In yet another day of bitter charges, shifting players and new questions in the Michael Jackson case, a private investigator emerged Tuesday to undercut accusations that the father of a 13-year-old boy allegedly molested by the entertainer had tried to extort $20 million from him.
But investigator Ernie Rizzo had barely finished talking to the press before the father’s new lawyer, Richard Hirsch, said Rizzo was not authorized to speak for the family and “at this point” was not working for anyone connected with the case.
While that drama was unfolding, it was disclosed that Los Angeles lawyer Gloria Allred had been hired to represent the boy. Allred declined to comment on any aspect of the case, limiting her remarks to a short statement.
“I represent the child in reference to the child’s relationship to Michael Jackson,” said Allred, who has built a career on high-profile cases. “That’s the only comment I’m going to make today.”
The day’s intrigue started Tuesday morning when Rizzo began giving media interviews in which he alleged that Jackson had offered $350,000 to buy the silence of the boy’s parents. Rizzo--who spoke to several news organizations, including The Times--accused rival private investigator Anthony Pellicano of doctoring audiotapes in order to falsely implicate the boy’s father in an extortion attempt.
As evidence of his credentials, Rizzo produced a letter signed by the boy’s father in which the father states: “I hereby retain you to investigate Anthony Pellicano and anyone else involved in the sexual molestation case that we spoke about this morning.”
Armed with that letter, Rizzo publicly accused Pellicano, who works for Jackson, of trying to bribe the boy’s family members into keeping the sexual molestation allegations under wraps. Rizzo said the boy’s mother and father, who are divorced and have battled over custody, now are united in their belief that their son was molested by Jackson.
Rizzo said the boy first confided in his father in July. The mother, Rizzo said, initially discounted the allegations because she and her son had been close companions of Jackson and she trusted him.
But she changed her mind, Rizzo said, after her son tearfully recounted the alleged abuse. The next day, the mother, the father and the boy’s stepparents confronted representatives of the entertainer, and it was then that Pellicano allegedly offered them the bribe, Rizzo said.
Jackson’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, denied Rizzo’s account, insisting that the singer is innocent and that the father fabricated the molestation allegations as part of an attempt to extort money.
Late in the day, Hirsch, the lawyer for the boy’s father, disavowed the private investigator and said Rizzo did not speak for the family. Doubts about Rizzo mounted further when he could not produce evidence that he worked for the boy’s mother, as he had claimed.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, talking to reporters and editors at The Times, urged the media to exhibit more restraint in its reporting of the allegations of child molestation.
Times staff writers Charles P. Wallace in Singapore and Shawn Hubler in Los Angeles contributed to this story.