Lawyer Seeks Jackson Financial Records : Investigation: Attorney for the boy allegedly molested by the singer files partial transcripts of depositions telling of bedroom activity and photos. Jackson’s counsel says the papers misrepresent sworn statements.
Michael Jackson routinely shared his bed with young boys, kept a hidden closet with photographs of children and installed a security system to alert him whenever anyone approached his bedroom, according to former employees interviewed as part of a lawsuit brought by a boy who says the entertainer molested him.
Partial transcripts of those depositions were filed Monday in Superior Court as part of a motion brought by the boy’s lawyer, who argues that he should be allowed access to Jackson’s financial records because there is a “substantial probability” that his client will win his lawsuit. Also included is a declaration from the alleged victim, who repeats almost word for word the allegations he made to police and social workers last summer.
The transcripts and other legal documents filed Monday provide the foundation of the boy’s lawsuit against Jackson, detailing the evidence for the first time and summarizing the civil case against the pop superstar. They include sworn depositions from the singer’s chauffeur, former maids and a former secretary who admits that she told police Jackson was a “chicken hawk,” or pedophile, though she now regrets the statement and disavows it.
“There is substantial direct and circumstantial evidence that plaintiff was sexually molested by Jackson,” the boy’s lawyer, Larry R. Feldman, said in his motion. Feldman’s client was 13 years old at the time of the alleged molestation. He turns 14 today.
Howard Weitzman, one of the lawyers representing Jackson, said the portions of the transcripts filed by Feldman misrepresent the depositions, and he vigorously reasserted his client’s innocence.
“These are half-truths and untruths,” Weitzman said of the claims made by Feldman. “When all the facts come out, we are confident that Mr. Jackson will be vindicated.”
Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., who also is representing Jackson, echoed Weitzman’s remarks. “This is innuendo and misrepresentation,” he said of Feldman’s motion. “It just points out how he is trying this case.”
Nevertheless, the latest legal effort by the boy’s attorney highlights the difficulties that Jackson faces as he attempts to battle allegations of child molestation and sets the stage for his scheduled deposition next week. In fact, even as that deposition date draws near, Jackson’s lawyers warned that he may decline to speak under oath unless he can get assurances that his testimony will not be used against him in the possible criminal case that prosecutors from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties are contemplating.
“That’s a decision that Johnnie (Cochran) and I still have not made,” Weitzman said when asked whether Jackson would agree to give his deposition as scheduled. “However, it is unlikely that we would be willing to give up any constitutional protections that Mr. Jackson might have.”
Among the partial transcripts attached to Feldman’s motion are long excerpts from the sworn testimony of Blanca Francia, a former maid to the entertainer who has previously spoken to police as well as to The Times and to the tabloid television program “Hard Copy.” Francia’s statements during her Dec. 15. deposition were her first under oath, however.
Francia, who will be questioned again by lawyers today, worked for Jackson for five years beginning in 1986. During her deposition, she detailed a number of instances in which she said she saw the entertainer naked or partially clothed with young boys--whose names are deleted from the transcripts. She also recounted seeing Jackson in bed or in a sleeping bag with boys, sometimes during the day, and she said that Jackson told her not to tell anyone.
“He says that whatever I saw is none of anybody’s business,” said Francia, who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1975. “And that he liked me, and that if I (was) ever asked by anyone, not to tell anything about him.”
While working at the Neverland Ranch, Francia also said she once found a photograph of a young boy, apparently naked except for a sheet that covered his genitals. Francia told the attorneys that she does not know what became of that photograph, but she added that Jackson stored a number of photographs and videotapes of children in a “closet within a closet” at the ranch.
Weitzman confirmed that there is a closet such as the one described by Francia, but he said it had been built by the previous owner of Jackson’s home. Moreover, Weitzman said, the closet did not contain anything suggesting that Jackson ever molested children.
“The inference that Michael Jackson built it for some nefarious purpose is false,” Weitzman said, “absolutely false.”
During her deposition, Francia also disclosed that shortly after she began working for Jackson, he installed a security system at his Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos. Among other features, the system would alert Jackson whenever someone approached his bedroom, she testified.
“It make a bell, like a little bell,” said Francia. Another maid, Adrian McManus, also discussed the security system during her deposition.
In addition to sensors that would alert Jackson to anyone outside the bedroom, the door to the room contained a peephole, Francia added, according to the deposition transcript.
Weitzman dismissed the importance of the security system, noting that a common feature of such systems is that they warn their owners if someone is in the house and might be approaching a bedroom. “Most homes that are equipped with sophisticated security systems have electric eyes at strategic locations,” Weitzman said.
Several representatives of companies specializing in home security told The Times on Monday that motion detectors are common features.
Francia’s earlier comments have been challenged by members of the Jackson family and legal team, many of whom note that she was paid thousands of dollars for her interview with “Hard Copy.” Although Francia was not paid for her interviews with police or The Times, Jackson’s lawyers say the money she received from “Hard Copy” undermines her credibility as a witness.
In addition, Cochran said that Francia told attorneys that she never saw Jackson molest any boys. He cited Feldman’s failure to include that portion of her deposition as evidence that Feldman’s motion misrepresents the facts of the case. Feldman insisted that he did not withhold any relevant information from deposition excerpts he filed Monday.
Francia’s account is not the only one cited in Feldman’s motion for access to the singer’s financial records. The boy himself submitted a sworn declaration in which he repeated the allegations he made to social workers and police last summer.
As in his interview by police and social workers, the boy described an escalating series of alleged sexual advances by Jackson, beginning with hugs and kisses and culminating in Jackson masturbating himself and the boy. The relationship ended in July, according to the boy, after his father obtained custody of him and broke off his contact with Jackson.
Jackson has maintained that he is the victim of a failed extortion attempt by the father, and he has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. Although police and sheriff’s deputies from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties continue to investigate the allegations of sexual molestation, Jackson has not been charged with any crime.
Feldman and Jackson’s attorneys agreed last month not to divulge certain kinds of information--including details about children and Jackson’s security systems. Late Monday, Superior Court Judge David Rothman sealed the documents filed by Feldman in order to determine whether the material contained in them should be protected by court order.
Among other edited depositions filed Monday in connection with the lawsuit is one taken from Jolie Levine, who worked as Jackson’s secretary for two years starting in 1987. Levine told the lawyers that she called Jackson a “chicken hawk,” a slang term for a pedophile, when police interviewed her about the allegations against her former boss.
“And when you told that to the detectives or the police, you meant by that that Michael Jackson was a pedophile, correct?” asked Robert Turner, an associate of Feldman who also is representing the boy.
“I was caught off guard, angry, surprised,” Levine said. “I didn’t really mean saying that.”
Jackson’s lawyers accused Feldman of filing the documents Monday merely as a way to make allegations against the singer public. But Feldman, in the papers, argues that he needs access to Jackson’s financial records now because analyzing them will be difficult and time-consuming.
In addition to his income and real estate holdings, Jackson, one of the world’s wealthiest entertainers, owns the Beatles’ song catalogue and other difficult-to-value assets.
“He is a millionaire hundreds of times over whose assets are tied up in intangibles,” Feldman wrote. “Plaintiff will need the three months remaining before the trial date to be able to track down these assets and come up with an approximation of their worth.”