I have taken much grief over the years—and received many death threats—from zealous Michael Jackson fans who have been unhappy with my investigative coverage of their idol.
Since 1993, I have reported on the Jackson saga on television, radio, and in print. To his fans, the King of Pop was a benevolent and misunderstood saint of sorts who was persecuted by me and other journalists who had the audacity to report what trusted sources told us about Jackson’s private life: the disfiguring cosmetic surgeries, the drug and alcohol abuse, the constant companionship of young boys, the baffling short-lived marriages.
Jackson fans have complained especially about my book Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case, in which I wrote about law enforcement's suspicion that Michael Jackson may have sexually abused many young boys. I also wrote extensively about how his money-hungry family kept their suspicions of Jackson’s pedophilia to themselves for fear it would hurt their economic standing. If Michael’s earning were interrupted so would have been their allowances from him.
I was branded as a liar who was out to simply make money by destroying an innocent man’s reputation. Among the most memorable of the myriad threatening e-mails I’ve received came from a woman who promised to hunt me down, pin me to the ground, gouge out my eyes with a spoon, and scrape off my face with steel wool. Another declared she was a voodoo princess performing chants to make sure I got breast cancer.
In this business, you have to have a thick skin. I got on with my crime- and justice-based journalism over the years, but I continue to periodically get sucked back into the Jackson morass. Case in point: the latest Jackson story in the British tabloid Sunday People with the screaming headline: “Michael Jackson paid £23 MILLION buying silence of at least TWO DOZEN young boys he abused over 15 years.” (That translates to $34 million.) The paper claims to have “seen secret FBI files”—supposed case numbers CADCE MJ-02463 and CR 01046—that reportedly reveal how the superstar bought off parents of his alleged young victims to ensure silence. The article goes on to report that, “Many of the damning reports in the FBI collection had been commissioned by Jacko himself.”
Here’s what I know. The FBI files are still secret. The documents and cassette tapes reviewed by Sunday People were offered by a private detective who has been knocking around Hollywood with them for a long time. He remained unnamed in the U.K. paper and will remain so here, but he’s hardly a shadowy figure. I have known him personally for many years.
Here’s the backstory: This detective used to work for Jackson’s high-profile private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, in the days immediately following the first child sex-abuse allegations against Jackson in 1993. The pair was tasked with identifying possible trouble for the accused entertainer, and in doing so this Pellicano associate called upon a dogged tabloid reporter named Jim Mitteager to see what information he might have developed. At Mitteager’s home he learned that the National Enquirer reporter had died. His widow gave the private eye a box full of tapes marked “JACKSON” that her husband had been working on.
Included among the hours of salacious interviews was a long discussion with a live-in domestic couple named Stella and Philip LeMarque which was generously quoted by the Sunday People in a companion article. The couple told a story of boys being shown pornography and sexually molested in the Jackson house, the theater area, and in teepees pitched on the landscaped grounds. Among the alleged victims were five child actors, two dancers, and at least 10 other young Jackson admirers dating back to 1989. The children were isolated from their parents, according to the couple, who were housed a quarter mile away in guest quarters while the young boys slept with Jackson.
(Much of what the LeMarques said on the Mitteager tapes—and to me in 1994—was similar to stories told by other Jackson employees. But the couple’s veracity has been questioned, because they repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to sell their version of events to the media.)
Once in the detective’s possession, all the Mitteager audio tapes were turned into printed reports for Pellicano and filed among his vast cabinets full of Hollywood secrets.
In 2002, when Pellicano was arrested on weapons charges, the FBI scooped up all of the gumshoe’s files. They have remained in FBI storage and—unbelievably—never offered to prosecutors in Santa Barbara who conducted the unsuccessful criminal case against Jackson in 2005. Jackson was acquitted of all molestation charges and denied all the accusations up until his 2009 death.
In a prison interview with The Daily Beast in 2011, Pellicano—who called himself the “Sin Eater” —revealed why he hadn’t worked for Jackson for very long. “I quit because I found out some truths … He did something far worse to young boys than molest them.” Pellicano, the father of nine children, refused to elaborate.
The latest reports from the British paper put actual numbers to old Jackson molestation stories—24 boys and $34 million in payoffs—but offer no confirmation of the private detective’s information. Does it mean the stories are untrue? No, but it does nothing to corroborate them either.
The unnamed private eye who provided the newspaper with his copies of the old files said he came forward after listening to Wade Robson, a one-time Jackson loyalist who now claims he was molested by the singer for seven years. Despite being the lead defense witness at Jackson’s 2005 child-abuse trial, Robson, now 30, has changed his story and says the sexual abuse began when he was 7 years old. In May, Robson filed legal papers and told the Today Show earlier this year he could no longer stay silent about the horrible secret Jackson had “brainwashed” him to keep.
These disclosures come as Jackson’s mother and children pursue a sensational high-stakes wrongful death suit against AEG, the last concert promoter to work with the entertainer. The family maintains AEG ignored Michael’s serious health issues and literally worked him to death. AEG insists that it was Dr. Conrad Murray, hired on by Jackson himself, who was in charge of the singer’s health. The corporation says it had no idea of the nightly Propofol drip the now-convicted doctor was administering to Jackson or how sick their star really was.
The timing of the Sunday People and Robson exposés has caused some to believe AEG is behind the leak of this legacy-damaging information. (AEG has refused to comment on the speculation, and the Jackson family has similarly had no comment.) On social media and on Jackson-related websites, the King of Pop’s supporters see a conspiracy to taint the Los Angeles trial and negate the positive PR and financial bump the Jackson family enjoyed after Michael’s death in June 2009. Thanks to astute estate management, the hundreds of millions of dollars of debt Jackson left behind has now been erased, replaced by a solid portfolio worth, by some accounts, nearly a billion dollars.
It is important to note, however, that the jury in the Jackson vs. AEG trial is admonished daily not to watch, read, or listen to any media, so there is a viable chance that they have heard nothing about the latest allegations. Any effort at a conspiracy could easily have failed.
The numerous ugly revelations in court about AEG’s behavior toward Jackson as well as the singer’s lifestyle and the state of his body at death has left many court watchers wondering why Katherine Jackson, 83, would have brought this case in the first place. Surely, she must have known that derogatory information about Michael would surface and some family members have been quoted as saying the stress and anxiety of possibly testifying contributed to 15-year-old Paris Jackson’s suicide attempt last month. While the Jackson suit seeks unspecified billions in damages there is obviously a more than adequate estate already in place to care for Jackson’s three children.
My best guess after following this family for 20 years? Since Katherine Jackson’s substantial allowance reverts back to the children when she dies, she is trying to amass funds of her own to leave to her chronically underemployed sons.