated pedophiles and victims of incest since 1953. Jackson, he
believes, "got nailed" because of "misconceptions like these that have been
allowed to parade as fact in an era of hysteria." In truth, as a U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services study shows, many child-abuse allegations -- 48 percent of those
filed in 1990 -- proved to be unfounded.
"It was just a matter of time before someone like Jackson
became a target," says Phillip Resnick. "He's rich, bizarre, hangs around with
kids and there is a fragility to him. The atmosphere is such that an accusation must mean
The seeds of settlement were already being sown as the police
investigation continued in both counties through the fall of 1993. And a behind-the-scenes
battle among Jackson's lawyers for control of the case, which would ultimately alter the
course the defense would take, had begun.
By then, June Chandler Schwartz and Dave Schwartz had united with
Evan Chandler against Jackson. The boy's mother, say several sources, feared what Chandler
and Rothman might do if she didn't side with them. She worried that they would try to
advance a charge against her of parental neglect for allowing her son to have sleepovers
with Jackson. Her attorney, Michael Freeman, in turn, resigned in disgust, saying later
that "the whole thing was such a mess. I felt uncomfortable with Evan.
He isn't a genuine person, and I sensed he wasn't playing things
Over the months, lawyers for both sides were retained, demoted
and ousted as they feuded over the best strategy to take. Rothman ceased being Chandler's
lawyer in late August, when the Jackson camp filed extortion charges against the two. Both
then hired high-priced criminal defense attorneys to represent them.. (Rothman retained
Robert Shapiro, now O.J. Simpson's chief lawyer.) According to the diary kept by
Rothman's former colleague, on August 26, before the extortion charges were filed,
Chandler was heard to say "It's my ass that's on the line and in danger of going to
prison." The investigation into the extortion charges was superficial because, says a
source, "the police never took it that seriously. But a whole lot more could have
been done." For example, as they had done with Jackson, the police could have sought
warrants to search the homes and offices of Rothman and Chandler. And when both men,
through their attorneys, declined to be interviewed by police, a grand jury could have
In mid-September, Larry Feldman, a civil attorney who'd served as
head of the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Association, began representing Chandler's son and
immediately took control of the situation. He filed a $30 million civil lawsuit against
Jackson, which would prove to be the beginning of the end.
Once news of the suit spread, the wolves began lining up at the
door. According to a member of Jackson's legal team, "Feldman got dozens of letters
from all kinds of people saying they'd been molested by Jackson. They went through all of
them trying to find somebody, and they found zero."
With the possibility of criminal charges against
Jackson now looming, Bert Fields brought in Howard Weitzman, a well-known criminal-defense
lawyer with a string of high-profile clients -- including John DeLorean, whose trail he
won, and Kim Basinger, whose Boxing Helena contract
dispute he lost. (Also, for a short time this June, Weitzman was O.J. Simpson's attorney.)
Some predicted a problem between the two lawyers early on. There wasn't room for two
strong attorneys used to running their own show.
From the day Weitzman joined Jackson's defense team, "he was
talking settlement," says Bonnie Ezkenazi, an attorney who worked for the defense.
With Fields and Pellicano still in control of Jackson's defense, they adopted an
aggressive strategy. They believed staunchly in Jackson's innocence and vowed to fight the
charges in court. Pellicano began gathering evidence to use in the trial, which was
scheduled for March 21, 1994. "They had a very weak case," says Fields. "We
wanted to fight. Michael wanted to fight and go through a trial. We felt we could
Dissension within the Jackson camp accelerated on November 12,
after Jackson's publicist announced at a press conference that the singer was canceling
the remainder of his world tour to go into a drug-rehabilitation program to treat his
addiction to painkillers. Fields later told reporters that Jackson was "barely able
to function adequately on an intellectual level." Others in Jackson's camp felt it
was a mistake to portray the singer as incompetent. "It was important," Fields
says, "to tell the truth. [Larry] Feldman and the press took the position that
Michael was trying to hide and that it was all a scam. But it wasn't."
On November 23, the friction peaked. Based on information he says
he got from Weitzman, Fields told a courtroom full of reporters that a criminal
indictmentold a courtroom full of reporters that a criminal indictment against Jackson
seemed imminent. Fields had a reason for making the
statement: He was trying to delay the boy's civil suit by establishing that there was an
impending criminal case that should be tried first. Outside the courtroom, reporters asked
why Fields had made the announcement, to which Weitzman replied essentially that Fields
"misspoke himself." The comment infuriated Fields, "because it wasn't
true," he says. "It was just an outrage. I was very upset with Howard."
"There was this vast group of people all wanting to do a
different thing, and it was like moving through molasses to get a decision," says
Fields. "It was a nightmare, and I wanted to get the hell out of it." Pellicano,
who had received his share of flak for his aggressive manner, resigned at the same time.
With Fields and Pellicano gone, Weitzman brought in Johnnie
Cochran Jr., a well-known civil attorney who is now helping defend O.J. Simpson. And John
Branca, whom Fields had replaced as Jackson's general counsel in 1990, was back on board.
In late 1993, as DAs in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties convened grand juries
to assess whether criminal charges should be filed against Jackson, the defense strategy
changed course and talk of settling the civil case began in earnest, even though his new
team also believed in Jackson's innocence.
Why would Jackson's side agree to settle out of court, given his
claims of innocence and the questionable evidence against him? His attorneys apparently
decided there were many factors that argued against taking the case to civil court. Among
them was the fact that Jackson's emotional fragility would be tested by the oppressive
media coverage that would likely plague the singer day after day during a trial that could
last as long as six months. Politics and racial issues had also
seeped into legal proceedings -- particularly in Los Angeles, which was still recovering
from the Rodney King ordeal -- and the defense feared that a court of law could not be
counted on to deliver justice. Then, too, there was the jury mix to consider. As one
attorney says, "They figured that Hispanics might resent [Jackson] for his money,
blacks might resent him for trying to be white, and whites would have trouble getting
around the molestation issue." In Resnick's opinion, "The
hysteria is so great and the stigma [of child molestation] is so strong, there is no
defense against it."
Jackson's lawyers also worried about what might happen if a
criminal trial followed, particularly in Santa Barbara, which is a largely white,
conservative, middle-to-upper-class community. Any way the defense looked at it, a civil
trial seemed too big a gamble. By meeting the terms of a civil settlement, sources say,
the lawyers figured they could forestall a criminal trial through a tacit understanding
that Chandler would agree to make his son unavailable to testify.
Others close to the case say the decision to settle also probably
had to do with another factor -- the lawyers' reputations. "Can you imagine what
would happen to an attorney who lost the Michael Jackson case?" says Anthony
Pellicano. "There's no way for all three lawyers to come out winners unless they
settle. The only person who lost is Michael Jackson." But Jackson, says Branca,
"changed his mind about [taking the case to trial] when he returned to this country.
He hadn't seen the massive coverage and how hostile it was. He just wanted the whole thing
to go away."
On the other side, relationships among members of the boy's
family had become bitter. During a meeting in Larry Feldman's office in late 1993,
Chandler, a source says, "completely lost it and beat up Dave [Schwartz]."
Schwartz, having separated from June by this time, was getting pushed out of making
decisions that affected his stepson, and he resented Chandler for taking the boy and not
"Dave got mad and told Evan this was all about extortion,
anyway, at which point Evan stood up, walked over and started hitting Dave," a second
To anyone who lived in Los Angeles in January 1994, there were
two main topics of discussion -- the earthquake and the Jackson settlement. On January 25,
Jackson agreed to pay the boy an undisclosed sum. The day before, Jackson's attorneys had
withdrawn the extortion charges against Chandler and Rothman.
The actual amount of the settlement has never been revealed,
although speculation has placed the sum around $20 million. One source says Chandler and
June Chandler Schwartz received up to $2 million each, while attorney Feldman might have
gotten up to 25 percent in contingency fees. The rest of the money is being held in trust
for the boy and will be paid out under the supervision of a court-appointed trustee.
"Remember, this case was always about money," Pellicano
says, "and Evan Chandler wound up getting what he wanted." Since Chandler still
has custody of his son, sources contend that logically this means the father has access to
any money his son gets.
By late May 1994, Chandler finally appeared to be out of
dentistry. He'd closed down his Beverly Hills office, citing ongoing harassment from
Jackson supporters. Under the terms of the settlement, Chandler is apparently prohibited
from writing about the affair, but his brother, Ray Charmatz, was reportedly trying to get
a book deal.
In what may turn out to be the never-ending case, this past
August, both Barry Rothman and Dave Schwartz (two principal players left out of the
settlement) filed civil suits against Jackson. Schwartz maintains that the singer broke up
his family. Rothman's lawsuit claims defamation and slander on the part of Jackson, as
well as his original defense team -- Fields, Pellicano and Weitzman -- for the allegations
of extortion. "The charge of [extortion]," says Rothman attorney Aitken,
"is totally untrue. Mr. Rothman has been held up for public ridicule, was the subject
of a criminal investigation and suffered loss of income." (Presumably, some of
Rothman's lost income is the hefty fee he would have received had he been able to continue as Chandler's attorney through the settlement
As for Michael Jackson, "he is getting on with his
life," says publicist Michael Levine. Now married, Jackson also recently recorded
three new songs for a greatest-hits album and completed a new music video called
And what became of the massive investigation of Jackson? After
millions of dollars were spent by prosecutors and police departments in two jurisdictions,
and after two grand juries questioned close to 200 witnesses, including 30 children who
knew Jackson, not a single corroborating witness could be found. (In June 1994, still
determined to find even one corroborating witness, three prosecutors and two police
detectives flew to Australia to again question Wade Robson, the boy who had acknowledged
that he'd slept in the same bed with Jackson. Once again, the boy said that nothing bad
The sole allegations leveled against Jackson, then, remain those
made by one youth, and only after the boy had been give a potent hypnotic drug, leaving
him susceptible to the power of suggestion.
"I found the case suspicious," says Dr. Underwager, the
Minneapolis psychiatrist, "precisely because the only evidence came from one boy.
That would be highly unlikely. Actual pedophiles have an average of 240 victims in their
lifetime. It's a progressive disorder. They're never satisfied."
Given the slim evidence against Jackson, it seems unlikely he
would have been found guilty had the case gone to trial. But in the court of public
opinion, there are no restrictions. People are free to speculate as they wish, and
Jackson's eccentricity leaves him vulnerable to the likelihood that the public has assumed
the worst about him.
So is it possible that Jackson committed no crime -- that he is
what he has always purported to be, a protector and not a molester of children? Attorney
Michael Freeman thinks so: "It's my feeling that Jackson did nothing wrong and these
people [Chandler and Rothman] saw an opportunity and programmed it. I believe it was all about money."
To some observers, the Michael Jackson story illustrates the
dangerous power of accusation, against which there is often no defense -- particularly
when the accusations involve child sexual abuse. To others, something else is clear now --
that police and prosecutors spent millions of dollars to create a case whose foundation
Author: Mary A.Fisher
Source: member.aol/mjnfc, GQ magazine 1994.