Life in The Shadow of False Allegations: "I’ll Die a Man Without a Country
and Only God Knew I Was Innocent"
“My dad would cry to me at night. Picture your parent crying to you about the world hating him for something he didn’t do. And for me, he was the only thing that mattered. To see my entire world in pain, I started to hate the world because of what they were doing to him. I’m like, ‘How can people be so mean?'”
- Paris Jackson, daughter of Michael Jackson (Rolling Stone 2017)
It may be hard to believe, but when it comes to the allegations against Michael Jackson, his own voice has hardly been heard. Jackson was not allowed to comment on or share his own account of the stories that surrounded his life for so many years. Meanwhile, those who accused him were embraced by the media and encouraged to speak out.
It was only after Jackson’s death that stories about his reaction and his state of mind suddenly surfaced. Those who were close to Michael tell of a heartbroken man who struggled to fully recover from the ordeal of being accused. Their accounts give us an insight into Michael Jackson's life in the shadow of false allegations.
The Chandler family's monetary demands and threats began when Michael was just about to start the second leg of his Dangerous World Tour. The star performed on stage every night, while perfectly hiding that his world turned upside down. He gradually developed a serious dependency on painkillers due to the stress and the pressure of the allegations.
By November 1993, numerous concerts got canceled after Jackson collapsed from dehydration and exhaustion. The media suggested he was faking it, but his close friend Elizabeth Taylor came to his rescue and secretly flew him to a rehab center in an undisclosed location. Jackson canceled the remainder of the tour and then came back to California to combat the allegations against him.
After two grand juries decided there were no grounds to indict Jackson, he was ready to put the allegations behind him and move on with his life. Despite the media’s hostility, he went back to the studio and released a successful album. Jackson soon got married to his girlfriend at the time, Lisa Marie Presley; In 1997, he became a father for the first time and dedicated himself to his family.
But in 2003, things took turn for the worse once again. After Martin Bashir’s “Living with Michael Jackson” aired, Jackson’s relationship with children went back to the headlines. Through his film, Bashir speculated on the nature of Jackson’s friendship with Gavin Arvizo. Arvizo was a 13-year-old boy who recovered from cancer thanks to Jackson’s support. At the time, Gavin and his family stood by Michael’s side against Bashir and the media. Michael and his team were determined to clean his reputation and rebrand him with new projects.
These plans fell through: The Arvizos changed their story. On the 18th of November, 2003, the authorities issued an arrest warrant for Jackson and seventy officers raided his Neverland Ranch. Michael’s ex-manager, Dieter Wiesner was there to tell him the news:
Jackson spent much of those two days crying, said Dieter Wiesner. "I was sitting with him day and night. He was shocked; he was crying… he didn't know what to do. It was such a bad situation. We were supposed to go to Europe. He was ready to move on in his life and everything was prepared. It was just a beautiful situation and this news shocked him deeply. Really, it killed him."
Two days after the Neverland raid Jackson's depression turned to anger. When it emerged that the boy behind the accusation was none other than Gavin Arvizo, the boy whose hand Jackson had held in the Martin Bashir documentary, Jackson decided to fight.
He took a plane back to California and turned himself to the police and thus began Jackson's fight for his life.
She continued, "[Michael] finally looked directly at me and burst out, 'No!' And he continued while squeezing my hand: 'I just pretend to be fine, but I’m not – I’m not.' In the same second, he hugged me very tightly and I realized that he was crying.
Oh my God, now I began to understand why he hadn’t said anything before. He had tried not to lose his poise and not to cry, but my questions didn’t help… We stood there for quite a while just hugging each other. Michael sobbed a few times and I felt that he was shaking, although it was quite warm inside the bus. It took me at least half a minute to really understand that at this moment Michael was hugging me, crying, and just showing and telling me his true feelings. Until this moment I had thought he really would be that strong and positive about the upcoming trial, like he had shown the public at the first arraignment a few days before."
Jermaine Jackson, Michael's older brother, writes in his book about the days of the trial from the Jacksons' point of view. One morning, Michael arrived in court late, dressed in blue pajama pants and a jacket. The media criticized Jackson for his "disheveled" appearance but he had his reasons.
Earlier that morning, Jackson was severely injured at his home and was rushed to the hospital. It was March 10th, 2005, a day after Gavin Arvizo, his accuser, took the stand. Jermaine recalled, "the cell phone rings. It’s Mother, sounding alarmed. 'Michael is at the hospital . . . We’re here with him . . . He’s slipped and fallen. It’s his back.' 'I’m on my way,' I say, already out the door. The hotel is equidistant from the Santa Maria courthouse and Neverland, and the hospital is a short detour. I’m met at a side entrance by a hospital manager to avoid any fuss out front.
On the hospital’s second-floor corridor, I see an unusual number of nurses and patients hanging around and an audible fuss dies down as I approach. A presidential-style phalanx of familiar dark-suited bodyguards is clustered around a closed door to a private room. They step aside to allow me to enter. Inside, the curtains are drawn. In the half-light, Michael is standing, wearing patterned blue
pajama bottoms and a black jacket. 'Hi, Erms,' he says, in almost a whisper. 'Are you okay?' I ask. 'I just hurt my back.' He forces a smile. The fall at the ranch, when getting out of the shower, has left him in miserable pain and it appears to be the final punch at a time when life keeps pounding him.
But he’s a child molester, right? He deserves this, right? The police must have some hard evidence, or he wouldn’t be on trial, right? People have a lot to learn about how wrong this trial is," said Jermaine.
Jermaine recounted that day at the hospital. His younger brother there, wincing with the pain in his rib-cage and lower back, his mental pain was far greater. He had faced a physical disintegration. His lean dancer’s body had withered to a fragile frame, his walk had become a pained, faltering gait, his dazzle was reduced to that forced smile, he looked gaunt, haggard. "He’s done nothing but create music to entertain and spread the message of hope, love, and humanity, and awareness of how we should be with one another—especially with children—yet he is accused of harming a child."
"Michael lifts his eyes from the floor. He looks the saddest I have ever seen him, but I can tell he just wants to talk. Up until now, he has rarely released his emotions in front of us. He has been controlled and resolute, speaking about his faith, how he trusts the judge of God, not the judge in a robe. But his controlled demeanor is now undone, no doubt triggered by yesterday’s testimony, and compounded by the frustration of this back injury. It’s all becoming too much. 'Everything they say about me is untrue. Why are they saying these things?' 'Oh, baby . . .' says Mother, but Michael’s hand rises. He’s still talking. 'They’re saying all these horrible things about me. I’m this. I’m that. I’m bleaching my skin. I’m hurting kids. I would never . . . It’s untrue, it’s all untrue,' he says, his voice quiet, quivering. He starts pulling at his jacket, like an exasperated child wanting to get out of a costume, shifting on to both his feet, ignoring his back pain.
'Michael . . .' Mother starts. But the tears are coming now. 'They can accuse me and make the world think they’re so right, but they are so wrong . . . they are so wrong.' Joseph is paralyzed by this show of emotion. Mother’s hands are to her face. Michael pulls at his jacket buttons and starts struggling out of its sleeves. It falls off his shoulders and hangs backward from his upper arms, revealing his bare chest.
He is sobbing. 'Look at me! . . . Look at me! I’m the most misunderstood person in the world!' He breaks down. He stands in front of us, head bowed, as if he feels shame. It is the first time I have seen the true extent of his skin condition, and it shocks me. His self-consciousness is such that he has kept his body hidden from even his family until now. His torso is light brown, splashed with vast areas and blotches of white, spreading across his upper chest; one patch of white covers his ribs and stomach, another runs down his side, and blotches cover one shoulder and upper arm. There is more white than brown, his natural skin color: he looks like a white man splashed with coffee. This is the skin condition—the vitiligo—that a cynical world says he doesn’t have, preferring to believe that he bleaches his skin. 'I’ve tried to inspire . . . I’ve tried to teach . . .' and his voice trails off as Mother goes to comfort him. 'God knows the truth. God knows the truth,' she keeps repeating. We all surround him, unable to hug him tight due to his back, but it is comfort nonetheless. I help put his jacket back on. 'Just be strong, Michael,' I said. 'Everything’s going to be all right.' It doesn’t take him long to compose himself and he apologizes. 'I’m strong. I’m okay,' he says. [...] After I leave, the bodyguards convey a message relayed from his attorney, Tom Mesereau, at the courthouse. The judge is not happy that Michael is late, and if he’s not in court within the hour, his bail will be revoked. Even his genuine pain is not honored or believed."
As the trial progressed, Jackson’s health visibly deteriorated. The media, of course, didn’t miss any chance to ridicule him for his weak and frail appearance. On June 13th, 2005, Jackson was cleared on all counts. After the verdict, he reportedly spent days at the hospital. Jackson proved his innocence and won the case, but the damage was done.
This time, Jackson couldn’t really recover and put it all behind him. He had no home to return to: “I won't live there ever again. I'll visit Neverland. It's a house now. It's not a home anymore,” he said in December 2003. Indeed, Michael left Neverland and never returned. In the years after the trial, he moved from one country to another with his three children, far away from the spotlight.
Bill Whitfield, who was Jackson’s bodyguard in 2007, recalled:
“He didn’t trust strangers. Whenever he got caught in a crowd, he’d be real frantic and nervous. We were at a shopping mall in Virginia one afternoon. Javon had gone to get the car. I was waiting with Mr. Jackson by the exit with mall security. Somebody had recognized him and a small crowd had formed. He was signing a few autographs, waving to folks. It was a friendly situation, not a mob or anything. As Javon pulled up and opened the door for Mr. Jackson, this guy from the back of the crowd yelled out, 'Fuckin’ child molester!' I heard it, plain as day. I looked at Javon; he’d heard it too," he noted.
"We were just praying that Mr. Jackson had missed it. But after we got in the car and drove for a bit, he leaned forward and said, 'Guys, did you hear somebody say something back there?' 'No, sir,' I said. 'I didn’t hear anything. You hear anything, Javon?' Javon shook his head. 'No, sir.' Mr. Jackson said, 'I thought I heard someone say something very mean. I could have sworn. You guys aren’t lying to me, are you?” “No, sir.” We didn’t want to lie to him, but we knew what would happen if we confirmed it. Hearing someone call him a child molester? That would completely shut him down. He’d close the door and vanish into his room for at least a week, and we didn’t want that to happen. We drove on with nobody saying anything for the next ten, fifteen minutes, and then out of the backseat, he said, 'I would never hurt a child. I would slit my wrists before I ever did anything to hurt a child.'”
In July 2009, American Actress Anjelica Huston talked about the last time she had seen Michael, just a few weeks before he passed away:
"After Captain E.O [1986 Disney Film] I met him only on rare occasions. But, ironically, I saw him about a month ago, by chance, in the studio of our dermatologist, Arnie Klein. We hugged and then we locked ourselves in one of the rooms, chatting for a couple of hours. We talked about how humiliated he felt about having been accused of sexual molestation, and about his regret of having lost Neverland, where he had lived so many years. I remember his words: They ruined my dream. I had this dream, perhaps childish and silly, of a place designed to celebrate the innocence of the childhood that I never had, and they took it from me. I love children, I could never do them any harm. I've spent my whole life loving them and trying to do good things for them. The allegation of having hurt a child breaks my heart. It’s unbearable pain. These are unjust and terrible accusations... " While he was speaking, he began to cry. I held him in my arms. He was so thin and fragile," shared Huston.
"Michael’s heart was broken. That's why he died. Of course, with the autopsy, they will find who knows how many things, drugs, and so on. But the truth is that they broke his heart".
Huston wrote about this moment in her autobiography, she described Michael as a "victim of a broken heart".
On the 25th of June, at the height of his preparations to go back on stage, Michael Jackson passed away at the age of 50.
Shortly after his death, a handwritten note from 1993 was found in Jackson's possession. On this note, the lyrics of the unearthed song "The Innocent Man"
If I sail to Acapulco or Cancun Mexico
there the law is waiting for me
and God knows that I’m innocent.
If they won’t take me in Cairo
then Lord knows where will I go.
I’ll die a man without a country
and only God knew I was innocent now.
“How does it feel when you’re alone and you’re cold inside?” – Michael Jackson’s Trauma
Il ricordo di Anjelica Huston "Un bambino sincero e fragile" (2009)
Michael Jackson's 'One More Chance' - A Dream that Turned into a Nightmare by Charles Thomson (Sawf News - November 30, 2010)
Jermaine Jackson – “You Are Not Alone, Michael: Through a Brother’s Eyes” (2011)
Brigitte Bloemen (Author), Marina Dobler (Contributor), Miriam Lohr (Contributor) – A life for L.O.V.E.: Michael Jackson stories you should have heard before (tredition, August 8, 2013)
Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard, Tanner Colby – “Remember the Time – Protecting Michael Jackson” (2014)
Paris Jackson: Life After Neverland (2017)