Apart from Michael Jackson’s guilt or innocence, the enormous question hanging over the trial proceedings like a poisonous cloud is why on earth did parents — and in particular, mothers — essentially turn their young boys over to the care of the grown man who expressed intense, and in retrospect, alarming interest in their sons?
The obvious but incomplete answer is that while Jackson “groomed” the boys (again, putting aside his guilt or innocence of the charges at hand), he also groomed their mothers with expensive gifts and accomodations, and at least in the case of June Chandler, the mother of the boy who received the $20+ million settlement in 1994, effectively used emotional blackmail to elicit her complicity in the “relationship.”
Yesterday Chandler testified that her son was already a fan of Jackson when they met by chance at her ex-husband’s car rental office in Los Angeles in mid-1992. The two established a fast telephone friendship, which led to invitations for the family to come to Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch for weekends.
Chandler said she, her son and daughter intially stayed in a guest cottage, but on their third visit, her son asked her if he could sleep in Jackson’s room. She said no.
Then Jackson took the three of them on a trip to Las Vegas for a weekend. On the second night she gave Jackson permission to take her son to see a show, after which the grown man and the 12 year-old boy appeared at her Mirage hotel door. The boy was quiet. Jackson was “sobbing, shaking, trembling,” according to Chandler’s testimony.
Jackson wailed, “Why don’t you trust me? Why won’t you let him sleep in my bed? We are a family! Why won’t you trust me?” She testified she told Jackson she didn’t think it was right. Jackson begged, “There is nothing going on, why don’t you trust me?”
She finally gave in after about 30 minutes. Jackson bought her a Cartier gold bracelet the next day, and over the next several months gave her more jewelry, a $7,000 gift certificate to the Fred Segal boutique, and the use of his credit card for a shopping spree. The “King of Pop” traveled to the family’s Santa Monica home and slept in the boy’s room — which had only one bed — about 30 times between April and June of ’03, sometimes for “a week or two” at a time. Jackson would leave when the boy went to school and return after school, she said.
Chandler also said she let her son sleep with Jackson during unaccompanied visits to Neverland and on “family” trips to Monaco (where the “boys” recuperated from the flu in bed together), Disney World twice, and New York.
Once she made the decision to trust, she apparently had a very hard time admitting to herself that the decision was wrong, that she was complicit in whatever was going on. And the presents were nice too.
But over time the boy changed. She told the jury, “It started to get weird. He started dressing like Michael, he started acting withdrawn, sort of smart-alecky — not as sweet as he was.”
In August 1993 the family told police they suspected Jackson had molested the boy. The boy received a multi-million dollar settlement from Jackson, who admitted no guilt, in ’94.
Chandler has not talked to her son, who is now 25, in over 11 years. Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Tom Sneddon asked whether she regretted the decision to let her son start sleeping with Jackson. She choked back tears. “Very much so.”