Videotapes seized from homes belonging to Michael Jackson do not incriminate the entertainer, and the lack of physical evidence of alleged sexual molestation has left investigators "scrambling" to get statements from other potential victims, a high-ranking police source said Thursday.
"There's no medical evidence, no taped evidence," the source said. "The search warrant didn't result in anything that would support a criminal filing."
When police executed search warrants at Jackson's Los Angeles condominium and Santa Barbara County ranch last weekend, they left with a number of videotapes. On Thursday, sources said investigators still were reviewing the tapes for clues about possible victims; a number of the tapes are said to feature Jackson in the company of young admirers.
But sources close to the probe say authorities have yet to uncover physical evidence implicating Jackson.
Howard Weitzman, the lawyer who represents Jackson, declined to comment on specifics of the case but echoed the police source's view of the evidence obtained so far. "That's consistent with my understanding," he said.
With little, if any, physical evidence to implicate Jackson in the allegations involving the 13-year-old Los Angeles boy at the center of the inquiry, investigators are interviewing other youngsters close to the entertainer to determine if any of them were sexually abused.
An employee with the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services, which is investigating the case with the Los Angeles Police Department, said Thursday that the 13-year-old boy has identified four or five other children whom he believes were molested by Jackson.
At least three other young people have been interviewed, say sources familiar with the investigation.
All three youngsters are well-known, those sources said, and the reports detailing their interviews are being closely guarded by investigators. A fourth young boy also was interviewed because he was at Jackson's ranch when search warrants were served last weekend; that boy has acknowledged that he slept in the same bed as Jackson on occasion but has fiercely defended the singer and said he never sexually molested him.
As the investigation entered its ninth day, there was no sign that the international interest in the case was abating. Jackson remained out of sight in Bangkok, suffering from reported dehydration. He canceled a second concert Thursday amid rumors, denied by his lawyer and publicist, that his tour was being scrapped. At one point, there were even reports that Jackson had left the Far East and was preparing to surrender to authorities.
"Absolutely not," said Weitzman, whose client has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. "There is no reason to surrender him."
In Thailand, concert promoters on Thursday released a scratchy audiotape of Jackson apologizing for canceling his second show in two days:
"To all my fans in Bangkok, Thailand. I'm sorry for not performing yesterday as I am really sick and still under medical treatment. I have been instructed by my doctor not to perform before Aug. 27, 1993. I promise all my fans to perform at the National Stadium in Bangkok on August 28. I'll see you all on Friday. I love you all. Goodby."
Closer to home, reporters from the National Enquirer passed out business cards at Los Angeles offices of the Department of Children's Services, while representatives of the mainstream media descended on the Downtown courthouse, deluging officials there with requests for the divorce file of the 13-year-old's parents.
There were so many requests for the document that a clerk began keeping copies at the ready. At $26.79 per copy, the documents--which detail the bitter custody and child support battle between the parents--were selling briskly.
The latest batch of those documents revealed that a Superior Court judge, in an order filed Wednesday, ordered the father to pay his ex-wife $68,804 in overdue child support and interest payments.
The criminal investigation of Jackson grew out of the battle between the former husband and wife. Despite reports that police are investigating other possible victims, most public attention has focused on the 13-year-old boy and his estranged parents. Copies of the boy's interview by police and social workers were obtained by The Times, and they include detailed, graphic descriptions of alleged sexual advances by Jackson.
They also include a passage describing what the boy said was a meeting between him, his father, Jackson and lawyers for the entertainer in which the boy's father tried to settle the case without going to court. Other sources said the boy's father tried to cut a $20-million deal with Jackson, and a private investigator has said the case has grown out of an extortion attempt.
According to the case file, the youngster spoke to LAPD officers and a county social worker for the first time on Aug. 17. Among other things, the boy said Jackson lavished gifts on him and took him and other family members to Las Vegas, Florida and Monaco. As their relationship progressed, the boy alleged, Jackson's gentle affection became more aggressive.
Although the boy said he initially felt comfortable when Jackson would "cuddle him and kiss him on the cheek," he said he became ill at ease when the entertainer allegedly lured him into passionate kisses, masturbation and oral sex.
The boy told investigators that Jackson told him their relationship was "in the cosmos" and "meant to be."
After describing in graphic detail a series of alleged sexual encounters, the boy said Jackson told him never to discuss their activities because he "would go to Juvenile Hall if he told and that they'd both be in trouble."
According to the file, the boy nonetheless told his father and a therapist about the alleged activities. The boy said he and his father met with Jackson and Jackson's lawyers, "and confronted him with allegations in an effort to make a settlement and avoid a court hearing."
The results of that conversation are not detailed in the report, but Anthony Pellicano, a private investigator who works for Jackson, has said the entertainer was the object of a $20-million extortion attempt. Police said Wednesday that no one has brought an extortion complaint to them and that no extortion investigation is under way.
The case has sparked an intensely sensitive and competitive slew of investigations. The two primary agencies involved--the county Department of Children's Services and the LAPD--have feuded over control of the case, while Pellicano has aggressively waged an inquiry on the singer's behalf.
According to the case file, Pellicano questioned the boy about the charges at some point but was not given any information.
The bickering between LAPD and Children's Service erupted on the investigation's first day. Children's Services received the initial complaint from the boy's therapist and informed the LAPD's West Bureau, which sent officers to the interview with the boy.
For reasons unstated in the case file, an LAPD sergeant named Thomas L. Felix requested that Children's Services end its investigation. As a result, the social worker was "unable to interview (father), (mother) or sibling."
Despite the LAPD's attempts to force Children's Services off the case, however, social workers did resume a role in the investigation. Interviews of possible victims are now being conducted jointly. The relationship between the LAPD and Children's Services remains tense, however, and some police sources blamed their counterparts for leaking information to the media.
The mother's lawyer, Michael Freeman, echoed that complaint and said he had scheduled an afternoon meeting at the Department of Children's Services to discuss how the case files had been leaked.
"Do you understand how confidential a document like that is?" he asked. "I am really pissed." He refused to comment further.
At the Children's Services headquarters, one source close to the case said supervisors were going desk to desk looking for purloined copies of the department's files on the Jackson case.
"Everyone is tearing up their copies and flushing them down the toilet," the source said. "It's like the Gestapo. Everyone is scared to death. . . . It has been made plain and clear someone is leaking the information and that they will be terminated."
The case has also thrust the 13-year-old boy's father into the spotlight because of his role in bringing the allegations forward.
The father is a prominent dentist--his patients include Paramount Pictures Chairman Sherry Lansing and actor Christian Slater--and he reportedly had aspirations to break into the film business.
On Thursday, the Hollywood Reporter said the father had unsuccessfully sought a $20-million movie production and financing deal with Jackson, who has a lucrative arrangement with Sony Corp. The deal apparently went nowhere.
Jackson's lawyer, Weitzman, told The Times that to the best of his knowledge, the report was accurate. But the boy's father has told friends that the report is untrue. Sources at Sony Pictures Entertainment said no deal involving the boy's father was pitched to the studio.
Recently, the father received co-credit for the screenplay and story of a film now in release. The father also received credit as associate producer, but sources familiar with the film say his role was relatively minor.
Times staff writers Amy Wallace, James Bates and Chuck Philips contributed to this report.
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