Jason Francia (summary version)

During the 1993 Chandler allegations, in the absence of any substantial supporting evidence for Jordan’s claims, prosecutors were trying to boost their case by finding additional alleged victims. They interviewed 40-60 children (according to some sources, up to 100) who had either spent time with Jackson or at his Neverland Ranch. None of the children corroborated the accuser’s story. They all told authorities that they had never been molested by the star and that he had never done anything inappropriate to them.

Frustrated by the lack of corroborating victims, the police engaged in questionable tactics while interviewing the children. Some of the parents and their children turned to Jackson’s attorney, Bert Fields to complain about harassment by the police. Fields then wrote a letter to Los Angeles police chief, Willie Williams in which he complained:

“In the current investigation of Michael Jackson, that has occurred, officers investigating the matter have entered the homes of minors and have subjected them to high-pressure interrogation, sometimes in the absence of their parents. I am advised that your officers have told frightened youngsters outrageous lies, such as “we have nude photos of you” in order to push them into making accusations against Mr. Jackson. There are, of course, no such photos of these youngsters and they have no truthful accusations to make. But your officers appear ready to employ any device to generate potential evidence against Mr. Jackson.

In addition, your officers have told parents that their children have been molested, even though the children in question have unequivocally denied this. They have also referred to Mr. Jackson as a “pedophile”, even though he has not been charged, much less convicted.

[…]

I urge you to put an end to these abuses. Investigate these accusations as thoroughly as possible, but do it in a manner consistent with honest, common decency, and the high standards that once made me proud of the LAPD.”

A tape recording of the 1993 interrogation of actor, Corey Feldman that the television show Celebrity Justice leaked during Jackson’s 2005 criminal case, serves as an example of how such interrogations were conducted. Feldman, who had been friends with Jackson since he was a teenager, was interviewed by Sergeant Deborah Linden and despite repeatedly telling her that Jackson had never done anything inappropriate to him, she continued to suggest that something must have happened and for over an hour pressured him to say something incriminating about the singer.

Feldman told Linden that he knew what it meant to be molested, because he had been molested as a child, only not by Michael Jackson. He even named his molester, but the investigator completely ignored that information. She seemed only interested in trying to get incriminating statements about Michael Jackson. Feldman was 22 years old at the time of the interview, but many children who were much younger went through similar interrogations, sometimes in the absence of their parents.

At one point during that fishing expedition, the police got to a 13-year-old boy called Jason Francia. Jason was never particularly close to Jackson. He was the son of Blanca Francia, a maid who worked for Jackson between 1986 and 1991. By the time of the allegations she had not worked for Jackson for over two years and during the media frenzy surrounding the Chandler case, she sold stories to a tabloid television program for money and made highly questionable claims about having witnessing certain things, which we will discuss in the section about Wade Robson.

Jason Francia in 2005

Her son Jason, however, first was not willing to make allegations against Jackson and denied that Jackson had ever done anything inappropriate to him. He told the police: “I’ll just say this out flat. I don’t remember him trying anything with me except for the tickling”. When the police pressured him to “remember” wrongdoings by Jackson, he maintained: “If I don’t remember, I don’t remember”.

His two police interviews on November 4, 1993 and March 24, 1994 are textbook examples of improperly suggestive interrogations that may lead people to make to false allegations.

For example, on November 4, Francia told investigators that he did not remember Jackson ever putting his hand anywhere that made him feel uncomfortable. Detective Vincent Neglia was not satisfied with that answer and made it very clear what answer he would be satisfied with, by suggesting to the boy that his memories were wrong and blatantly suggesting what he should “remember”:

Det. Neglia: Okay, but what I am getting at is that maybe I am not being obvious enough. What I am saying is maybe he put his hands someplace on you where he shouldn’t have. Maybe he put his hands on you someplace that made you feel uncomfortable. And that’s why you are not remembering. It’s like there is a little bit of “Oh, I can’t remember that guy’s name and I don’t remember his last name, and I just don’t remember that. No I don’t want to remember that, no I can’t remember.” It’s a little of bit of a different kind of not remembering, one is because you are choosing not to, and one is that you just can’t call back the uh, the event. And I think of what you doing is tickling and all this stuff, is trying forcing yourself not to remember. And you also kind of got to the one where you’re saying that fourth time at the party you said something like, “That was the time.” What time was it Jason: What was the time?“

At other times during the interviews investigators lied to the boy and said that other boys, such as Macaulay Culkin, had been molested by Jackson and the only way they could rescue them was if Jason said incriminating things about Jackson. They also told the boy that Corey Feldman had drug problems because Jackson had molested him. Both Culkin and Feldman stated very firmly to authorities and the public alike that Jackson had never molested them and never touched them in any inappropriate way.

The investigators referred to Jackson as a “molester” in their interviews with Francia, even though they did not have any evidence against him. They also used derogatory profanity against Jackson, for example, saying: “he makes great music, he’s a great guy, bullshit”. At one point, after the investigators told Francia what they thought Jackson did to him, the boy said “Well, I’ll have to work on that”. In one of the interviews Francia said: “They [the interrogators] made me come out with a lot more stuff I didn’t want to say. They kept pushing. I wanted to get up and hit them in the head”.

In his 1993-94 interviews, after initially denying any wrongdoing by Jackson, Jason Francia finally gave in to the pressure and said what the investigators wanted him to say. In 2005, while under cross-examination by Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, he admitted that he said things in those interviews because he “was trying to figure out how to get out of there”:

Remember telling the police, “You guys are pushy”?

Yeah. I remember telling the police that.

Okay. And after they kept pushing you, you finally said, “You know, I think he did tickle me”, right?

No.

Do you remember that? Do you remember at first saying you didn’t know, and then after –

Yeah, I remember saying at first, “I don’t know.”

And after telling the police, “You guys are pushy,” you eventually finally said, “Yes, he tickled me,” right?

I believe that’s how it went.

Okay. You kind of went back and forth during the interview, didn’t you? One second you’d say, “He tickled me,” and the next second you’d say you’re not sure, right?

I was trying to figure out how to get out of there.

I understand. And you remember exactly how you felt in 1993 during the interview, right?

The feeling of, yeah, crying and crappiness.

It was also revealed that after the police’s first interrogation of Jason Francia in 1993 he was sent for therapy with a counselor by the name of Mike Craft who was paid by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. District Attorney Thomas Sneddon was present at least one time in Craft’s office while Jason was there, though Jason could not explain why Sneddon was there.

What Jason eventually alleged wa, that on three different occasions Jackson had touched his genital area inappropriately while tickling him: twice above the clothes and on the last occasion, he claimed, Jackson reached inside his pants. Jason further alleged that every time Jackson tickled him, the star put a hundred dollar bill in his pants.

There had never been charges filed against Jackson based on Jason Francia’s claims, although the prosecution was obviously desperate to find another alleged victim besides Jordan Chandler. However, Jason’s mother, Blanca Francia, taking a page out of the Chandlers’ playbook, hired civil lawyers and at the end of 1994 threatened Jackson with a civil lawsuit. In actuality, Blanca Francia talked about wanting to sue Jackson for money at least as early as March, 1994, while the criminal investigation was still ongoing. With the Chandler case behind him and a plan to release a new album in 1995, Jackson settled with the Francias out of court. As testified to during Jackson’s 2005 trial, two settlements were signed with the Francias – one with Blanca and another one with Jason Francia. Reportedly Jackson paid them altogether $2.4 million. The language in both the settlements with Blanca and with Jason Francia emphasized that there was no admission of any wrongdoing on Jackson’s part.

Just like the Chandler settlement, this one too is often interpreted as a sign of guilt on Jackson’s part, but Jackson was probably advised to settle the case, because the cost of a trial in lawyer fees and the effects of an ongoing negative publicity from it would have cost him a lot more. To put the $2.4 million he paid out to the Francias into a perspective: Jackson’s record label, Sony Music spent $30 million on the promotion of Jackson’s entitled HIStory that was about to be released in 1995. The first video of the album, Scream, cost $7 million and a teaser that was shot for the album in Budapest, Hungary cost $4 million. Even if Jackson had won the civil trial against the Francias, it probably would have cost him a lot more than $2.4 million in lawyer fees and lost earnings as it would have put his projects on hold for several years, or at least would have heavily compromised them.

As for reputation, it is easy to say that an innocent man would surely fight for his reputation in a court rather than settle a case. The reality of these kind of allegations is very different, though. The mere allegation of child sexual abuse is a stigma that is hard to shake off, whether someone goes to court and wins or settles a case. Just see Jackson’s 2005 trial as an example. There he went through an excruciating court process that wore him down emotionally and in health, he won fair and square, but that did not result in an overarching acceptance of his innocence and clearing of his reputation. In actuality, the media blamed the “not guilty” verdicts on “celebrity justice” (which is utter nonsense if you know what went on in the courtroom – details in the Arvizo section). Usually the same people who use the two settlements as a sign of Jackson’s guilt are the same people who then also refuse to accept the verdict in the 2005 trial, blaming it on “celebrity justice” or using fallacies such as “O.J. Simpson was acquitted too” – pinpointing the hypocrisy of it all when they say that “Jackson should have gone to court to clear his name instead of settling”. Why, if they do not accept a verdict that is favorable to Jackson, anyway? The reality is that once someone is just accused of this type of crime, usually there is hardly any chance of coming out of it with a clear reputation again, whatever they do, no matter how innocent they are. The stigma remains forever, even if they are acquitted in court. Not to mention the fact that civil trials are not the most ideal platforms to discuss cases like this, as we have seen in the Chandler section of this paper. (It goes without saying that in the Francia case too, Jackson settled a civil case, not a criminal.)

Anyway, the whole settlement discussion loses its significance when you know that it did not prevent the Francias from testifying at a criminal court (and no settlements ever do) and they indeed did testify at Jackson’s 2005 trial. So Jason Francia’s allegations WERE heard in court, and, according to jury foreman Paul Rodriguez, the jury did not find them credible. [1]

Jason Francia’s 2005 testimony was very messy. Other than the alleged impropriety, he did not seem to know or remember anything and was caught in several contradictions and lies. At the very least, this young man seemed to have an extremely bad, unreliable and ever-changing memory.

At age of 24, he sat on the stand and claimed he did not know if he ever signed a settlement with Jackson. At first, he claimed he never told his mother he was improperly touched but then admitted he did, claiming he was “mistaken” earlier. He claimed he never told the lawyers who represented him in 1994, Terry Cannon and Kris Kallman, that he was improperly touched, but later on in the testimony he said he did not know if he ever told them, and even later he said he did tell them.

In one of the 1993-94 interrogations Francia claimed that during a tickling episode he blacked-out and because of that he did not remember anything besides the tickling. In 2005, when Mesereau asked him if he had a black-out how could he have told the police that his mother was not in the room, he answered: “I blocked it out. I didn’t blank it out”. Please note, Jackson’s condo was a small apartment and the alleged improprieties occurred while Blanca Francia was present, cleaning up and able to walk in on them at any time.

When the police asked Jason in 1993-94 if anything inappropriate had ever happened to him at Neverland he said “I was around too many people” and when they pressured him about the third account of tickling in the arcade, the incident where he now alleged that Jackson put his hand in his pantsat the time initially Jason said he did not know if Jackson touched him inappropriately while tickling him. In actuality, he said he was not sure if Jackson even tickled him at all.

Mesereau pointed out that in an interview with the police in October, 2004 Jason claimed that this third tickling incident lasted more than ten seconds but he did not remember how long. At the trial, only a couple of months later, Jason suddenly remembered that it lasted for three to four minutes.

As for the money Jason allegedly received from Jackson after alleged acts of improper touching, when Jason Francia was initially interviewed by the police in 1993-94, he said that Jackson promised him money each time he read a book or achieved a good grade, because Francia had difficulties in school and with learning (in 2005 on the stand he admitted he still had problems with reading). This is the story that later somehow evolved into Jackson putting money in his pants after each tickling.

During the trial, when asked if attorney Terry Cannon still represented him, Jason said “I don’t think so, no”, but later said he did not know if Cannon represented him. Mesereau reminded him that Cannon was present at a meeting Jason had with the prosecutors on December 6, 2004. At that meeting Jason did not want the interview to be tape-recorded. When Mesereau asked him why, at first he claimed to not remember that he made that request. Then when presented with documents that showed he indeed did, he could not testify what his reason was: “I don’t know” and “Tape-recording is weird. I don’t know. No, I don’t”. Documents also showed that he requested Cannon to be present at the interview but Jason said he did not remember why Cannon was there and whether he asked him to be there or not.

During the trial, when asked whether any criminal charges had ever been filed against Jackson based on his claims (there had never been), Jason answered: “I don’t know much. I don’t watch the news.”

Mesereau asked Jason about another meeting which the prosecutors held on November 19, 2004 when his mother was interviewed in the DA’s office. Again, Jason first claimed to not know anything about it: “I don’t know. Me and my mother don’t talk about that stuff much.” However, when Mesereau pointed out to him that he was present at that meeting, Francia all of a sudden remembered: “Now I remember, yes.” In actuality, not only was Jason present, but he too was interviewed by the prosecutors and he asked that the interview not be tape-recorded on that occasion as well. Again, Francia did not remember any of this: he did not remember that an interview by the prosecutors that lasted for about an hour, took place at all, although it happened only a couple of months before his testimony at Jackson’s trial!

So not surprisingly, Jason Francia did not make a good impression on the jury at Jackson’s trial. Jury foreman, Paul Rodriguez said in an interview after the verdict that they did not find him credible. In actuality, he compared his testimony to that of Janet Arvizo’s (the mother of the 2005 accuser), which was widely regarded, even by pro-prosecution journalists, as a disastrous testimony for the prosecution.

[1] The Chandler and the Francia settlements are the only money Jackson ever paid to accusers. This has to be noted because in the past years some of the media has circulated a myth that according to “FBI files” Jackson supposedly paid “hush money” to dozens of boys over the years. The original source of this story was an unreliable British tabloid, The Sunday People. It is telling about the copy & paste “journalism” of today, that even publications that consider themselves more serious than tabloids, uncritically rehashed this story without fact-checking it.
The story is quite simply not true. Jackson’s FBI files, that were made public after the singer’s death, do not contain any such claim. Moreover, the prosecution in 2005, which co-operated with the FBI during their investigation of Jackson, never produced any such evidence. Such a thing was never even alleged. It is simply a tabloid myth. The only evidence of pay-offs which came out at the trial was the money that the prosecution’s several witnesses had received from the tabloid media for their allegations. It is ironic that the media, whose members demonstrably had paid out fortunes to people for the slander of Michael Jackson, accuse the singer of secret pay-offs with no evidence whatsoever.
And let us be clear here, “hush money” would be what the Chandlers demanded of Jackson before going public with their allegations, ie. that they would not go to authorities if Jackson paid them off. “Hush money” is money in exchange for someone’s silence before going to authorities or to the public. As we have seen in the Chandler part, Jackson refused to pay such money. Settlements are not “hush money” as they happen after authorities have already been notified and they do not prevent anyone from testifying at a criminal court, as you can see from the Francia case. Settlements of civil cases are even encouraged by the law.
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