Michael Jackson's sister LaToya hinted Wednesday that she believes her brother is guilty of sexually molesting young boys and of paying off their families to keep them quiet.
"I just think Michael needs help," LaToya Jackson told reporters at a Tel Aviv news conference, according to wire service reports. "This has been going on since 1981, and it's not just one child."
LaToya Jackson told reporters that she could no longer "be a silent collaborator of his crimes against small, innocent children," the Reuters news agency reported. "If I remain silent, then that means that I feel the guilt and humiliation that these children are feeling, and I think it's very wrong."
LaToya Jackson's comments mark the first time that a member of the Jackson family has turned against the entertainer, who has spent months battling allegations that he sexually molested a 13-year-old boy over a period of four months earlier this year. Jackson's parents and other siblings have stood by the entertainer as he has denied wrongdoing and sought treatment for what he says is an addiction to painkillers.
Michael Jackson's attorneys did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment about LaToya Jackson's remarks in Tel Aviv. They have said previously that Jackson slept with children but that he never molested any of them, including the boy who is at the center of the civil and criminal investigations.
Other family members strongly rebutted LaToya Jackson during an interview with a local television reporter at the family's Encino compound Wednesday night.
LaToya Jackson is estranged from her family and has not made joint appearances with them during the months that Michael Jackson has been under international scrutiny. She told reporters that her family has backed Michael Jackson because they are afraid he will cut them off financially.
In her news conference Wednesday, LaToya Jackson said she had decided to speak out against her brother even though she loves him. Her husband and manager, Jack Gordon, alleged at the news conference that Michael Jackson had threatened to kill LaToya to keep her from revealing the child molestation allegations.
"I love Michael very dearly, but I feel even more sorry for these children because they don't have a life anymore," LaToya Jackson said, her voice breaking.
She also said in the news conference that she has seen checks made out to the parents of children who she says were abused by her brother.
"I have seen these checks and I've seen these checks through my mother," LaToya Jackson said. "She showed me these checks that Michael had written to these children, and it's for a great amount and I'm not speaking pennies. The sums are very, very large amounts."
The allegations by the 13-year-old boy were made in August, and police have launched a criminal investigation of Jackson. In addition, the boy has filed a lawsuit that is scheduled to go to trial in March.
The boy's lawyer, Larry R. Feldman, said LaToya Jackson's comments echoed reports that he has received while pressing forward with the civil case against Jackson.
"This is very consistent with other evidence that we have developed through our investigation," Feldman said. He added, however, that the reports have not been confirmed.
From the earliest stages of the case, Feldman has indicated that he plans to question LaToya Jackson. In fact, she was scheduled to be deposed this week, but her deposition is being rescheduled because she is out of the country.
In a previous deposition, one of Jackson's chauffeurs said he had taken the entertainer to the boy's house at least 30 times, leaving him off at night and picking him up the following day. Although Jackson never has denied spending nights with the boy, Feldman later said the chauffeur's comments, made under oath, corroborated his client's story.
LaToya Jackson appeared to allude to the chauffeur's statement in her news conference.
"Now you stop and you think for one second," she told reporters, "and you tell me what 35-year-old man is going to take a little boy and stay with him for 30 days and take another boy and stay with him for five days in a room and never leave the room?"
In an interview with KCBS-TV, family members lashed out at LaToya Jackson, saying she was profiteering, "brainwashed" and in the clutches of a greedy husband.
"The reason why this is said is because (LaToya Jackson and Gordon) know once they say something like this all of the tabloids are going to come back here, they're going to ask her to come on shows. This is the way this guy (Gordon) makes money," her brother Jermaine Jackson said.
Michael Jackson is scheduled to be deposed on Jan. 18, although the date could change if there is a change in the status of the criminal investigation. The entertainer has not been publicly heard from since last month, when he abruptly canceled a world tour after announcing that he had become addicted to painkillers.
His lawyers say Jackson is being treated in Europe for his addiction.