Before O.J. Simpson, there was Michael Jacksonanother
beloved black celebrity seemingly brought down by allegations of scandal in his personal
life. Those allegationsthat Jackson had molested a 13-year-old boyinstigated 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, Elviss daughter,
announced that she and the singer had married.
As the dust settles on one of the nations 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 negativethat is, prove
that something didnt 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.
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. Hes nasty, hes mean, hes very smart,
and hes hungry for the publicity.
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 Jacksons defenseas well as the
basis to further the extortion charges against his own accusers, which could well have
exonerated the singer.
Jacksons 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
singers 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 thats 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, Jacksons 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 worldfrom 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
Jacksons personal eccentricitiesfrom his attempts to remake
his face through plastic surgery to his preference for the company of childrenhave
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 boys mother and others close to Jackson never thought
it odd. Jacksons behavior is better understood once its put in the context of
his own childhood.
Contrary to what you might think, Michaels life hasnt
been a walk in the park, one of his attorneys says. Jacksons childhood
essentially stoppedand his unorthodox life beganwhen 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 Jacksona strict, unaffectionate man who
reportedly beat his children.
Jacksons early experiences translated into a kind of arrested
development, many say, and he became a child in a mans body. He never had a
childhood, says Bert Fields, a former attorney of Jacksons. He is having
one now. His buddies are 12-year-old kids. They have pillow fights and food fights.
Jacksons interest in children also translated into humanitarian efforts. Over the
years, he has given millions to causes benefiting children, including his own Heal The
But there is another contextthe one having to do with the times
in which we livein which most observers would evaluate Jacksons 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
Jacksons involvement with the boy was welcomed, at first, by all
the adults in the youths lifehis 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.
Chandlers 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 patients 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 couldnt 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 couples marriagewas 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
$68,000a debt she ultimately forgave.
A year before Jackson came into his sons 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 shed 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. Thats 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 sons life,
Chandler hadnt 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. Chandlers dental
practice kept him busy, and he had started anew family by then, with two small children by
his second wife, a corporate attorney.
At first, Chandler welcomed and encouraged his sons 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 couldnt be done, Chandler made another
suggestionthat 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 hima five-day visit, during which they slept in a room with
the youths 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 Jacksons 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 guys 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: Its already set, Chandler told Schwartz. There
are other people involved that are waiting for my phone call that are in certain
positions. Ive paid them to do it. Everythings going according to a certain
plan that isnt 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 Ive 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. Theres no way I lose. Ive
checked that inside out. I will get everything I want, and they will be destroyed forever.
June will lose [custody of the son]...and Michaels career will be over.
Does that help [the boy]? Schwartz asked.
Thats irrelevant to me, Chandler replied.
Its 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
dont get what I want.
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. Hed 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. Hes nasty, hes mean, hes very smart,
and hes 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
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
Rothmans 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 Rothmans 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 tanwhich he
maintains in a tanning bed at his houseRothman 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 hadnt 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
attorneys 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
Rothmans assets, but he agreed to make good on the debt. A year later, after Rothman
still hadnt made the payments, Wards attorney tried to put a lien on
Rothmans expensive Sherman Oaks home. To their surprise, Rothman said he no longer
owned the house;three years earlier, hed deeded the property to Tinoa Operations,
Inc., a Panamanian shell corporation. According to Wards lawyer, Rothman claimed
that hed had $200,000 of Tinoas 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 sheriffs deputies had towed away
Rothmans 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
assetsin 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, Rothmans employees didnt 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 couldnt keep legal
secretaries. Hed 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 hed
tell the agency he was dissatisfied with the temp and wouldnt pay. Some
agencies finally got wise and made Rothman pay cash up front before theyd do
business with him.
The state bars 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 hed 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). Rothmans knowledge of Metcalfs charges
didnt prevent him from going to work for Brutzmans companya 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 buildings 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, Folbs 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 creditorsincluding Folb Managementwith 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
creditorsa felonyif he didnt 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 carLongridge 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 Boulevardwhich, 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,
youd 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
everwith 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.
Given the facts about sodium Amytal and a recent landmark case that
involved the drug, the boys allegations, say several medical experts, must be viewed
as unreliable, if not highly questionable.Its a psychiatric medication that
cannot be relied on to produce fact.
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
Jacksons Century City condominium, where Chandlers son and the boys
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 boys father and Rothman went
ahead with another part of the planthey 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 Rothmans assurance to Fields that her son
would come back to her after the specified time, never guessing that Rothmans word
would be worthless and that Chandler would not return their son.
Wylie Aitken, Rothmans 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 dont think Mr. Rothman had any other choice. But the chronology
clearly indicates that Chandler had learned in June, at the graduation, that the
boys 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] dont know it yet, Chandler told Schwartz, but
they arent going anywhere.
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 Jacksons 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 sonwho was now isolated from his friends, mother and stepfatherthat the
boys allegations began to take shape.
At the same time, Rothman, seeking an experts 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 Childrens Services (DCS).
According to a July 27 entry in the diary kept by Rothmans former
colleague, its 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 dentists suspicions that Jackson had molested his son), then
reached into his pocket, pulled out Abramss 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 didnt say that. As the meeting broke up, Chandler pointed his finger
at Jackson, says Pellicano, and warned Im going to ruin you.
At a meeting with Pellicano in Rothmans office later that
evening, Chandler and Rothman made their demand $20 million.
On August 13, there was another meeting in Rothmans office.
Pellicano came back with a counteroffera $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 counterdemanda deal for three screenplays or
nothingwhich was spurned. In the diary of Rothmans ex-colleague, an August 24
entry reveals Chandlers disappointment: I almost had a $20 million deal,
he was overheard telling Rothman.
Before Chandler took control of his son, the only one making
allegations against Jackson was Chandler himselfthe boy had never accused the singer
of any wrongdoing. That changed one day in Chandlers Beverly Hills dental office.
In the presence of Chandler and Mark Torbiner, a dental
anesthesiologist, the boy was administered the controversial drug sodium Amytalwhich
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 sons tooth and that while under the drugs 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 boys allegations, say several medical experts, must be viewed
as unreliable, if not highly questionable.
Its 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 its injected intravenously. Primarily administered for the
treatment of amnesia, it first came into use during World War II, on soldiers
traumatizedsome into catatonic statesby 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
daughters 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 Ramonas was the first successful
legal challenge to the so-called repressed memory phenomenon that has produced
thousands of sexual-abuse allegations over the past decade.
As for Chandlers story about using the drug to sedate his son
during a tooth extraction, that too seems dubious, in light of the drugs customary
use. Its absolutely a psychiatric drug, says Dr. Kenneth Gottlieb, a San
Francisco psychiatrist who has administeredsodium Amytal to amnesia patients. Dr. John
Yagiela, the coordinator of the anesthesia and pain control department of UCLAs
school of dentistry, adds, Its unusual for it to be used [for pulling a
tooth]. It makes no sense when better, safer alternatives are available. It would not be
Because of sodium Amytals potential side effects, some doctors
will administer it only in a hospital. I would never want to use a drug that tampers
with a persons 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 whod introduced Chandler and Rothman
in 1991, when Rothman needed dental work.)
The nature of Torbiners 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 doesnt 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 Torbiners business practices: He makes housecalls to
administer drugsmostly morphine and Demerolnot 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 clientssome of them
celebritiescarrying 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 its 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 wasnt 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 Torbiners 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 Rothmans
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 appendectomy.
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 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 whod 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. There was, however, no mention of actual penetration,
which might have been verified by a medical exam, thus providing corroborating evidence.
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
Childrens 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 Jacksons 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 wasnt 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 childs] 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 werent 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 OBrien, a tabloid
Next came the accusersJacksons 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
kids 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 attorneys office eventually concluded that both couples
were useless as witnesses.
Next came the bodyguards. Purporting to take the journalistic high
road, Hard Copys 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 Jacksons 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 Chandlers son or any other child:
So you dont know anything about Mr. Jackson and [the boy],
do you? one of Jacksons attorneys asked former security guard Morris Williams
All I know is from the sworn documents that other people have
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 Jacksons attorney where he had gotten his
impressions, Williams replied: Just what Ive been hearing in the media and
what Ive experienced with my own eyes.
Okay. Thats the point. You experienced nothing with your
own eyes, did you?
Thats 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.]
Next came the maid. On December 15, Hard Copy presented The
Bedroom Maids 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
Jacksonan allegation that the grand juries apparently never found credible.
A copy of Francias sworn testimony reveals that Hard Copy paid
her $20,000, and had Dimond checked out the womans 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 proctologists 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,
its 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 caseworkers 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 Jacksons 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 Jacksons bed, but like
all the others, they gave the same responseJackson had done nothing wrong. The
evidence was very good for us, says an attorney who worked on Jacksons
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
techniquesincluding allegedly telling liesto 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 hed 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 Jacksonuntil 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, Were convinced Michael Jackson molested this boy because
he fits the classic profile of a pedophile perfectly.
Theres 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 allegations48 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. Hes rich, bizarre, hangs around with kids
and there is a fragility to him. The atmosphere is such that an accusation must mean it
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 Jacksons 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 boys mother, say several sources, feared what Chandler
and Rothman might do if she didnt 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 isnt
a genuine person, and I sensed he wasnt playing things straight.
Over the months, lawyers for both sides were retained, demoted and
ousted as they feuded over the best strategy to take. Rothman ceased being Chandlers
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. Simpsons chief lawyer.) According to the diary kept by
Rothmans former colleague, on August 26, before the extortion charges were filed,
Chandler was heard to say Its my ass thats 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 been convened.
It was just a matter of time before someone like Jackson became a
target. Hes rich, bizarre [and] hangs around with kids...
In mid-September, Larry Feldman, a civil attorney whod served as
head of the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Association, began representing Chandlers 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 Jacksons legal team, Feldman got dozens of letters
from all kinds of people saying theyd 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 clientsincluding 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. Simpsons attorney.) Some predicted a problem between the two
lawyers early on. There wasnt room for two strong attorneys used to running their
From the day Weitzman joined Jacksons defense team, he was
talking settlement, says Bonnie Ezkenazi, an attorney who worked for the defense.
With Fields and Pellicano still in control of Jacksons defense, they adopted an
aggressive strategy. They believed staunchly in Jacksons 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
Jacksons 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 Jacksons 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 wasnt.
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 indictment
against Jackson seemed imminent. Fields had a reason for making the statement: He was
trying to delay the boys 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 wasnt
true, he says. It was just an outrage. I was very upset with Howard.
Fields sent a letter of resignation to Jackson the following week.
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 Jacksons 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 Jacksons innocence.
Why would Jacksons 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 Jacksons 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 proceedingsparticularly in Los Angeles, which was still recovering from the
Rodney King ordealand 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 Resnicks opinion, The hysteria is so great and the
stigma [of child molestation] is so strong, there is no defenseagainst it.
Jacksons 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 factorthe lawyers reputations. Can you imagine what
would happen to an attorney who lost the Michael Jackson case? says Anthony
Pellicano. Theres 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 hadnt 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 boys family
had become bitter. During a meeting in Larry Feldmans 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 returning him.
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 source
To anyone who lived in Los Angeles in January 1994, there were two main
topics of discussionthe earthquake and the Jackson settlement. On January 25,
Jackson agreed to pay the boy an undisclosed sum. The day before, Jacksons 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.
Hed 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
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.
Rothmans lawsuit claims defamation and slander on the part of Jackson, as well as
his original defense teamFields, Pellicano and Weitzmanfor 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
Rothmans lost income is the hefty fee he would have received had he been able to
continue as Chandlers attorney through the settlement phase.)
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 History.
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 hed slept in the same bed with Jackson. Once again, the boy said that nothing
bad had happened.)
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. Its a progressive disorder. Theyre 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 Jacksons
eccentricity leaves him vulnerable to the likelihood that the public has assumed the worst
So is it possible that Jackson committed no crimethat he is what
he has always purported to be, a protector and not a molester of children? Attorney
Michael Freeman thinks so: Its 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 defenseparticularly when the
accusations involve child sexual abuse. To others, something else is clear nowthat
police and prosecutors spent millions of dollars to create a case whose foundation never