On November 18, 2003 an arrest warrant was issued for Michael Jackson based on the allegations of a 13-year-old boy, Gavin Arvizo, that Jackson had sexually molested him in February-March, 2003. The case resulted in a criminal trial in 2005 where Jackson was charged on 14 counts: 1. conspiracy, 2-5. lewd act upon a minor child (ie. Gavin Arvizo), 6. attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child (Gavin Arvizo), 7-10. administering alcohol to a minor child (Gavin Arvizo) to molest him; plus four counts of lesser, misdemeanor charges of providing alcohol to a minor child (Gavin Arvizo) without the molestation intention.
On June 13, 2005 Jackson was acquitted on all 14 counts. But what exactly was this case about? Find out next.
Michael Jackson Meets the Arvizo Family
Michael Jackson first met his later accuser Gavin Arvizo and the boy’s family in the summer of 2000. At the time the then 10-year-old Gavin was in hospital with a rare type of cancer that affected his kidney and spleen. Gavin was a big fan of comedians and before his illness he went to comedy classes at the Laugh Factory which is a comedy club in Hollywood owned by comedian Jamie Masada. When Gavin became ill, Masada visited him in the hospital several times. Gavin asked him to help him meet certain celebrities, and one day he asked to meet Michael Jackson.
Masada testified at Jackson’s trial that he did not personally know Michael Jackson, but he somehow managed to contact his people and tell them about Gavin’s request. Jackson called the boy in the hospital and they talked for about five minutes, according to Gavin’s testimony in 2005. According to Gavin, during the conversation Jackson invited him and his family to his Neverland Ranch, although this was contradicted by Vernee Watson-Johnson’s testimony at Jackson’s 2005 trial. Johnson taught acting at The Los Angeles Academy of Fine Arts and met the Arvizo family there as the kids visited her class. She said that it was her who requested that the Arvizo kids could go to Neverland and she helped to set up the visit through a mutual friend, Carol Lamir.
According to Gavin’s 2005 testimony, Jackson called him about 20 other times during his illness – sometimes in the hospital, sometimes in his grandmother’s home where Gavin lived at the time in a sterile room.
Whoever helped to set up the Neverland visit, after the first round of Gavin’s chemotherapy, the Arvizo family went to the ranch in August 2000. That is when the Arvizos met Jackson in person for the first time.
On that first visit Gavin and Star slept in Jackson’s bedroom. This is the night that is referenced in the 2003 Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson that caused big public uproar, even though both Gavin and Jackson made it clear that while the kids slept on the bed, Jackson slept on the floor.
What is not mentioned in the documentary is the fact that not only Jackson did not sleep in the same bed as Gavin and Star, but he also insisted on his personal assistant Frank Cascio to sleep in the room as well. Jackson’s own children, 3-year-old Prince and 2-year-old Paris (his youngest child, Bigi was not yet born) were there as well and slept on the bed with the Arvizo kids, while the two adult men, Jackson and Cascio, slept on the floor.
Cascio recalled the situation in his 2011 book entitled My Friend Michael:
“Then came the night when Gavin and his brother Star pleaded with Michael to allow them to sleep with him. “Can we sleep in your room tonight? Can we sleep in your bed tonight?” the boys begged. “My mother said it’s okay, if it’s okay with you,” Gavin added. Michael, who always had a hard time saying no to kids, replied, “Sure, no problem.” But then he came to me. “She’s pushing her kids onto me,” he said, visibly concerned. He had a strange, uncomfortable feeling about it. “Frank, they can’t stay.”
I went to the kids and said, “Michael has to sleep. I’m sorry, you can’t stay in his room.” Gavin and Star kept begging, I kept saying no, and then Janet [Arvizo – the mother] said to Michael, “They really want to stay with you. It’s okay with me.” Michael relented. He didn’t want to let the kids down. His heart got in the way, but he was fully aware of the risk. He said to me, “Frank, if they’re staying in my room, you’re staying with me. I don’t trust this mother. She’s fucked up.” I was totally against it, but I said, “All right. We do what we have to do.” Having me there as a witness would safeguard Michael against any shady ideas that the Arvizos might have been harboring. Or so we were both naive enough to think.”
The fact that Jackson’s children and Cascio were in the room as well was not disputed by the Arvizos in court in 2005, nor did they claim any molestation or attempt at molestation occurring that night. They claimed the acts of molestation happened almost three years later, in February-March 2003, AFTER the Bashir documentary aired.
According to Gavin’s own testimony, after this one occasion at Neverland he and his family did not have much contact with Jackson until the fall of 2002 when they were called back for the Bashir documentary. They were allowed to go to Neverland and they did at least 7-10 times during that period, but most of the time Jackson was not there and when he was, he actively avoided the Arvizos, about which Gavin complained on the stand during his 2005 testimony. He also complained that Jackson changed his phone number and became unavailable to them.
From Gavin’s 2005 testimony:
Okay. Now, you complained to the Santa Barbara Sheriffs that, “After I was done with my cancer stuff,” you never saw Michael again, right?
No, not until the Martin Bashir thing.
Okay. And you wanted to see him after you were in remission, correct?
You wanted to visit Neverland after you were in remission, right?
And you felt in some way that Michael had cut off the friendship, right?
You felt he had abandoned you, right?
And you felt he had abandoned your family, right?
To not to lose contact with Jackson, the Arvizo family started to bombard him with nice letters and cards.
Although Jackson personally kept his distance from the family, but he still did things to help them. In October 2000 he gave the family a white van as a gift. He also allowed the Arvizos to use Neverland for a blood drive for Gavin and all his employees donated blood.
In May 2001 Gavin’s father, David and mother, Janet Arvizo separated – according to Janet Arvizo’s 2005 testimony, because David physically abused her and the children.
On September 24, 2001 the Arvizo family reached an out of court settlement with the J. C. Penney department store. The subject of the case was an allegation by the Arvizo family that in 1998 J.C. Penney guards beat up Janet, David, Gavin and Star Arvizo in a parking lot and they sexually abused Janet Arvizo. The guards followed the family in the parking lot because Gavin was caught stealing two school uniforms. The Arvizos then managed to turn it around into a physical and sexual abuse lawsuit against the J. C. Penney guards. At Jackson’s 2005 trial evidence and testimony showed that the family lied under oath in depositions in that case. The details of that case will be discussed later in this document.
In the Spring of 2002 the Arvizos spent a few days at Neverland with the actor Chris Tucker to celebrate the birthday of latter’s infant son. Jackson was not present.
Martin Bashir’s Documentary, “Living with Michael Jackson” and the Fallout
In the Summer-Autumn of 2002 British journalist and television host Martin Bashir worked on a documentary with Michael Jackson entitled “Living with Michael Jackson”. During the creation of that documentary Bashir suggested to Jackson that in the film the singer could show the public how he helped children with serious illnesses. Although Jackson presented other options as well, Bashir eventually chose to go with the 13-year-old cancer survivor, Gavin Arvizo who was called to participate in the film with his two siblings, Star and Davellin, in September 2002.
Jackson trusted that Bashir had no hidden agenda in how he presented his relationship with Gavin and out of naivety and guilelessness allowed himself to be filmed showing affection to Gavin and holding his hand while the boy leaned his head on his shoulder. Bashir exploited Jackson’s poor judgment in public relations and drew him into a discussion of whether it was acceptable to share a bedroom or a bed with a child. When the documentary aired in February 2003, this segment caused a storm of bad publicity for Jackson and wild speculations about the nature of his relationship with Gavin Arvizo. In reality, as you have seen above, there was no close relationship between Jackson and Gavin, since 2000 they hardly even met and they never slept in the same bed.
Throughout the documentary Bashir uses suggestive and highly manipulative narration and it seems that his intention from the beginning was to create and feed in innuendo about Jackson’s relationship with children. Even Gavin admitted in his 2005 testimony that Bashir’s portrayal of Jackson in the documentary was false. After the shooting of the scene the Arvizo children stayed at the ranch for one night, but Jackson immediately left after the segment was shot, and he was again unavailable to Gavin.
The Arvizos had not met Jackson again until after the Bashir documentary aired in the United Kingdom on February 3, 2003 and then in the USA on February 6, 2003. As a result of the documentary, the media went into a frenzy, the 1993 allegations against Jackson were rehashed in articles and talk shows.
Jackson’s team tried to fight this negative publicity and decided to hold a press conference in Miami on February 5 or 6, 2003. The press conference eventually was called off. At the same time the Arvizos were trying to get away from the media and trying to find Jackson. They called the actor Chris Tucker who was just planning to visit his brother in Miami, and he offered the Arvizo family to charter an airplane and take them with him to Miami to meet Jackson again. Jackson and the Arvizos then returned to Neverland together on February 7-8 by Jackson’s chartered airplane.
In the hindsight, while making their allegations the Arvizos claimed that on the way back to Los Angeles from Miami, on the airplane they witnessed Jackson lick the head of a sleeping Gavin. Despite of the fact that many people were on the plane, the only two people who have ever claimed to have witnessed this alleged scene were Star and Janet Arvizo. Although, according to their story, this whole alleged scene lasted for only six seconds, Janet Arvizo got up from her seat to go to the restroom exactly at the right moment to witness it. Oddly, Janet Arvizo never confronted Jackson about what she had allegedly witnessed, nor did she ever ask her sons about it. Supposedly she just kept it to herself and the first time she ever mentioned it to anyone was when the family first started to make child molestation allegations against Jackson later in 2003.
The Crucial Period: February 7-March 12, 2003
Between February 7 and March 12, 2003 the Arvizos spent time at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, on and off. In the hindsight, when they made their allegations they claimed that during that period they were kept captive there against their will. They also claimed that this was the period when the alleged molestations had happened.
First, let’s see the molestation allegation, then we will address the conspiracy allegation (ie. that Jackson allegedly kidnapped and held the family against their will).
Initially the Arvizos claimed that the molestation started as soon as they returned from Miami with Jackson, on February 7, 2003. This version of the story is also represented in the prosecution’s initial felony complaint, filed on December 18, 2003.
However, later they changed this story and said that Jackson started molesting Gavin after February 20. As you will see, this timeline change was not just a minor correction. It significantly changed the narrative of the Arvizos’ initial story.
But why did they change the timeline at all?
As a part of the damage control regarding the Bashir documentary, Jackson’s team had been working on a so called “rebuttal video” under the title “Michael Jackson, Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See”. This documentary features interviews with people and footage made by Jackson’s own cameraman, Hamid Moslehi during the shooting of the Bashir documentary and it features material that Bashir deliberately omitted from his documentary and that shows his manipulation of Jackson and of his viewers.
Initially the Arvizos would have been featured in that “rebuttal video”, but at the end their segment was not included. However, the footage with the Arvizo family was made for the documentary. It was shot early in the morning of February 20, 2003 and later found by the prosecution when they searched Moslehi’s home during the Jackson investigation.
Later on the same day, February 20, the Arvizo family also got a visit from the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS, also mentioned as Child Protective Services – CPS), because a teacher from Gavin’s school filed a complaint over the claim in the Bashir documentary that Gavin had slept in Jackson’s bed. The Arvizos said nothing but nice things about Jackson to the CPS and the children denied ever having been molested by the star. By the way, the interview took place at Major Jay Jackson’s home (an army officer, no relation to Michael Jackson), who was Janet Arvizo’s boyfriend at the time and later her husband. So much about the captivity at Neverland claim too, but we will address that claim later in this document.
When the Arvizos later made their allegations, initially they claimed that they did not tell about the alleged molestation and kidnapping to the CPS on February 20, because Jackson and his people had threatened and intimidated them. They also claimed that during the shooting of the “rebuttal video” they were under duress and that is why they praised Jackson in it. However, the raw footage that the police found in Moslehi’s home during a house search told a different story. In the raw footage the Arvizos are seen laughing and joking, happily praising Michael Jackson. They also express their displeasure with Martin Bashir. The videos can be watched on YouTube:
They even make suggestions themselves about what they wanted to do on film and in the second video they are seen surprised that they were on camera while making those suggestions. They certainly do not seem to be forced or under duress by any means.
As a result of this discovery, the Arvizos, with the assistance of the prosecution, simply changed their initial timeline of the allegations and eventually claimed that Jackson started molesting Gavin only after February 20.
This was not just a timeline change, but the whole narrative of the initial story had changed. Initially they claimed that threats and intimidation by Jackson and his people was the reason why they did not tell anything to the CPS on February 20 and why they praised Jackson in the “rebuttal video”. After their timeline changed, the story was suddenly that they did not tell anything to the CPS simply because there was nothing to tell on February 20 yet, as Jackson started molesting Gavin only after that. In actuality, in 2005 in court Gavin testified – according to the latest version of their story – that on February 20, when they shot the “rebuttal video” and when they were interviewed by the CPS, they still considered Jackson to be a good person and they had no problem praising him. No trace of their initial intimidation story that they told the police in 2003 in explanation of why they did not tell the CPS anything.
Apparently, the prosecution, lead by Thomas Sneddon (the same district attorney as in the 1993 investigation), completely ignored the huge red flag that this narrative change meant about the credibility of this accuser and his family, and they kept pushing the case to court, nevertheless.
The timeline change resulted in a really bizarre story, according to which Jackson started molesting Gavin while the CPS investigated. Not only that, but the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department too launched an investigation in February 2003 because of the Bashir documentary. That investigation continued until April 2003.
So according to the story that the Arvizos ended up with due to the timeline change, Jackson started molesting Gaving while the CPS and the police investigated, while there was a huge public attention on him and Gavin because of the Bashir documentary, and while his PR team was working overtime on damage control because of the public relations backlash resulting from the Bashir documentary. To believe the Arvizos’ story you have to believe that all the while this was happening (including a police and a CPS investigation), Jackson suddenly started molesting Gavin Arvizo, even though for three years he had not touched him and not even trusted him and his family. This is exactly the story that the Arvizo family ended up with after they were forced to change their initial timeline because of the discovery of the “rebuttal tape” raw footage.
The Conspiracy Charge
The conspiracy charge was one of the charges brought against Michael Jackson in 2005. It claimed that between February 1 and March 31, 2003 Jackson conspired with Ronald Konitzer, Dieter Wiesner, Frank Cascio, Vinnie Amen, Marc Schaffel and other co-conspirators to abduct Gavin Arvizo and his family and to falsely imprison them at his Neverland Ranch. Even though the charge names five alleged co-conspirators, the prosecution did not indict any of them, their only target was Michael Jackson. So these people remained “unindicted co-conspirators” throughout the process. This meant that these five potentially important defense witnesses were discouraged from testifying for the defense under the threat of retaliatory prosecution against them if they do.
The prosecution’s initial felony complaint in December 2003 did not include this charge, it was later added, after the Grand Jury hearings, and this addition is related to the problem of explaining why the Arvizos praised Jackson in the “rebuttal video” and why they did not say anything to the CPS.
According to prosecution theory, the reason for this alleged abduction and false imprisonment was to force the Arvizo family to participate in the “rebuttal video”. However, with the Arvizos’ changed story, that as of February 20 they did not have any problem with praising Jackson, the conspiracy charge was confusing. Why would Jackson need to abduct and falsely imprison a family to do a rebuttal tape when they were freely willing to participate in it and willing to say positive things about him, anyway?
The prosecution also made a confusing allegation about Jackson supposedly trying to “deport” the Arvizo family to Brazil during their “captivity”. The truth was that there were plans to send away the Arvizos for a vacation in Brazil during carnival season, so that they would not be found by the media who tried to “hunt them down” because of the Bashir documentary (they themselves also complained about the media bothering them). Travel documents presented in court showed that they were supposed to stay in Brazil for only a one-week vacation and according to testimonies, such as Azja Pryor’s (girlfriend of actor Chris Tucker), far from being “deported”, the Arvizos were happy and excited to go and Janet Arvizo even invited Pryor to go with them as well. Eventually the whole trip was called off and it never took place, so the whole “deportation” claim was much ado about nothing.
There are further problems with the conspiracy charge. Receipts and testimonies showed that during their alleged captivity the Arvizos went shopping several times, talked to the CPS because of the Bashir documentary, went to doctors, visited a lawyer William Dickerman to stop the media from using the Arvizo children’s likeness and photos, and appeared in a court with another one of their lawyers, Michael Manning regarding a child support debate between Janet Arvizo and her ex-husband, David, yet they never reported to authorities, their lawyers, the doctors or to anyone that they were allegedly being kidnapped and held against their will at Neverland.
They actually did not even spend all the time at Neverland during the relevant period. They spent several days at the home of Jay Jackson, Janet Arvizo’s boyfriend. Meanwhile they never called the police, they or Jay Jackson never reported it to anyone that they had been supposedly kept captive at Neverland. As we have mentioned before, the CPS interview was also conducted at Jay Jackson’s home and they never told the CPS that they had been kept captive at Neverland. They also spent approximately a week at a hotel in Calabasas with Frank Cascio and Vinnie Amen, but they never told personnel or anyone there either that they had been allegedly kept captive at Neverland.
The Changing Content of the Allegations and Contradictions
Between 2003 and 2005 the Arvizos told their story several times. First to a psychologist, Dr. Stanley Katz, in June 2003, then to the police several times in a series of interviews in 2003, then in front of a Grand Jury in 2004 and finally at the trial itself in 2005. During this period their story changed in many ways.
We already discussed the timeline change and the resulting narrative change. In this chapter we are going through some of the other changes and contradictions in the content of the Arvizos’ allegations, as not only the timeline changed, but also the alleged acts of molestation. Moreover, the family members contradicted each other and themselves on several occasions. Below follows a collection of such changing allegations and contradictions.
The number of alleged molestations. Initially Gavin claimed that Jackson had molested him at least on five occasions, then he said it was less than five times, then a total of five times, then seven times. By the time the case went to court, the number was reduced to two occasions and when after the description of the second alleged act Gavin was asked whether there were any other occasions that Jackson had tried to do inappropriate things to him, he said there were not. The changing number of alleged occasions of molestation is also reflected in the fact that in the prosecution’s initial felony complaint they alleged seven acts of lewd act upon a child, while in the final indictment it changed to four. (In both documents two of these were allegedly observed by Gavin’s brother Star, while Gavin was not aware of them because he was “passed out” after Jackson allegedly had given him alcohol. See further below.)
Who told Gavin that men have to masturbate? In a police interview on August 13, 2003 Gavin said that his grandmother told him that men have to masturbate, otherwise they may rape women. However, on the stand Gavin claimed it was Jackson who told him that. This is important because according to the Arvizos’ allegations, this is how Jackson introduced Gavin to masturbation (the boy claimed he had never masturbated before) and he claimed that the first act of alleged molestation immediately followed this statement by Jackson. When confronted with the contradiction on the stand by Jackson’s attorney Thomas Mesereau, Gavin tried to get out of it by claiming that both Jackson and his grandmother told him the same thing.
What did Star allegedly see? Out of the four counts of lewd act upon a child that Michael Jackson was accused of in the prosecution’s final version of their story, two were alleged to have been observed by Gavin’s one year younger brother Star, but without Gavin himself being aware of them. The claim was that Gavin was “passed out” during those molestations, because Jackson allegedly had given him alcohol. Initially, in June 2003, Star claimed that on the two occasions when he allegedly witnessed Jackson inappropriately touch his brother, Jackson’s hand was on top of Gavin’s clothes. Later he claimed that Jackson’s hand was inside Gavin’s pants on both occasions and this later version was what he claimed on the stand.
In an interview with Sgt. Steve Robel on July 7, 2003 Star alleged that on the second occasion that he had witnessed Jackson molesting his brother, Jackson had his penis out of his underwear. Later this claim disappeared from their allegations and on the stand Star never claimed to have witnessed any such thing.
On the stand Star first claimed that he did not see any alcohol in the room while he observed these alleged acts of molestations, but later in his testimony he was reminded that to the Grand Jury he claimed he saw vodka, so he suddenly “remembered” he did.
Initially, in 2003 Star also claimed that he had witnessed Jackson rub his private parts against Gavin’s butt and touch Gavin’s butt. Not only did this claim disappear from their allegations later on, but at the trial in 2005, when Jackson’s lawyer Thomas Mesereau confronted him with what he had initially claimed, Star flat out denied ever making such claims.
In his interview with Sgt. Steve Robel on July, 2003 Star also claimed that on one occasion while he was in a chair next to Jackson’s bed half asleep and Gavin was sleeping in Jackson’s bed, Jackson got into the bed with Gavin and “began moving his hips back to front against Gavin’s back side”. This story changed too by the time the case went to trial. On the stand Star claimed that he was in the bed with Jackson and Gavin when this allegedly had happened, instead of being half asleep in a chair next to the bed, as he had initially claimed. On the stand he also did not claim anything about Jackson allegedly “moving his hips back to front against Gavin’s back side”, instead he said he did not see it whether he did anything. Also while in the original story he claimed Gavin was wearing pajamas, on the stand he said he did not remember what he was wearing.
Not only Star’s own testimonies were contradictory, but there is another piece of evidence that makes his whole story questionable. There was much talk in the media about the alarm system in Michael Jackson’s bedroom. The prosecution’s and the tabloid media’s theory about it was that Jackson installed it to get warned if anyone entered his bedroom while he was molesting children. But this is just a never proven prosecution hypothesis, not a fact. Objectively we are simply talking about a bell that rings when someone enters the downstairs section of Jackson’s bedroom. It is perfectly understandable when we know that often there were dozens or even hundreds of people staying and walking around at Neverland – guests, fans and staff alike. Obviously molesting children is not the only reason why an international celebrity would want to get a warning when someone enters his private quarters.
Ironically, this alarm system that the prosecution tried to use to incriminate Jackson, at the trial blew another hole into Star Arvizo’s story. How come that Star was able to walk into Jackson’s bedroom and observe Gavin’s molestation two times without Jackson hearing the alarm and noticing him? Jackson’s defense had a videographer, Laurence Nimmer make an alarm test and the video of it was presented at Jackson’s trial as evidence. The video showed that the sound of the alarm was loud and clearly audible in the upstairs portion of Jackson’s bedroom where the molestation allegedly had happened. When Star was asked about it, he claimed that it was not audible upstairs because the door at the bottom of the stairway that went upstairs was closed. This was contradicted by Nimmer who testified that they performed the test three different ways, the third time with that particular door closed, and the alarm was audible upstairs in all three tests.
Initially Star claimed to have been inappropriately touched as well – later this allegation disappeared. Initially, the Arvizos claimed that not only Gavin, but also Star had been inappropriately touched by Jackson. The claim was that on one occasion while at Neverland, Star was in a golf cart with Jackson and the entertainer placed his hand on Star’s penis, on top of his pants. Star also claimed Jackson touched his butt too. Later, as their allegations evolved, this claim completely disappeared from them and on the stand it was never alleged that Star had ever been inappropriately touched by Jackson.
Did Gavin and Star Arvizo ever go into Jackson’s bedroom while Jackson was not there? When asked on the stand in 2005 whether they had ever gone to Michael Jackson’s bedroom while the entertainer was not there, Gavin claimed that they never did. His brother contradicted this in his own testimony. Star had pretty vivid memories of him and his brother not only going into Jackson’s room, but even sleeping there while the entertainer was not home. He claimed that Jackson allowed them to do that, but this was a dubious claim, considering the fact that Jackson did not trust this family. Azja Pryor (the girlfriend of actor Chris Tucker at the time) said in her testimony that she had witnessed one occasion when the Arvizo children asked an employee to let them stay in Jackson’s bedroom while the singer was not there. The employee refused to let them in, but we know from testimonies, including Star Arvizos’ own testimony, that at one point they got hold of the entrance code to Jackson’s bedroom. Star claimed that they got the code to Jackson’s room from Jackson himself, and a master code that opened each and every door at Neverland from a security guard. However, a young cousin of Jackson’s, 10-year-old Rijo Jackson, who hung out with the Arvizo boys while they were staying at Neverland, said that the Arvizo boys went into employees’ offices, rummaged through drawers and paperwork and that is how they found out the various combinations to keypad locks on doors throughout the ranch. The fact that Gavin felt the need to deny that they had ever gone to Jackson’s bedroom while Jackson was not there, is telling about their dishonesty, once again.
What about the pornographic magazines? The Arvizo kids claimed that Jackson showed them pornographic magazines from a briefcase on two occasions. However, when it came to the details of the story, the brothers contradicted each other on several points again.
On some of the magazines the boys’ fingerprints were found, and the prosecution used that fact to argue that it proves their claim that Jackson showed them those magazines. It does not prove that, of course, especially when you know that the Arvizo kids went into Jackson’s room while Jackson was not home and they were perfectly able to rummage through his stuff, find and touch those magazines on their own. In actuality, that would be consistent with their behavior around other people as well, as Jackson’s lawyer Thomas Mesereau pointed out in his closing argument based on various testimonies that were heard at the trial:
“And the only forensic evidence they had to hang their hat on are fingerprints on some girlie magazines that were owned by Michael Jackson. And you know that everywhere the Arvizo children went, they would rummage through drawers, rummage through the house. They did it at the dentist’s office. They did it in Vernee Watson Johnson’s home. This is the way they behave.”
In his opening statement Mesereau also stated that there was one occasion when Jackson actually caught the Arvizo boys with the magazines, but instead of showing those magazines to them, he took them away from the boys.
The prosecution’s theory was that Jackson used those magazines to “groom” the children. However, Gavin’s magazine scene did not make much sense as “grooming”. First of all, even by their own allegations, it was not immediately followed by any act of molestation, so the magazines were not used to arouse the alleged victim to molest him. According to the Arvizo’s story, the alleged molestation of Gavin happened on totally different occasions and with no pornography being shown to him. Moreover, the comments that Gavin claimed Jackson made while “showing them” the magazines do not make much sense as grooming either. According to Gavin’s story, Jackson tried to distance himself from the material claiming that they were Frank Cascio’s (Jackson’s personal assistant) and he supposedly made fun of Frank for it using such words as “stinking”. It would be a strange way to tell a child having such material is cool. However, Jackson distancing himself from the material would make a lot more sense if the defense’s version was the true version of the story, ie. that instead of showing the boys those magazines, Jackson actually took them away from them and told them they were not cool to look at.
It should be noted that before the Arvizo children went into Jackson’s room and found his adult magazines, not any earlier accuser had claimed that Jackson had shown them such material in order to groom them or for any other reason. Pornography claims were simply not a part of either Jordan Chandler’s or Jason Francia’s allegations. They became a part of the Arvizo story because the Arvizo boys found the magazines while rummaging through Jackson’s stuff.
Showing porn on the Internet? Gavin claimed that when he and his brother Star spent a night in Jackson’s room in the summer of 2000 (the night that was described earlier, when Jackson wanted his personal assistant, Frank Cascio to stay in the room as well), Jackson showed them pornography on the Internet on a laptop computer he had just given to Gavin as a gift.
According to the initial claim Jackson himself operated the computer and navigated to pornographic websites. Later this claim changed to Frank Cascio operating and navigating the computer, although they still claimed that Jackson was sitting with them and encouraging and approving of it.
Cascio in his 2011 book, My Friend Michael, denied that either Jackson or he had shown the Arvizo children Internet pornography. He said Gavin and Star started to search for such websites on their own and when Jackson realized it, he asked Cascio to make them stop it and he left the room and returned only later.
Who chased whom? Initially, in her interviews with the police in 2003, Janet Arvizo, the mother, tried to portray Jackson as the clingy one, who tried to attach himself to her family and especially Gavin. She claimed that she complained about too long telephone conversations between Gavin and Jackson and Jackson did not like that. However, this narrative became hard to defend when during the investigation cards and letters written by the Arvizo family to Jackson were discovered in which they were the ones begging for the singer’s attention because he was not answering their phone calls. Gavin on the stand admitted that Jackson stopped calling him as early as in August-September 2000 and that rather than complaining about too long phone conversations, Janet Arvizo had them write cards and letters to Jackson to try to get him contact them. Jackson was the exact opposite of clingy to the Arvizos or Gavin. In actuality, on the stand the boy complained that the entertainer had been actively avoiding him.
Changing story about when and how Janet Arvizo learnt about the alleged abuse of Gavin. In her initial interview in 2003, Janet Arvizo claimed that she had learnt about the alleged abuse of her sons in February-March, 2003. This was stated in the prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause document dated November 17, 2003. But a few pages later it is totally contradicted in the very same document when it is claimed that Janet Arvizo learnt about her son’s alleged abuse when law enforcement informed her about it in September 2003, after interviewing Gavin. Apparently law enforcement just ignored this contradiction.
The web of contradictions becomes even more complicated when we also consider the testimony of Larry Feldman, the Arvizos’ civil lawyer (yes, the same lawyer who represented the Chandler family in 1993, we will discuss his connection to the Arvizos later in this document), who on the stand in 2005 provided a third version about how Janet Arvizo had supposedly learnt about the alleged abuse of her son. According Feldman, in June 2003 he sent the Arvizo family to psychologist Dr. Stanley Katz (yes, the same psychologist who evaluated Jordan Chandler in 1993) for evaluation and that is where it emerged that Gavin had allegedly been molested. When Dr. Katz reported back to him, Feldman called the Arvizo family back to his office where he discussed with them Katz’s findings – including with the mother -, and what kind of legal actions were available to them at that time.
There are many more elements of the Arvizo’s story that either changed or proved to be complete lies, or where the family members contradicted each other or earlier versions of their own story, but I think you already get the idea about their credibility. And we have some more information about that in the next chapter as well.
General Credibility Problems with the Arvizo Family
The credibility issues with this family did not end with their stories in this particular case. They had a history of lying (including under oath) and grifting. This is not irrelevant in a case where there was no other evidence of the alleged crime than the accusing family’s words.
The J.C. Penney Incident
In 1998, when Gavin Arvizo was only eight years old, the Arvizo family was involved in an incident at a J.C. Penney department store. The incident started with Gavin stealing two school uniforms from the store and ended with a settlement between the Arvizo family and J.C. Penney in which the store paid the family $152,200. How did Gavin’s shoplifting end up with the department store paying to the family?
When the guards realized Gavin’s shoplifting, they went after them (Gavin was with his younger brother, Star and his father, David) and before they reached their van the security guards surrounded them in the parking lot. Meanwhile Janet Arvizo was exiting another building, just in time to witness this and jumped in to protect her husband and sons. There was a scuffle between Janet and the guards, but David was ultimately escorted back to J.C. Penney. According to Janet Arvizo’s testimony in 2005, both Janet and David were arrested and taken to jail where their mugshots were taken and they were charged with burglary, assault and battery, and petty theft, but then they were released later that day and the charges were eventually dropped by the store.
The story did not end there, though. According to David Arvizo, upon arriving home Janet ordered him and the boys to write out their version of what happened. When they were done, she took their papers and changed their stories to a version that she wanted to represent. The changed versions were returned to the children and they were required to read and study it on a daily basis. This went on for almost a year, then on July 22, 1999 the Arvizos filed a civil lawsuit against J.C. Penney for battery, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress. One more year later in a June 29, 2000 amendment of their complaint, they added sexual assault allegations as well. Janet Arvizo now claimed that a security guard fondled her breasts, squeezed her nipples 10-20 times, punched her with a closed fist, molested her in her vaginal area and she was called racial slurs (the Arvizos are Hispanic). David said that Janet exploited Gavin’s illness in raising sympathy and putting J.C. Penney under pressure to settle. Eventually the case was settled on September 24, 2001 with J.C. Penney paying the family $152,500.
While David Arvizo was Janet’s estranged ex-husband and a controversial character himself, and as such one could suspect an axe to grind against his ex-wife, but there is other, independent evidence and testimony to support David’s claims that Janet Arvizo lied and was very manipulative in the J.C. Penney case. Some of that evidence came out at Jackson’s 2005 trial.
In a testimony at Jackson’s 2005 trial, Elizabeth Mary Holzer, an office manager and paralegal who worked for the law office that represented the Arvizos in the J.C. Penney case, testified that Janet Arvizo admitted to her that she had been lying about the photographs of her bruises that were used to prove her allegations against J.C. Penney. The photographs showed Janet Arvizo with bruises that she claimed she had got during the altercation with the J.C. Penney guards. However, according to Holzer, Janet Arvizo admitted to her that the bruises were not caused by the J.C. Penney guards, but by her own husband. The photographs taken by the police on the day of the altercation, right after Janet and David’s arrest, do not show any injuries. The photos with the bruises and injuries were not presented by Janet until a week later.
In her testimony in 2005 Janet Arvizo admitted that she had lied in the J.C. Penney case about how she got her bruises. In fact, after she had received the settlement money from J.C. Penney, she filed for divorce from David and during that divorce battle she changed her story about the bruises, now claiming that they were not inflicted by the J.C. Penney guards, but by her husband. She blamed her lying in the J.C. Penney case on being intimidated by David. Then she blamed it on the law office that represented her, claiming that she tried to correct her lies, but the law firm would not allow it. Mary Holzer categorically denied that. She said that instead of trying to come clean about her lying, Janet Arvizo indirectly threatened her and her 9-year-old daughter, when Holzer tried to convince her to talk to the attorney about her false claims.
Holzer further testified that when she tried to take Janet to an independent medical examination for her alleged injuries, Janet threw a tantrum. When they were in the driveway heading to that examination „she threw herself down on the ground, started kicking and screaming, carrying on that the doctor was the devil, and the nurses were the devil, and they were all out to get her. And I explained to her that they were only asking her standard questions that they ask in an Independent Medical Examination; that — the history of her injuries and how she obtained the injuries. And she was very defensive. And they asked us to leave because she was so irate.”
Holzer also testified that Janet told her that her kids had been going to acting classes because she wanted them to be good actors, so that she could tell them what to say and how to behave. She also said: “This was at the Independent Medical Examination for psychiatric of all three, Gavin, Star and Janet. And when we were at the doctor’s office, she was very concerned about them completing general forms, you know, like, “Generally do you feel happy?” “Generally do you feel sad?” You know, “What kind of days” — “How do you feel when you wake up?” Those kind of forms. And she refused to have the children fill them out. And then she wanted to participate in the medical examinations with the doctor and the children. And I asked her, you know, I said, you know, “It doesn’t work that way.” You know, “The doctor sees the children on their own.” You know, “You can’t go in there.” And she said, “Well, I’m pretty sure Gavin will get the story straight, but I’m not sure Star will remember what we practiced and what I told him to say.”
Holzer also testified that about three or four months before her testimony at Jackson’s trial, Janet Arvizo called her again telling her that she wanted to be friends with her.
Not only did Janet Arvizo lie in the J.C. Penney case, but she also committed welfare fraud when she collected $18,782 in welfare payments claiming that she was indigent, while failing to disclose the fact that she just had got a $152,500 settlement from J.C. Penney and she also had $30,000 on her bank account. According to the felony complaint against her, she committed these fraudulent acts, including lying under oath, between November 15, 2001 (so she started two months after the settlement with J.C. Penney and six months after she and David Arvizo had already separated) and March 31, 2003.
At Jackson’s trial the jury was not informed of this, because Janet Arvizo invoked her 5th amendment right on this issue and there was an agreement between the prosecution and the defense that they were not going to ask her about it in the presence of the jury.
Nevertheless, on August 23, 2005, only a little more than two months after Jackson’s acquittal, Janet Arvizo was charged with five counts of welfare fraud and perjury. She pleaded “no contest” and was eventually sentenced to paying a fine and doing community service time.
A history of manipulative behavior and grifting
The Arvizo family also has a history of grifting and cunning, manipulative behavior. Many witnesses testified about that, and not only witnesses called by the defense, but also witnesses called by the prosecution often ended up implicating the Arvizo family and being good for Jackson’s defense and not for the prosecution.
A defense witness, actor Chris Tucker testified about his encounters with the Arvizo family. Long before Michael Jackson even came into the picture, Tucker met the Arvizo family at the Laugh Factory where he was approached by the father, David Arvizo who told him that they were going to have a benefit for his son who was dying of cancer. Tucker met Gavin at the benefit. The actor felt sorry for Gavin and he befriended the family. A couple of days after the benefit, Gavin called Tucker on the phone and told him that they had not raised any money at the fund-raiser and that they needed money for his medical bills. Because of that Tucker wired some money to Gavin’s foundation. In the hindsight, however, it turned out that it was not true that the family did not raise any money at the found-raiser. Nor was it true that they needed money for Gavin’s medical bills, as the Arvizo family had good health insurance that covered all of Gavin’s medical costs.
Tucker also testified about other instances of the Arvizo family emotionally manipulating him, using Gavin’s illness for sympathy. He described Gavin as “sophisticated”, “smart” and “cunning” and Gavin’s brother Star as “definitely cunning” – on contrary to the image of the naïve, innocent, wholesome little kids that the prosecution tried to paint of them. The actor even said that he felt that he almost needed to check Star’s pockets before they left his home whenever they visited him.
Tucker stated that he once warned Jackson about the mother, Janet Arvizo because at the time he already felt suspicious about her and had an uneasy feeling about the family. By the way, Tucker knew Jackson through Gavin, they did not have any previous relationship with each other.
Tucker then gradually distanced himself from the family because of his distrust in them.
Another comedian that the Arvizo family befriended was George Lopez. He testified as a prosecution witness. Just like Tucker, he knew the Arvizos from the Laugh Factory. When Gavin fell ill with cancer, Janet Arvizo called him on the phone to inform him about it. Lopez then went to the hospital to visit Gavin. The father, David Arvizo complained to Lopez that they did not have any money and from then on Lopez regularly gave the Arvizos small amounts of money and gifts to help them and on one occasion he took them to shopping. Lopez further testified that David Arvizo had asked him to organize a fund-raiser for Gavin at the Laugh Factory but by the time it became apparent to him that it was not about Gavin’s health to them, but about the money.
The family led Lopez to believe that they had no health insurance and because of that they needed money to pay Gavin’s medical bills. The truth was that the Arvizos did have good health insurance, which covered all of Gavin’s medical costs, so they did not actually need all that money that they requested from celebrities and that they were trying to get through fund-raisers by telling people that they were in need of money. Lopez also said that the family had never told him about their lawsuit against J.C. Penney either and the fact that they had $152,500 from that settlement.
According to Lopez, David Arvizo was pushing him to organize the fund-raiser and after a while he became “pretty aggressive”, calling Lopez at all the times about when it would happen and about the amount of money that they would raise. The last time Lopez saw David Arvizo was when the latter approached him outside of a restaurant and “asked me aggressively what was the deal with the fund-raiser. And I told him that I didn’t think it was going to happen. And he said, “What do you mean it’s not going to happen?” And I said, “It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.” And then he — his tone changed, and we had words, and that was the last time I ever saw him.”
In his testimony Lopez also described an incident when Gavin left his wallet in his house (in a room where he was not supposed to go, by the way). Lopez found it and he returned it to the Arvizo family, but he later learnt that David Arvizo told Jamie Masada that Lopez stole $300 from Gavin’s wallet. This contributed to Lopez cutting ties with the family. Lopez later learnt that Masada compensated David Arvizo for the “stolen” $300, which upset Lopez because he felt it indicated that Masada believed the Arvizos over him.
Lopez further stated that both Gavin and Star were asking him to buy gifts for them. The father was there with them, but never intervened to stop them.
Other than David Arvizo accusing Lopez of stealing from Gavin, another reason for the comedian’s distancing himself from the family was that David Arvizo “got kind of nasty” when Lopez’s wife confronted him about his constant requests for money. Lopez himself also had a heated confrontation with David Arvizo (the one outside of a restaurant that was mentioned above) and then Lopez cut off the family.
Another prosecution witness, Louise Palanker was brought in to vouch for the Arvizos as honest and genuine people, but her testimony backfired as well.
On direct examination Palanker was quick to point her finger at David Arvizo whenever she had to concede to anything that would put the Arvizo family in a bad light. For example, she told about how when Gavin underwent chemotherapy she gave the Arvizos $20,000 to renovate a sterile room in the house of Gavin’s grandmother that he needed to recover. Palanker pointed out that it was David Arvizo who she handed the checks to. She said that she was not pressured by the family into giving them the money, it was all her decision, but she also admitted that “very often from that point forward” David Arvizo kept asking her for money for such things as paying the rent and utilities. According to Palanker, David claimed that they had already spent the money she had given them and they needed more money. Palanker admitted that she did not believe this was true, and that she later learnt that the family had actually paid the contractor only $800 for the renovation – just his bare costs, but they never had paid him for the labor. The contractor eventually decided that he would write off the rest of his fee as a gift to Gavin, although this was not what he and the family had agreed upon previously.
The prosecution’s and Palanker’s narrative was that the mastermind behind all these dishonest actions was David Arvizo, the since estranged husband, who forced his otherwise “wholesome” family into these dubious things.
On cross examination, however, it came out that in an earlier police interview Palanker’s opinion about the Arvizos, and not just David Arvizo, was less favorable. For example, in an interview with the sheriff’s investigators on January 7, 2005 Palanker stated that the Arvizo family was “out of balance” and that she felt that “the kids collaborated in what she [Janet Arvizo] was saying. I just wanted to be out of it.” This was in the context of her checks to the family. It is curious why she would say the kids collaborated in what Janet Arvizo was saying if she felt that David Arvizo was the mastermind behind all the schemes. Also the $20,000 that she gave to David Arvizo were deposited into the bank account of the mother of Janet Arvizo. Palanker was not aware of that until a private investigator for the defense informed her about it during the preparations for the trial. This suggests that Janet Arvizo was involved in these schemes, just like David Arvizo was.
In the same police interview Palanker also stated “This family can be as whacky as they want to be” and “I know that Janet’s unbalanced. I think she’s totally bipolar” and “Janet needs to see a psychologist”. She also admitted that she felt that the children were coached to ask her for a laptop computer as a gift. She also said in her police interview in January 2005 that “these people [the Arvizos] are teaching their kids to lie”. On the stand she explained that it was not her opinion of them, but that of George Lopez and his wife – as if that would make it better.
It has to be noted, and perhaps this explains Palanker’s change of tone between her police interview in January and testimony in March 2005, that Palanker had a romantic relationship with one of the case’s prosecutors, Ron Zonen. A few years later they eventually got married.
The prosecution narrative that tried to blame all the dishonest actions of the family solely on David Arvizo, was refuted by evidence about actions that can clearly be attributed to Janet and/or her children and show that Janet and their children did not have to be under David’s influence to commit such dishonest acts (see the welfare fraud and lying under oath that Janet committed after she and David had already separated, Janet’s actions in the J.C. Penney case even after she and David had separated as per Mary Holzer’s testimony, the children’s and their mother’s demonstrable lies and changing stories in this very case, their manipulative behavior to celebrities even after Janet and David had separated etc.).
A defense witness, Connie Keenan testified about how Janet Arvizo manipulated her newspaper and its readers for money. Keenan was the editor of the Mid Valley News, a community newspaper in the City of El Monte. She told that one day in 2000 Janet Arvizo called them and asked them to run a story about Gavin’s illness and ask their readers to donate money for him. Keenan had an intern, Christie Causer write an article about it, although she was suspicious about the money Janet Arvizo claimed Gavin’s treatment cost. For example, she claimed that one chemotherapy injection cost more than $12,000. The story appeared in the newspaper and then Janet Arvizo asked them to run it for a second time, because they did not raise enough money from the first article. A couple of months later Keenan called the Kaiser Permanente Hospital that treated Gavin and found out that she and her readers had been “duped”, as she put it, because Gavin’s medical bills were fully covered by insurance.
Wholesome, innocent, naïve kids?
The prosecution tried to portray Gavin and Star Arvizo as wholesome, innocent little kids who were naïve about sexuality, had never cussed and never drunk alcohol before Jackson allegedly corrupted them. Gavin and the prosecution also made sure to emphasize Gavin and his family’s religiousness. Apparently this was an appeal to the emotions of a presumably conservative Santa Barbara jury and to the religious sentiments of the American general public. However, as we learnt more and more about the family and the kids’ past, it became evident that whether they were religious or not, it did not make them moral.
Two young cousins of Michael Jackson, Simone and Rijo Jackson (siblings), were often present at Neverland while the Arvizos were there in February-March 2003. At the time Rijo was 10 years old and Simone was 14. Rijo testified at Jackson’s trial in 2005 that on one occasion he stayed with Gavin and Star Arvizo in their guest unit and the Arvizo boys (who were 2-3 years older than Rijo) were watching an adult program on TV with nude women and started to masturbate under the sheets. They invited Rijo to join them, but he refused and ran away.
Rijo testified that he witnessed the Arvizo boys steal money and other items from the office of the house manager, Jesus Salas and from a drawer where a chef kept his belongings. Rijo stated that he saw the Arvizo boys frequently go to the wine cellar, although he could not tell if they were drinking because he never joined them. He also stated that Gavin and Star went to Michael Jackson’s room several times while the singer was not there.
Rijo’s sister Simone testified that one night she witnessed Gavin and Star Arvizo steal wine from the kitchen. When Simone saw that she told them they were not allowed to do it, but they told her to be quiet and not to say anything to anyone. Michael Jackson was not present. Rijo and Simone’s testimonies go against Gavin’s testimony in which he claimed that it was Jackson who made him drink alcohol and he had never gone to the wine cellar and drunk alcohol without Jackson being present. No independent witness (ie. someone who was not a member of the Arvizo family) had ever claimed to have seen Jackson give alcohol to the Arvizo boys. On the other hand, there have been witnesses who saw the Arvizo boys with alcohol and in the wine cellar on their own while Jackson was not there.
Simone also testified that while she was in the pool one time, Gavin and Star repeatedly urged her to take off her bathing suit top. When she refused “Star called me a pussy and a bitch because I wouldn’t take off my top. I called my mom and told her about it. They were really rude and wouldn’t leave me alone.” Simone’s mother, Peaches Jackson called Michael Jackson’s bodyguard, Chris Carter who in turn informed Michael Jackson about the incident. Michael Jackson asked Star to apologize. Simone also said that she witnessed the Arvizo boys steal a laminated $1000 bill from Jackson’s desk in his office.
Other guests and staff at Neverland also reported a disruptive, rude and disrespectful behavior by the Arvizo boys. Employee Maria Gomez testified that she saw adult magazines in Star Arvizo’s backpack while she was once cleaning the guest unit where they stayed. Another employee, Julio Avila testified that he witnessed Star bringing pornographic magazines to the park and he hid them in various places, including the control box of the park stereo and on the rides. When Avila asked him where did he got the magazines from, Star told him that he brought them from home. Avila also stated that both Gavin and Star spat at him and other employees while on the rides. They would also drop their shoes from the top of the ferris wheel trying to hit park personnel. They continued to misbehave even after they had been asked by several employees to stop. On one occasion the boys dangerously started a ride by themselves, although they were not allowed to. While confronted about the incident they were belligerent and sarcastic. An ex-employee of Jackson, Kiki Fournier testified as a prosecution witness that Star Arvizo once pulled a knife on her in the kitchen, although she considered it a joke.
Carol Lamir had known both Michael Jackson and the Arvizos independently for years before the Arvizos even met the singer. She used to work for Jackson as a hair stylist. Independently from that, she met the Arvizos in the mid-1990’s when Janet Arvizo enrolled her kids in dancing lessons at a studio run by a friend of Lamir’s, Arlene Kennedy.
In interviews that she gave to private investigators in 2004, among other things, she stated that the Arvizo kids had serious behavioral problems – and that before they met Michael Jackson. Specifically she described Star Arvizo as a “horny nine year old” and told about how at that age the boy flirted with adult women in an “unnatural manner”. She recalled an occasion in a restaurant when Star tried to pick up the waitress by offering her a $5 tip. Then Star demanded the waitress’ phone number and became vocally angered and irate, demanding his money back, when she refused. Lamir also said that Star had a crush on her as well.
Lamir also told that in 2000 the older sister of the Arvizo boys, Davellin lived with her for a while because she did not get along with her mother. Davellin told her stories about their mother physically abusing them, forcing them to shoplift and making them tell lies – among others about their father David sexually molesting Davellin. Lamir described the Arvizo children as “trained con-artists”.
Prosecution witness, Cynthia Ann Bell, a flight attendant for XTra Jet International testified about her experiences with Michael Jackson and the Arvizo family on the airplane that took them from Miami back to California in early February 2003. Besides Michael Jackson, his children, Janet, Gavin, Star and Davellin Arvizo, there were a number of other associates of the singer on that plane. The prosecution made much of the fact that Jackson drank wine from a soda can on the plane and the Arvizo boys claimed that Jackson gave them alcohol from that soda can, but Bell testified that she never saw Jackson give alcohol to the kids. In actuality, Bell testified that Jackson’s intention with drinking the wine from a soda can was exactly that he did not want children to see him drink alcohol. The singer regularly flew with that flight company and Bell testified that he usually drank wine on the plane because he was a very nervous flyer. He usually drank alcohol from “a plastic thermal, like, mug-looking thing”, but on that flight there was not any available and it was Bell’s idea to put the wine in a soda can instead. Bell testified that she had never seen Jackson behave inappropriately with any child. She had nothing, but nice things to say about the singer, describing him as “soft-spoken“ and “very polite” and she said that his children were likewise very polite, disciplined and well-mannered.
She had the polar opposite view of the Arvizo children and specifically Gavin. She described Gavin as “very rude” and she further stated “The individual was unusually rude, discourteous” and “just loud, obnoxious, like, “Serve me my food. This isn’t warm. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” And he was just unintelligent. It was embarrassing to have him on board, actually” and “Well, he was just incredibly rude. And I find that behavior unintelligent, and strange.” As soon as they got on the plane, Gavin threw his bag at Bell and started ordering her around. Bell made it clear that Gavin behaved in this unacceptable way during the whole flight and that his mother, although witnessed her son’s behavior, did nothing to discipline him.
Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss attempted to blame Gavin’s rude behavior somehow on Jackson by asking the question “Did it seem odd to you that Mr. Jackson didn’t do anything to stop this young boy from being what you said was rude?”, even though Gavin’s mother was on the plane, witnessed her son’s behavior and it was her place to discipline her son, not anyone else’s. Bell, however, pointed out that Jackson’s own children were very well mannered and disciplined and that Jackson always intervened when they misbehaved. This is worth noting because the Arvizos claimed that it was Jackson who taught them to curse, drink and misbehave. In reality it would be very out of character for him to teach children such things. On the other hand, such behavior was very much in the character of the Arvizo boys who had a history of behaving like that even before they had met Jackson.
The Arvizo family and the prosecution attempted to spin Gavin’s behavior that flew in the face of their “wholesome, innocent, naïve little boy” portrayal and suggest that he was just acting out as a result of Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse of him. Gavin’s sister Davellin, for example, told police investigators in the interviews that were conducted with the family in 2003, that Gavin was a “loving little boy” who only became aggressive and argumentative after their stay at Neverland, and Janet Arvizo claimed similar things. Gavin’s brother, Star Arvizo said in a deposition regarding the J.C. Penney incident that Gavin would not steal because he wanted to become a priest (even though it is a proven fact that he did steal). However, testimonies like Bell’s clearly refute this notion, because they show that Gavin and his brother were very disruptive and far from innocent and wholesome, even before the date of the alleged molestations.
Also well before date of the alleged abuse by Jackson, Gavin had a reputation of being argumentative and impudent with teachers in school.
He could not hide his brazenness even on the stand during the Michael Jackson case.
Thomas Mesereau [Jackson’s attorney]: Okay. Do you remember when you were in front of the Santa Barbara Grand Jury, [lead prosecutor] Mr. Sneddon told you there was an order that you not talk to the media, and your response was,“ Oh, man, I was going to have a press conference”. Do you remember that.
Gavin: That was probably a joke.
Mesereau: That was a joke.
Mesereau: So you’re in front of the Santa Barbara Grand Jury talking about this case and you’re telling a joke.
Lawyers being hired and the formation of the allegations
The Arvizos left Neverland for good on March 12, 2003.
On March 24, 2003 Janet Arvizo formally hired a lawyer, William Dickerman. (Informally she was already in contact with this lawyer since February 21. She talked to him about how she could stop the media from using her children’s likeness and photos in their publications and on their programs.)
At first they did not claim sexual abuse. The reason for hiring Dickerman, according to their story, was to demand the return of furniture, clothes, documents and various other items which were put in a storage locker after the Arvizos moved out of their Los Angeles apartment on March 1-2. The storage locker was rented in Bradley Miller’s name, who was a private investigator working for Jackson’s lawyer, Mark Geragos. There were numerous back and forth letters between the two attorneys about the issue of where and how the Arvizos would take possession of their belongings and who should pay the outstanding bill of the storage locker. At the time there were no claims of child sexual abuse, false imprisonment or providing alcohol to a minor.
The sexual abuse allegations emerged a few months later.
According to his own testimony, in early May of 2003 William Dickerman entered into a fee-sharing agreement with attorney Larry Feldman, the same civil attorney who negotiated the settlement for the Chandlers in 1993-94. This was before Gavin made sexual abuse allegations. So why would they hire Feldman? Dickerman explained it this way in his testimony in 2005:
“I began representing the Arvizos in February. And by the time I met with Mr. Feldman, it was the beginning of May. In that period of time I had learned a lot of things. There were a lot of allegations being made, and I realized that the best thing for my clients to do, and for me personally as their attorney, was to get some expert input as to matters of Michael Jackson. The initial things I didn’t think I really needed to do that with, but as things developed, I wanted to get some input. So I met with Mr. Feldman, whom, by the way, I knew — not “by the way.” It was very important. I knew that he was – by reputation, he was one of the top trial lawyers in California, if not the United States.
And actually, previously, not knowing him except by reputation, I had referred a case to him, tried to refer a case to him that I could not handle for various reasons of an old client of mine. And I knew that he was the go-to guy with regard to Michael Jackson matters. Of course, I knew about the 1993 case, so I met with him, with the idea of picking his brain, actually, not to refer any matters to him. And afterwards, he met with them, and they — we all associated together. The Arvizos hired both him and me.”
It is not clear what Dickerman refers to when he says: “In that period of time I had learned a lot of things. There were a lot of allegations being made”, because according to the Arvizos’ own story, Gavin had not disclosed anything about alleged child sexual abuse to anyone at that point yet. Feldman had previously dealt with only one case regarding Michael Jackson, and that was the allegation of child sexual abuse by the Chandler family in 1993. There is no other claim for him being “the go-to guy with regard to Michael Jackson matters”. But we are to believe that Dickerman contacted specifically him just to solve some minor issues regarding Jackson, and they even entered a fee-sharing agreement over that?
Feldman then sent the Arvizos to psychologist, Dr. Stanley Katz, who is the same psychologist who evaluated Jordan Chandler in 1993, and with whom Larry Feldman worked together since 1987. As we have discussed in the section about the Chandler case, Dr. Katz was formerly also involved in the highly controversial McMartin preschool trial.
Gavin testified in 2005 that the first person he ever made his allegations to, was Dr. Katz and that he had not made any such allegations to either Dickerman, Feldman or his mother. Yet, they went to the same lawyer who negotiated a $15 million settlement for the Chandler family in 1993 in a child molestation lawsuit, and this lawyer then sends him to the same (controversial) child abuse psychologist who had also evaluated the 1993 accuser. Then Gavin, lo and behold, first makes child sexual abuse allegations against Jackson.
In his testimony Feldman claimed that Dr. Katz reported his findings to him in a verbal conversation in his office. Next Feldman called the Arvizo family, including Janet Arvizo, back in his office to tell them about it and discuss their legal possibilities.
As we have mentioned before, Feldman’s testimony poked another hole in the Arvizo’s story, as it contradicted other statements made by Janet Arvizo, where she claimed that she learnt about the alleged abuse of her son either in February-March, 2003, or alternatively, according to another version of their story, she did not learn about it until September 2003 when law enforcement informed her about it after talking to Gavin.
Although Feldman represented the Arvizos, according to television and radio host Larry King, in a private conversation shortly before Jackson’s trial began, Feldman admitted that he did not believe them, that he felt they only wanted money and that the mother was a ”whacko”. King testified about it at Jackson’s trial, but due to the hearsay nature of his testimony the jury was not allowed to be present and to take his testimony into consideration. Earlier in April, in his own testimony Larry Feldman denied making these remarks.
During and after the trial, the prosecution tried to argue that unlike the Chandlers, the Arvizos were not interested in money, after all they went to a criminal trial and not a civil trial. That is, however, a misleading half-truth. As you can see here, just like the Chandlers, the Arvizos did go to civil lawyers first. In actuality, they went to the same civil lawyer who “negotiated” a 15 million dollar settlement for the Chandlers, which was not a coincidence. The problem for them was, though (as we have discussed in the Chandler section), that the California law that allowed the Chandlers to push the civil trial ahead of the criminal trial in 1993-94 was changed since. That meant that the Arvizos could not use the same strategy as the Chandlers did in 1993. Feldman probably explained it to them that what the Chandlers pulled in 1993 was no longer an option for them. They had no choice but to begin a criminal trial first. And if they had won the criminal case that could have been used to secure an automatic win for them in a civil court too, as both Dickerman and Feldman explained it in their testimonies in 2005.
Whatever Larry Feldman privately thought of the Arvizos, on June 13, 2003 he called Lieutenant Jeff Klapakis at the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office and reported to him Gavin’s allegations. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office was not new to the case. Like mentioned earlier, they were already investigating Jackson since February 2003 and, bizarrely, their investigation had started before the alleged molestations even took place, according to the Arvizos’ final timeline. Klapakis was personally involved in that investigation since the beginning.
According to Larry Feldman’s testimony, in about August, September or October of 2003 (he was not sure of the exact month) he wrote a letter to the Arvizos saying he was not going to represent them. However, from his testimony we have learnt that later he and his law firm did represent various members of the family in related and other matters. For example, in 2004 on behalf of the Arvizos he filed a claim with the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services, seeking monetary damages, because the DCFS’s report from February 20, 2003 got leaked to the public.
On November 18, 2003 an arrest warrant was issued for Michael Jackson based on Gavin Arvizo’s allegations. Jackson at the time was in Las Vegas, but at the news of his arrest he returned to California and turned himself in. He was then released on a 3 million dollar bail. The same day, in Jackson’s absence, 70 sheriffs raided his home, the Neverland Ranch, to carry out a search warrant.
The Prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause (November 17, 2003) document, on which the search and arrest warrants were based, reasoned the request for the warrants as follows:
“The mere fact of forty-five-year-old Jackson’s three-year-long interest in the adolescent Gavin is corroborating in itself; it would strike a reasonable person as grossly abnormal. So is the way that interest manifested itself: endless telephone conversations with the youngster, inappropriate and relatively public touching, kissing, licking and cuddling of him; expensive gifts, cross-country flights, the relocation of the family from their modest quarters in Los Angeles, his efforts to have them take up residence in Brazil.”
As you have seen in this document, in reality Jackson did not have a “three-year-long interest in the adolescent Gavin” and “endless telephone conversations with the youngster”. In actuality, Gavin himself complained on the stand that Jackson was actively avoiding him during those three years and did not take and return his phone calls. The so-called “inappropriate, public touching, kissing, licking and cuddling” was conveniently always only observed by other members of the Arvizo family and there were no independent witnesses to confirm them. As for expensive gifts, Jackson was generous with everyone – children and adults alike. The only cross-country flight (there were no cross-country flights in plural) took place on February 5-6 when the Arvizo family, including the mother, went to Miami with actor Chris Tucker to meet Jackson again and Jackson was kind enough to give them a ride back on his chartered plane. The claim about an attempt to relocate the family, to have them “take up residence in Brazil” is also a gross misrepresentation of what really happened.
The case went to Court between February-June 2005 and Jackson was found not guilty on all 14 charges on June 13, 2005.