Written by guest contributor Desiree (DSSL)
Update November 29 2015:
MJ Facts has uploaded James Safechuck’s first amended complaint for childhood sexual abuse in the civil case against Michael Jackson’s companies.
Update March 21, 2015:
Though the following article is based upon other court filings in James Safechuck’s late claim bid, read his newest Declaration as part of the Resources on this website: Supplemental Declaration of Claimant/Creditor James Safechuck in Support of Amended Petition for Order to Allow Filing of Late Claim Against Estate (filed March 18, 2015).
His Declaration does not touch upon details of the sex abuse (read details of that below), but notable in the document are James’s description of Michael Jackson’s trial telephone calls; his very veiled confession to his mother; and his psychological injury (he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder — “PTSD” — and for a time used drugs to numb his mental anguish and fear). James also confides that Jackson’s enormous celebrity stature and virtual omnipresence compounded the years of grooming and intimidation tactics, keeping James silent until his disclosure in 2013.
In the winter of 2011, as James Safechuck was living an unassuming life as a happily married man and new father in southern California, I discovered something extraordinary — that is, extraordinary to those of us still interested in the Neverland world of Michael Jackson.
Back then, the James of our collective conscious was “Jimmy”, a ten-year-old boy with sun-kissed hair and pretty hazel eyes whom Michael Jackson met on the set of a Pepsi commercial the two filmed together. Paparazzi frequently snapped Jackson and his little friend hand-in-hand during outings, and Jimmy would later become Jackson’s companion during the Bad tour. They were inseparable for a few years, but, as is typical with Jackson’s revolving door of ‘special friends’, that, too, was fated to end.
Jimmy Safechuck suddenly was no longer Jackson’s buddy. He became the boy Jackson ‘threw away’, and that was all to his story.
James Safechuck’s Michael Jackson experience was always cloaked beneath thick layers of rumor. Stories of luxury cars purchased for the family and, with La Toya Jackson’s insistence, enormous “checks payable” to his ‘garbage collector’ father had flourished in various states of ambiguity. Even major Michael Jackson biographers J. Randy Taraborrelli and Christopher Andersen knew little else about the boy, though Taraborrelli, in his 1991 edition of The Magic and the Madness, did report that Frank Dileo, then Jackson’s manager, had expressed concern about the perceptual impact of Jackson’s relationship with Jimmy. Worried some may view it as “perverted”, he goaded Jackson to end it. It was unknown whether Dileo’s advice pushed Jimmy out, or if the boy’s expiry date had simply been reached.
So, morale was low for Jimmy Safechuck, being the boy Jackson forgot and traded in for flashier models like Macaulay Culkin, until Tom Mesereau mentioned him transiently during a witness’s cross-examination at Jackson’s trial. On March 17, 2005, while questioning former Neverland cook Kiki Fournier, Mesereau stated James was wedded at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch:
2 Q. Okay. Now, the prosecutor for the
3 government asked you some questions about other
4 young boys, as he put it, that Mr. Jackson knew
5 through the years, right.
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. And would you agree that, like most people,
8 Mr. Jackson sometimes became a closer friend of some
9 families rather than others, correct.
10 A. Yes.
11 Q. And the so-called “young boys” the
12 prosecutor referred to would come with their
13 families, correct.
14 A. Yes.
15 Q. In fact, Jimmy Safechuck was married at
16 Neverland, wasn’t he. Do you remember that.
17 A. I didn’t even know he was married.
It was certainly a bombshell, suggesting to anyone paying attention that Jimmy Safechuck, the boy Jackson allegedly ‘threw away’, had not been thrown away at all.
Jackson’s admirers would use James’s purported ‘Neverland wedding’ to buttress “Michael Jackson was innocent” narratives. They reasoned that, in spite of anecdotes from Neverland employees like Mark Quindoy and Blanca Francia who, years earlier, claimed to have seen Jimmy and Jackson in compromising positions, it was inexplicable an abused boy — now a man — would share such an intimate milestone with his molester.
Mesereau’s inclusion of this significant detail served the same purpose. But in burying the revelation among other questions, not many learned of Jackson and James’s sweet years-long friendship. None of us knew the date of this alleged wedding, either, and James did not show up at trial to testify.
In the winter of 2011, it became clear why Mesereau’s question seemed like a throwaway at trial: it wasn’t true — James, alternately, was married on October 18, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois, to his current wife.
For days I poured over these details, racking my brain as I tried to find a way to redeem Mesereau — to figure out if there was a possibility he had not hatched the claim out of his own imagination for the sake of his beleaguered client.
In so doing, I weighed Fournier’s sporadic employment history at the Ranch, which spanned from September 1991 to September 2003, against when, exactly, this wedding could have occurred. Was it possible, I asked myself, that Kiki had merely missed the Big Day? James’s age also became a factor to consider. He was twenty-five when Jackson was booked on a second round of sex abuse charges in late 2003, which marked that year as a logical cutoff — it was doubtful anyone would want to celebrate matrimony at the Ranch after it had been blighted by the Arvizo ordeal. This made the interim between arrest and trial unlikely.
Additionally, the Martin Bashir documentary Living With Michael Jackson aired in early February 2003 after being filmed for approximately eight months beginning in mid-2002. Because the special was intended to be a flattering career booster after Invincible bombed, Jackson would’ve likely included at least some footage of James Safechuck’s wedding at the Ranch had it occurred while Bashir & Crew were present. Such a spectacle would’ve went a long way in proving Jackson hadn’t only been interested in ten-year-old Jimmy’s body years earlier. After all, Jackson had utilized Gavin Arvizo’s cancer story in the film, though he hadn’t spoken to the boy in months. But with James’s age decreasing as time reversed, it wasn’t looking good for Mesereau; my resolve that James could have had a previous spouse was dampened considerably. Coupled with his own parents’ decades-long marriage — a positive example he could emulate — it seemed improbable that James Safechuck had ever taken a bride beneath the shady trees of Neverland.
The realization of this fact was a blow to those whose only interest in James was how he could improve Michael Jackson’s reputation. Without a ‘Neverland wedding’ to vindicate Jackson of the ‘special friend’ he threw away, ten-year-old Jimmy returned to his place as a shadowy specter lingering above Jackson’s innocence. It made matters worse that James had been mentioned by Jordie Chandler during a 1993 interview with psychiatrist Dr. Richard Gardner. The thirteen-year-old told the doctor that Jackson had confided that many boys had masturbated in front of him, including “a boy who went on the Bad tour with him,” Jordie explained.
Jordie’s credibility got a boost when Jackson settled his case. The multimillion-dollar move would suddenly make the kinds of gifts Jackson was rumored to have given Mr. and Mrs. Safechuck — indeed, any parent of Jackson’s ‘special friends’ — look like money-for-child deals, even if the parents remained ignorant of that reality.
A few years later, in the spring of 2013, Michael Jackson’s admirers suffered another massive attack to their defense armaments. Once a shining star for Jackson’s side at trial, dancer-choreographer Wade Robson, a rhythmic prodigy like Jackson himself, accused his mentor of sex abuse. Unlike Jordie Chandler, who was allegedly molested over a few months, Wade claimed Jackson committed multiple felonies against him, including anal sodomy and coerced submission to other peculiar sex acts, from age seven to fourteen.
Then, one year after Wade Robson, there was Jimmy.
According to documents filed in Probate Court (case number BP117321), in the days following Wade Robson’s brief interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, in which Wade, with a bold, anger-tinged voice, referred to Jackson as a “pedophile and child sexual abuser”, James began to feel considerable panic — a condition from which he’s suffered for years — as Wade’s story circulated and questions of Jackson’s conduct with his ‘special friends’ was given new prominence. He sought treatment with a therapist. In October 2013, he’d mustered up the courage to contact Wade’s lawyers.
Longtime Jackson chronicler Diane Dimond broke the story of James Safechuck’s filing against the Estate for The Daily Beast in May 2014. Not much was known about James’s own allegations, only that he was no longer going to let the likes of Tom Mesereau tell stories about his relationship with Michael Jackson.
Thank you for your letter. It was nice hearing from you again! I’ve been busy working on a new video for my album and have been really busy.
It was fun working with you on the Pepsi commercial! Maybe we can work together again. I’d like to have you come and visit me on the set sometime or when I have some free time you can come to my house.
Keep sending me letters! I love to hear from you!
Speak with you soon, [Michael Jackson]
— Letter from Jackson to James Safechuck, March 10, 1987
There were sweet letters in the beginning, as ‘sweet’ as letters could possibly be between a nine-year-old boy and a 28-year-old man, followed by frequent phone calls and visits to Jackson’s Hayvenhurst mansion. Before long Jackson started doling out gifts to Jimmy. On the first family visit to Hayvenhurst and while Jackson and Jimmy were alone, he gave the boy a globe and, in secret, $700 in cash. (Mr. and Mrs. Safechuck admonished Jackson when they later learned of the money; Jackson “giggled” an apology and “said that he could not help himself”.) Jackson spent Thanksgiving at the Safechuck home in 1987 and later took the family on first-class, cross-country vacations — young Jimmy and his parents, according to James’s Petition with the court, were thrilled to be “with someone who was a ‘star’ with celebrity status and wealth”. (The infatuated Jackson would also give Jimmy one of his Thriller jackets. Jackson took the jacket back years later since it was slated to be on show at a museum, but he promised the boy the display would bear the sign “On loan from Jimmy Safechuck”. Jimmy got to keep other jackets and costumes, which he claims he still has.)
For his part in this seduction process, Jackson also expressed affection for his new friend and adopted family, as transcribed from part of a chat between the two taped on the boy’s cassette recorder in February 1988:
Plaintiff: “What do you think about lying?”
Decedent: “People make up stories about [Michael Jackson].”
Plaintiff: “Do you like performing?”
Decedent: “Favorite things are writing songs, performing, and being with Jimmy.”
Plaintiff: “Any new plans?”
Decedent: “Smooth Criminal short film, new Pepsi commercial, best Pepsi commercial was the one with Jimmy because he had heart, best thing about Hawaii was spending time with Jimmy, love Jimmy’s family and want to spend time with them.”
— Complaint, p. 6 – 7
(According to the Complaint, Jackson referred to James as “Rubba”, and in other portions of the above “mock” interview conducted and recorded by Jimmy, Jackson uses this pet name. James states Jackson explained “Rubba” was short for “Rubberhead”. Eyewitnesses to Jackson’s relationships with boys suspected the nickname had a sexual undercurrent.)
The vacation Jackson referenced was the first of many spoiling, all-expenses-paid trips for the Safechuck family. What began as a business excursion — Pepsi held its annual convention in Hawaii that year — turned into an opportunity for Jackson to “spend time” with his new friend Jimmy. Reports of Jackson’s visit in local newspapers recount he and the boy walking along the beach and visiting a shopping mall. In Hawaii was also the first time, James says, that Jackson asked if the boy could sleep with him in his hotel room. Prudently, Mrs. Safechuck rebuffed the request. He would try again in March 1988, approximately one month later, when Jimmy and his mother joined Jackson in New York. Paparazzi snapped one outing during that trip, as all three were accompanied by Liza Minelli to a Broadway showing of The Phantom of the Opera; Jackson and Jimmy were photographed holding hands and he later spoiled the boy with a shopping spree at the FAO Schwartz toy store. James recalls that while they stayed at the Trump Tower hotel in Manhattan, Jackson again pressed Mrs. Safechuck about the sleeping arrangements, and again she told Jackson that her ten-year-old son would stay with her.
But with Jackson nurturing what would become an inseparable bond between he and his new ‘special friend’, James’s Petition recounts that “as soon as James woke up in the morning, he went to stay in Decedent’s room with him.”
Submission to the one-on-one sleepover was a crucial part of being Michael Jackson’s ‘special friend’, and if Jackson planned to keep Jimmy around, the question of bed-sharing would need to be resolved.
Jackson did manage a small victory in-between the Hawaii and New York City trips, however. While Bad tour rehearsals were underway in Pensacola, Florida, Jackson flew the Safechucks out for a vacation. Accommodations were houses rented near the Pensacola Civic Center where Jackson practiced. Stealthily, he convinced the Safechucks, described in court documents as “unsophisticated”, to allow he and ten-year-old Jimmy to stay in one house while they stayed in another. James recalls that this was the first time he had ever stayed with Jackson during a trip, though, apparently, Jackson had yet to get Jimmy in his bed.
When Jackson began staying over at the Safechucks’ Simi Valley home, James says his parents allowed he and Jackson to sleep together in James’s room or share a makeshift tent set up in the living room if the bedroom scenery bored them. James remembers Jackson “using white bandage tape … to form a shell to cover his nose” as a before-bed ritual, a testament to how close the pair became. It’s unknown why the Safechucks allowed their son to sleep over with Jackson on some occasions and not others (Jackson would later abuse Jimmy in the boy’s home bedroom once Jimmy was ‘initiated’); perhaps in the rented Pensacola house with many other rooms from which Jimmy could choose and in their own home where they were constantly present, they felt secure. But a slow and dangerous tide was coming in.
In the meantime, Michael Jackson and Jimmy Safechuck had officially become an item, a conjoined twosome who began to resemble each other, as is typical of all of Jackson’s ‘special friends’. According to James’s Complaint, “Decedent encouraged Plaintiff to dress like him and grow his hair long like Decedent’s. Decedent had coaxed Plaintiff to become a ‘miniature version’ of Decedent. Plaintiff did.” James says he and Jackson spent more and more time together as 1988 progressed. Expectedly, Jackson didn’t want to be away from the target of his affections, and, as he did with the earlier cross-country vacations, the ten-year-old and his parents were invited to join Jackson on the Bad tour.
The Safechucks joined the Bad entourage in Paris at the close of June 1988. It was very soon after their arrival, James says, that the sex started.
Jackson’s Hotel de Crillion suite was described, eerily, as “dark” when Jackson made his first move on ten-year-old Jimmy. In court papers filed later, it was revealed that this first act involved 29-year-old Jackson “teaching [Jimmy] how to masturbate.” (“Teaching” would later become emblematic — Jackson often told Jimmy that the boy was the sexual aggressor in their relationship, not Jackson, with sayings like, “You’re teaching me,” and “This was your idea, remember?”) It’s unclear whether the Safechucks’ previous ‘no hotel-room sleepovers’ dictum was still in effect when Jackson allegedly took it upon himself to introduce his prepubescent friend to adult pleasures, but, according to James, he regularly shared a bedroom — and a bed — with Jackson thereafter for the rest of the Bad tour.
In fact, biographer Christopher Andersen notes in Michael Jackson: Unauthorized (p. 230) that Jackson’s Bad tour assistant Jolie Levine noticed only one bed seemed to be in use within the suites in which Jackson and Jimmy slept, though two were usually available. “When [Levine] saw Michael at the end of the day,” Andersen writes, “her pajama-clad employer would be back in bed in his hotel room — again with his young companion.” Perhaps these repeated sightings were what led Levine to candidly refer to her former boss as a “chickenhawk” to police in 1993.
With the masturbation accomplished — another cardinal rule among Jackson’s ‘special friends’ — Jackson had the young boy hooked into his Neverland world, leading him to believe that sex between the two “were ‘acts of love’ and instigated by James himself, rather than Decedent.” James recounts that after this initial intimacy, the abuse increased not only in frequency but also in variety. On another occasion during the Bad tour, Jackson and Jimmy engaged in a sex act redacted in his pleadings but one which Jackson “referred to … as ‘selling me some’.” Seemingly like a common escort, James says Jackson would “give James jewelry after [James] did this, as a ‘reward’.”
James claims he still owns some of the jewelry Jackson gave him in exchange for sex, including “a necklace with a medallion bearing Decedent’s face.” It’s an interesting gift indeed. In Victor Gutierrez’s Michael Jackson Was My Lover (p. 135), Gutierrez recounts a June 1992 impromptu meeting with Wade Robson and the boy’s mother Joy on the Venice Beach boardwalk during the ‘investigation stage’ of his book. He stated Joy adorned herself with a similar piece of jewelry:
While I was introducing myself, I noticed she had a gold chain with a medallion about two and a half inches in diameter; it had Jackson’s profile on it. I asked her if Jackson had given it to her and she said that he had given it to her son, it was just that she liked to wear it.
Given that Wade Robson has also accused Jackson of molestation and also received a ‘Jackson medallion’ necklace, it is a wonder whether that trinket — like Jackson’s secretive code language of “duck butter” for semen, “bright light, brick city” for an erect penis, and “scratch[ing] the inside of Plaintiff’s hand with one of Decedent’s fingers” as a “sexual cue” — possessed its own very private symbolism.
When the Bad tour ended, Jackson’s interest in Jimmy had not. In wanting to maintain the connection built since the consummation of their friendship back at the Hotel de Crillion, Jackson took it upon himself to send for James, alone, to be with him whenever he was away from California. One such trip was to New York City following Jackson’s February 1989 Grammy Awards performance. James recalls that on these out-of-town visits, Jackson would sexually abuse him in their shared hotel room bed.
As Jackson’s obsessive love and alleged sexual desire for Jimmy Safechuck intensified, so, too, did the boy’s “emotional attachment” to Michael Jackson — at one point, James remembers wishing Jackson was his father, not James Safechuck, Sr., the lowly ‘garbage collector’ lacking a college education. Jackson promised Jimmy “that he would take care of him” and declared his devotion to the boy — Jimmy responded in kind. These love pledges became a ritual of sorts, James says, recited like special chants when he and Jackson were “physically together” or over the telephone when they were apart. Jackson had to hear that his boy loved him.
At some point, Jackson — perhaps in an agitated state of infatuation with Jimmy Safechuck and needing to solidify his hold over his ‘special friend’ — held a secretive wedding ceremony and married Jimmy, “complete with a wedding ring and a signed document.” James says in his Complaint that Jackson referred to their union as a “faux committed relationship” that had to stay between them only and required monogamy, at least on Jimmy’s end.
It would get more bizarre between them, however, due to Jackson’s increasing possessiveness of his new ‘special friend’ and his own guilty paranoia.
The fabled Neverland Ranch would become synonymous with different things to different people. To some, the property was a palatial and relaxing oasis; to underprivileged children visiting the Ranch on field trip, it was a playground, complete with zoo, carnival rides, and a fully-stocked candy counter in the theater. To police raiding the Ranch in 1993 and 2003, it was a sinister porn- and booze-filled lure where hundreds of felonies had been committed by its eccentric pedophile owner.
But for Michael Jackson, who spent $17 million for the property and secured the deed in April 1988, Neverland Ranch was his fantasy world where no behavior was off-limits as he attempted to recapture his supposedly lost childhood. James says in his Complaint, “Decedent confessed to Plaintiff that his own father, Joseph Jackson, beat him when he was growing up if he ‘messed up’ or did not rehearse, and that Plaintiff was now giving Decedent the childhood he never had.”
Neverland would also become a portal of descent into the reclusive star’s self-created madness.
Jimmy was the first guest to stay overnight at the Ranch, but before its amenities and typical features had been added. There was “no large ‘Neverland Ranch’ sign, only the main house, pool, and a trampoline,” James recalls of the then threadbare mansion. Though the house was sold to Jackson as-is, the infamous hallway chimes that became a part of Neverland’s dark mythology did not come with the property; according to James, they were set up as a function of Jackson’s paranoia: “Decedent eventually installed chimes in the hallway to his bedroom so that he could hear and be warned when people approached. Decedent later installed video cameras.”
In 1993, police raiding the Ranch were astounded to discover that Jackson’s hallway ‘sang’ as they came close to his bedroom door. It was speculated that, given the 30-foot length of the corridor between the hallway entrance and Jackson’s bedroom, the chimes served to aid in Jackson’s concealment of illicit sex with young boys. Additionally, Jackson’s door could only be unlocked from the inside, and, according to Wade Robson’s Petition, there was an “unspoken rule” that no one could enter Jackson’s bedroom if Jackson was inside and a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign swung from the doorknob.
There was more than one bed available in Jackson’s two-story bedroom, but Jimmy, like many other ‘special friends’ before and after him, always slept in bed with Jackson when he visited the Ranch. Though the boy was slated to sleep in the upstairs Shirley Temple bedroom, he did not. James recalls he and Jackson “would ‘mess up’ the upstairs bedroom to make it look as though Plaintiff slept there,” apparently in an attempt to disguise their bed-sharing from Jackson’s chambermaids. It was an ironic move considering Jackson later said in interviews with Diane Sawyer, Martin Bashir, and Ed Bradley that his sleeping habits with unrelated children were a “pure” and “innocent” way of “sharing a love”.
It seems this ruse was abandoned after a while. In a diary later handed over to the police investigating the Jordie Chandler case in 1993, former Neverland employee Mark Quindoy, who, alongside his wife Faye, worked at the Ranch from May 1989 to August 1990, recounted that when cleaning Jackson’s bedroom he noticed the upstairs Shirley Temple bed never looked slept in. He concluded Jimmy was sleeping with Jackson.
On two other occasions — marked off as June 25, 1989 and May 5, 1990 in Quindoy’s diary — the Ranch manager wrote down that he’d seen Jimmy’s underwear on the floor near Jackson’s bed.
Though they may have failed in disguising their activities from Mark Quindoy (Quindoy would later record an actual sex act in a diary entry dated August 12, 1989, in which he observed Jackson and Jimmy standing up in the Jacuzzi embraced “like they were newlyweds”, he writes, with Jackson fondling Jimmy’s genitals beneath the boy’s swim trunks), Jackson instituted a stringent regimen of secrecy James would follow until his disclosure years later.
As an exercise of how well his boy had adhered to the programming, Jackson regularly had Jimmy run what Jackson coined “drills”, in which Jimmy would “practice putting on his clothes very fast and practice running away quietly so people would not hear him.” This, no doubt, came in handy if a school friend accompanied the boy on his trips to Neverland. Best friend Luke Martinez tagged along on several visits, and during one overnight stay while the boys enjoyed a “slumber party and game-type activities” with Jackson, Jimmy and Jackson would discreetly “‘sneak off’ to be alone”. Away from Luke in some secluded spot at the Ranch, sexual abuse would occur, James remembers. Luke never found out why his two sleepover buddies had slipped away; Jimmy and Jackson “were always careful when other people were around.”
Indeed, discretion was Jackson’s number one priority, as the hallway chimes and phone-tapping to eavesdrop on his employees and Ranch guests indicate. In spite of his efforts to keep Jimmy quiet about the sex, Jackson didn’t completely trust the eleven-year-old’s ability to stay mum. He was paranoid, as James remembers it; he’d even fired a limousine driver whose job it was to chauffeur the boy between the Safechuck home and Jackson’s residences, simply because the woman “had asked [Plaintiff] questions about Decedent…. After that, Decedent started driving over to Plaintiff’s house himself to pick him up and drop him off for visits,” the Complaint says. Jackson had grilled Jimmy about his talks with the driver, but apparently considered it a safer bet to send her off to the unemployment line.
Jackson must’ve known he was a criminal — that what he was allegedly up to with Jimmy behind the walls of his Neverland fortress would land him in prison — even if he believed sexually abusing ‘special friends’ was one aspect of ‘childhood’ on which he’d missed out and deserved to rekindle. With Jackson’s acute fear of discovery, his campaign of brainwashing Jimmy — instilling fear within the eleven-year-old that “if anyone found out what they were doing, ‘their futures would be over’” — made the boy “careful to make sure that no one found out.”
But Jimmy’s lies didn’t bother Jackson. When Jackson told the boy “it was okay to lie to other people because nothing would happen if you did,” it was merely another essential ‘special friend’ maxim.
Ironically, in the context of all his obsessive ‘keep it in the closet’ messages, Jackson seemed to revel in what he believed to be his own skilled ‘evasion of capture’. Jackson, the consummate “jokester”, as James called him, who reportedly pulled stunts such as spitting on socks and hurling them over balconies at his admirers or using laser guns to shoot beams of red light into the adjacent rooms of fellow hotel guests, revealed his own narcissistic depravity through a perverse prank he played on his impressionable little friend. James recounts that while he and Jackson engaged in sexual activities, Jackson would trigger a flashbulb set up behind his bedroom window curtain “to resemble a camera bulb flashing.” Jimmy, who’d jokingly been informed by Jackson that paparazzi were snapping photos of them in the act, cried at the trick, and “Decedent was surprised by his reaction.”
Jackson teased the boy he claimed to love with this prank on both the Bad tour and at Neverland, James remembers.
“No wenches, bitches, heifers, or hoes” was the first of the so-called ‘six wishes’ Jordie Chandler was allegedly instructed by Michael Jackson to recite three times a day. The boy also told Dr. Richard Gardner in their October 6, 1993 session that Jackson “didn’t like it if I would want to call a girl or something.” James Safechuck paints a similar picture of life with his possessive older friend.
At ten, Jimmy noticed the opposite sex. He was good-looking and friends with a pop superstar — naturally, young girls also possessing pubertal awareness would dig a boy like Jimmy. But Jackson wasn’t too pleased with the nature of those kinds of things and became upset upon finding out that, beyond their secretive Neverland world, Jimmy had been taken ‘off the market’ by a little school-aged girl. “When Plaintiff was in the fourth grade, he had a ‘girlfriend’,” says his Complaint. “When Decedent found out, he told Plaintiff he could only have a relationship with him.”
As James remembers it, Jackson was “jealous of Plaintiff’s attraction to females and any relationships with females that he had.” Monogamy, apparently, was another important rule Jackson stressed for his ‘special friends’ and ‘Rubbas’.
But if a nine- or ten-year-old girl didn’t stand a chance against Jackson’s possessiveness of Jimmy, Jackson was comparatively more vindictive about the boy’s “crush” on then Bad tour back-up singer Sheryl Crow. Jackson’s plan to hoard his boy’s ardor involved bombarding Jimmy with no doubt stealthily-captured photographs Jackson himself had taken of Crow without makeup, all in effort to convince the boy that the blond, poodle-haired singer was simply too ugly and, therefore, undeserving of his boyhood fantasy-affections. Jackson didn’t want competition.
His manipulation of Jimmy against Crow provides an amusingly ironic foot note to what biographer Christopher Andersen reported in Michael Jackson: Unauthorized. Andersen, who was an editor at People magazine and Time, kept his finger on the pulse of tabloid rags during Jackson’s Bad tour. He noted that Jackson and Crow were frequently rumored to be an item, their on-stage performance art likely responsible for the gossip (though Andersen suspected Jackson’s public relations team had been behind those stories). The two never dated in spite of caressing each other before concert-goers; perhaps, outside of his own alleged homosexuality, Jackson found her unattractive. As he did with Crow, Jackson enjoyed pointing out women’s “physical flaws”, James says — a significant contrast to oft-repeated anecdotes of Jackson’s putative heterosexuality being ‘proved’ because he’d made positive, allegedly virile-masculine comments about women’s looks.
James recalls that being around Jackson caused him to question whether he was gay, like Jackson seemed to be. The one-two punch of Jackson’s oppressive jealousy and disdain for women along with the inexplicably pleasurable sex abuse no doubt was the source of his confusion.
With Jackson’s efforts to confound James’s sexuality with misogynistic jabs about women being “smart, conniving, and not to be trusted” (sentiments Jackson later repeated in The Michael Jackson Tapes), it’s not surprising that Mrs. Safechuck also failed to escape Jackson’s fire-breathing censure. “On one occasion,” James’s Complaint says, “Decedent had Plaintiff secretly listen in on a telephone call between Plaintiff’s mother and aunt where Plaintiff’s mother had said something negative about Plaintiff’s father…. Decedent stated: ‘Look how mean women are.’”
In perhaps the most astounding revelation, James states Jackson had repeatedly confided in him what appears to be a significant clue behind Jackson’s short-lived, suspiciously-timed, and unsuccessful marriages: Jackson’s use of matrimony as a PR tool. “Decedent frequently told Plaintiff that he would need to get married to protect his public perception,” the Complaint says.
If Jackson’s cynicism is true, it is then interesting to note that Jordie Chandler’s sex abuse allegations likely made Jackson’s need for the ruse more urgent. His marriage to Lisa Marie Presley in May 1994 commenced roughly four months after the Chandler case was settled; in interviews, the couple claimed they’d been dating approximately four months before the marriage — Jackson had quickly kicked his plan into action. The union was rocky and collapsed in less than two years.
His marriage to nurse Debbie Rowe followed shortly thereafter in November 1996, when the two exchanged vows during an unromantic ceremony performed in an Australian hotel suite. Rowe was several months pregnant during their nuptials. It was an important step for Jackson: California law would grant Jackson de jure fatherhood if he wedded a pregnant woman prior to the birth of her baby — he could then askew not only ancestral requirements but also the rigorous background checks required by American adoption agencies, ones Jackson would have likely failed.
To the public, that marriage, too, seemed phony: Jackson was effeminate and thin; Rowe was, by many accounts, unattractive, heavyset, and mannish with a foul mouth. Once Rowe birthed both of Jackson’s children, she disappeared from their lives and received a stipend in the millions for her services.
Conspicuous around both of these unions were boys like Frank and Eddie Cascio and Omer Bhatti, the latter whom Jackson would move into his Neverland Ranch in 1997 under the guises of ‘dance prodigy needing mentor’ and, worse, ‘long lost son’.
As with any closeted Hollywood star, Jackson had to cloak his peccadilloes beneath a blanket of feigned heterosexuality — in this case, Jackson’s sought to camouflage being a ‘boy-lover’ by looking like a married father and family man.
Spanning four years from 1988 to 1992 when James Safechuck was age ten to fourteen, he and Michael Jackson allegedly engaged in sex acts well “over 100 times” following that first encounter in Paris. When the Safechuck parents later gave Jimmy a “sex education discussion”, the boy was regrettably well practiced in the art. This physical component of he and Jackson’s ‘friendship’, James says, quickly became normal and routine as it would’ve been with any other couple — except, of course, for the fact it was illegal ‘lovemaking’ between a man and a boy.
Though the specific details of these acts — and the charging statutes supporting them — have been redacted from James’s court filings, he alleges that beyond those initial engagements during the Bad tour, Jackson sexually abused him at all of the star’s dwellings: at Neverland Ranch, at Jackson’s Westwood, Los Angeles, condo in the Westford building on Wilshire Boulevard, and at his aptly-named “Hideout” in Century City.
At the Ranch, James recalls Jackson’s ‘closet within a closet’ — the mythologized ‘secret room’ used by the original owners of the Ranch to store expensive fur outerwear. Jackson not only kept jewelry within this passcode-secured closet, but also used it as a secluded place to molest the boy. In a larger closet located on the other side of his two-story bedroom, James remembers the star would lay a blanket down on the floor in preparation for the abuse, to make for “more room to engage in sexual activities with Plaintiff.”
At Jackson’s secretive Hideout, the two drank alcohol and looked at pornography. Some of the material were explicit “foreign books” of adults engaged in sex acts; some were movies. James says Jackson divided these latter ‘films’ into two categories. “Porn” was heterosexual and adult; other movies, “in which children were masturbating”, Jackson insisted the images were “not really porn”.
Jackson’s distinction between the two groups of filmed sex undoubtedly came from the fact these pedophilic movies were merely explicit foreign films and, therefore, not illegal to own. In Michael Jackson Was My Lover (p. 57-58), author Victor Gutierrez noted Jackson’s use of alternative video rental store Video West, located in Los Angeles’s historic gay West Hollywood near Jackson’s Larrabee recording studio and known for its extensive homoerotic film collection:
The store has a great variety of videos with sections on homosexual pornography, other gay themes and cult films, among them various films dealing with the subject of pedophilia. Films such as ‘The Flavor of Corn’, ‘You Are Not Alone’ … and ‘A Special Friendship’ were personally rented by Jackson in this store.
…. Some of the other films which Jackson rented were ones in which young boys appeared nude or half-nude in more than a few scenes. Most of these were European films such as ‘Robby’ and ‘Pelle the Conqueror’. There were also liberal historic and foreign themes about minors who prostituted themselves, some who were abused and ran from their homes wearing only underwear, and others who ran around naked and masturbating, in such films as: ‘Acla’, ‘Lakki’, ‘The Orphans’, and ‘Freedom is Paradise’.
Though police found hundreds of videocassettes in Jackson’s film library in 1993 (and in 2003), they were unable to recover any movies — even legal ones — showing children engaged in sex acts. They did find, however, books featuring nude boys, the same ages as Jackson’s ‘special friends’ and bedmates, with their pubescent buttocks and genitals exposed; these had been hidden away in a locked filing cabinet in one of Jackson’s bedroom closets. When police later learned that Jackson’s devoted chauffeur Gary Hearne had ‘confiscated’ a suspect briefcase and suitcase from the singer’s Hideout apartment under the orders of Jackson and his private investigator Anthony Pellicano (it was delivered to Pellicano who subsequently denied possessing the items), they suspected a conspiracy of deliberate concealment.
Away from the hectic pace of the Bad tour, Jimmy Safechuck was Michael Jackson’s constant companion from 1989 – 1991 back home at Neverland. The pair were frequently spotted together on shopping sprees at costume stores, magic shops, and The Sharper Image, including, as James remembers, the famous Zales jewelry store trip in May 1989. There shopping for rings (it’s unknown whether this outing to Zales was to purchase the wedding ring Jackson allegedly gifted to James in their symbolic ‘marriage’ ceremony), the disguise Jackson wore frightened store merchants in mostly-white Simi Valley, who then called the police.
But between 1990 and 1991, simultaneous with Jimmy entering puberty, Jackson began a “transition” phase with the twelve-year-old. He warned the boy that he would “have other friends” in addition to Jimmy, and that Jimmy would be “‘seeing [Decedent] with other people’ and that they would continue ‘later on’” — Jackson’s subtle and allusive signals not only intended to quell Jimmy’s jealousy at seeing other boys occupy the place on Jackson’s arm he’d filled since 1987, but also that he’d eventually be pushed out of Neverland’s nest.
Jackson had acquired several ‘special friends’ during his transition period with Jimmy Safechuck. In 1990, seven-year-old dance prodigy Wade Robson entered his life. After seeing Home Alone in 1991, Jackson began hanging out with eleven-year-old Macaulay Culkin, a spritely blue-eyed blond with full red lips; he later tagged along with the Culkin family to Bermuda, a trip dubbed “The Honeymoon” in the tabloid press. In December 1991, Jackson finally met nine-year-old Brett Barnes after four years of calls and letters. Brett, a tan-skinned Australian boy, would figure prominently in the dissolution of Jackson and Jimmy’s ‘special friendship’ and mark the end of James’s sexual abuse.
Jimmy’s increasing age and physical maturity presented a problem for Jackson. Though Jackson was later forced to defer to his Rolodex of former ‘special friends’ after the Jordie Chandler scandal ended his ability to run around hand-in-hand with newer, younger boys each year (Jackson got a lucky break in 1996 during a HIStory tour stop when he discovered tiny thirteen-year-old Omer Bhatti loitering in the lobby of his Tunisian hotel), he preferred prepubescent and small pubescent boys. Jimmy was getting too tall and too old.
By 1992, Brett Barnes’s star was rising, an intrusion that saddened young teenaged Jimmy Safechuck. Brett was nearly four years younger and had already began sleeping with Jackson in Jackson’s bed by the end of the first week of his very first stay at Neverland the prior year. James says he “inwardly became jealous of Brett because of the time and attention Decedent began devoting to him instead of Plaintiff.”
A vain attempt by the thirteen-year-old to befriend newly ten-year-old Barnes and “[be] extra nice” around Jackson didn’t alleviate the prospect of or the boy’s distress over the impending ‘break-up’ — Jackson was losing interest fast. When bedtime rolled around one weekend evening while Jackson, Jimmy, and Brett were at Jackson’s Hideout apartment, Jackson and Brett retired together behind Jackson’s bedroom door, while James was left to sleep alone on the sofa. (It’s unknown whether James believed Brett Barnes and Jackson engaged in sexual activities that night, but if his own trajectory in Jackson’s world was any indication — with bed-sharing an essential part of ‘special friend’ sexuality — it may have crossed his mind.)
Brett Barnes would also factor into Jordie Chandler’s relationship with Jackson. Brett had been Jackson’s chosen ‘special friend’ in the year before Jordie came into the star’s life, and, as the boy told Dr. Richard Gardner, Jackson attempted to use Brett’s ‘experience’ against him:
He said that, um, like, if he wanted me to do something with him, he would say that [Brett] did that with him, so that I would do it. And, like, if I didn’t do it, then I didn’t love him as much as [Brett] did.
In another part of the interview, Jordie says:
But somewhere on the trip I said, ‘I didn’t like when you put your tongue in my ear and grabbed my butt.’ Once again, he started crying and making me feel guilty, and saying there’s nothing wrong with it, and referring to the levitators and [Brett]. I think he referred to [Brett] and said [Brett] wouldn’t care if I did that to him.
Jordie had the luxury of being ‘new’, even if he was difficult. But for Jimmy, though willing and compliant after years of Jackson’s grooming, it would all end, cruelly, in April-May 1992 during Jackson’s “Jam” music video shoot in Chicago. Brett and his mother accompanied Jackson while the video was filmed with basketball star Michael Jordan and ‘90s kids hip-hop group Kriss Kross. Wade Robson was there to dance for the video, though the boy only managed a split-second on-screen feature.
James, now fourteen, arrived later to the set from Washington, D.C., a trip Jackson had organized and funded for the teenager.
By all accounts — James’s included — if Jackson wasn’t working on the video, he devoted his time to Brett Barnes. Joy Robson also recollected in 2005 during Jackson’s child molestation trial that she and her son only saw Jackson on set, perhaps not even for lunch, and didn’t know what hotel he’d booked for the stay.
James knew, however. Brett Barnes slept with Jackson in Jackson’s hotel room, and, as he had when the three of them were together at the Hideout, Jimmy was consigned to a room alone. He was jealous and the rejection was upsetting, James remembers — he cried about it. Jackson was annoyed. “Decedent saw Plaintiff crying,” James’s Complaint says, “and within one-two days afterwards, Plaintiff was told by Bill Bray, Decedent’s longtime head of security/bodyguard, that he was going to be sent home, and the next day Plaintiff was on an airplane returning to California several days earlier than his scheduled departure.”
James says the sexual abuse stopped completely as Jackson became more interested in his ‘special friendship’ with Brett Barnes. Call frequency diminished.
Jackson’s disinterest in Jimmy was also testified to by the French couple Philip Lemarque and Stella Marcroft. The couple worked for nine months as cooks at the Ranch and tried to sell an eyewitness account of Jackson groping Macaulay Culkin one late night in the Arcade room at Neverland to the National Enquirer tabloid; unfortunately, it was 1991 and, with Jackson seen more as an eccentric man-child whose love for children had yet to be considered sinister, the paper didn’t bite.
In an interview dated August 28, 1993 (cataloged two days later by the Los Angeles Bureau of Investigation and filed under receipt number 08860 by Det. Carlos Perez), Philip and Stella mentioned Jimmy:
STELLA: Yes. [Jimmy Safechuck] was there very often, but then he got too old and stopped coming to the ranch.
PHILIP: He would call all the time, but Michael would say, “Tell him I’m not here.” Then he’d smile about it.
PI: A sinister reaction. That’s dark and cold.
They repeated a similar story in the 2005 UK documentary Michael Jackson’s Boys, which turns out to be quite in-depth in its coverage of Jimmy Safechuck. Lemarque and Marcroft said the following about one weekend when Jimmy came to the Ranch and Jackson was nowhere to be found:
PHILIP: I set up the table like Michael is going to be there, you know, at dinner. And we did that for the whole weekend, but she said [looks at Stella] — (inaudible) —
STELLA: Yeah. He will not — he was not coming, yeah —
PHILIP: Yeah, he was not coming —
STELLA: Yeah, he was in Los Angeles.
PHILIP: Just don’t tell them he’s not coming, that’s all.
Later, they offered their reasoning:
STELLA: Too old.
PHILIP: Too old.
[Stella laughs and shrugs.]
Michael Jackson saw little need for James Safechuck — sexually or otherwise — with Brett Barnes around. But in 1993, when Jackson was accused of child molestation by Jordie Chandler, his most recently acquired ‘special friend’, he would need all of his previously cast-aside boys, and desperately so.
Under Anthony Pellicano’s orchestration, eleven-year-old Brett Barnes was plopped in front of TV cameras to speak out against Jordie in Jackson’s defense, though he let slip Jackson’s habit of sleeping in bed with young boys, himself included. Ten-year-old Wade Robson followed Brett’s lead, making similarly dubious statements about bed-sharing. But with absurd tales of a “really big bed” that was simply too wide for Jackson to have touched any of his boy-bedmates with a mere toe — let alone lecherous hands and other body parts — both boys’ media appearances backfired. The public must’ve found it peculiar that Jackson slept in bed with unrelated children at all.
Jimmy Safechuck, then fifteen, did not speak on television but was led by Jackson in the direction of his dream-team of lawyers. Jackson had groomed the Safechuck family into believing that “the claims were a complete extortion attempt by the Chandler family,” the Petition says. “Claimant’s parents believed Decedent, convinced that he could do no wrong.” It was decided: they would help.
Jackson’s long-standing insistence on secrecy about the sex proved effective on fifteen-year-old Jimmy. After meeting “with one of Decedent’s lawyers at his office … and [rehearsing] trial questions and testimony,” the boy went on to deny the abuse, as he’d been long conditioned to do, at a civil trial deposition organized by Chandler attorney Larry Feldman in November 1993.
That deposition testimony would become his only statement made in defense of Jackson. But considering the circumstances as alleged in James’s court filings, defending Jackson may have provided the broken and abused boy — still besotted with his pop idol — another opportunity to access Jackson’s affections, at least emotionally.
Several reports pre-dating James Safechuck’s filings in Probate Court gave the impression he’d been thrown off balance by his whirlwind relationship with Michael Jackson. A December 11, 1993 article in the now-defunct British newspaper Today wrote that Jimmy was damaged by having been “put on a pedestal” by Jackson and later knocked from it by newer boys. Michael Jackson Was My Lover (p. 146) cited police and court files noting that Jimmy was “a little screwed up in the head” because of Jackson’s sudden abandonment.
James’s filings appear to confirm these earlier reports.
Jackson continued to support the boy financially, the documents assert. He funded weekend filmmaking and directing lessons for James with professors and people in the industry, whom James names in his papers, which were a part of Jackson being there “to get [the Plaintiff’s] foot in the door.” (Today also reported on these lessons nearly twenty-one years prior to his filing.) James used the cover name “Jimmy Andrews” while working on Jackson’s 1994 HIStory teaser and 1995 video for “Earth Song”. But given the callous way Jackson dropped James for Brett Barnes in 1992, James’s sudden involvement in Jackson’s work or travels seemed more like an indebted quid pro quo following the sixteen-year-old’s helpful deposition the prior year than a genuine interest in the teenager.
Alternately, Jackson may have worried that if he failed to give “screwed up” Jimmy a little attention, the boy would crack and talk.
Then, at age 17, after these brief connections with his former friend, James’s ‘special friendship’ with Jackson all but vaporized. The exact full-stop on their relationship is not cited in his court filings, but, by that point, the calls had virtually stopped (at fourteen they’d slowed to a molasses drip), and Jackson had no reason to visit James for sex or platonic companionship, as the boy was well-beyond his prime. It was as he attended community college that James started to suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. When an attack would strike him, such as one time during a Spanish tutoring session, he had to excuse himself from wherever he was until he was calm and settled enough to rejoin the activity interrupted by the fear response. James says he had no idea what was wrong with him.
His strong suit wasn’t in filmmaking but in academics. However, with Jackson’s own single-minded interest in film — an interest he also impressed upon Wade Robson and later his son Prince Jackson — James alleges that his “unsophisticated” parents were lead to believe Jackson’s promises of James’s success in the movie business:
Decedent told Plaintiff’s parents that he did not need to go to college, and convinced them to remove him from his Advanced Placement (“AP”) classes…. In conversations with the Decedent about dropping AP classes, Plaintiff’s mother stated that her son would end up doing what the Decedent was doing in his career, to which the Decedent agreed, stating that day would come, and when the Plaintiff became a filmmaker, there would be a “line around the block” to see him.
(James Safechuck, though he started out as a child actor in TV commercials, would never become a filmmaker. Instead, because of his knowledge of mathematics, he is now a computer programmer with a deft touch for code and web design.)
Nearly ten years passed before Jackson made another self-serving appearance in James’s life.
Michael Jackson was staring down the barrel. In 1994, a multimillion-dollar settlement was all he needed, ultimately, to save his own skin. But with the laws in California changed to bar everything he did to impede a criminal filing, his Gavin Arvizo molestation trial would require a bit more effort if he wanted to remain a free man.
Again, Jackson would have to consult his Rolodex of former ‘special friends’. Prosecutors intended to imply Jackson had molested all of them under the 1108 evidentiary code. An 1108 ruling allowed the State to bring forth evidence of Jackson’s alleged ‘prior bad acts’, via victim and eyewitness testimony, that would lend credence to the allegations made presently against Jackson.
The alleged victims were seven former boys, now men: Jonathan Spence, Jimmy Safechuck, Jason Francia, Wade Robson, Macaulay Culkin, Brett Barnes, and Jordie Chandler.
Jordie Chandler refused to testify, saying he wanted to move on with his life; no doubt that revelation was a relief to the Defense. They’d worked feverishly to de-program the potential jury pool about Jackson’s enormous payout to Jordie, as well as block the Prosecution from noting the exact figures on the checks the Chandlers had received — they knew how all of it looked to rational people. But the Prosecution still had Jason Francia to bolster Gavin’s claims; he alleged Jackson had touched his testicles during tickling sessions and shoved hundred-dollar bills into his pockets as silencing tools. Later, June Chandler would testify as a Jordie substitute.
Jackson managed to convince Brett, Wade, and Macaulay to testify on his behalf — Brett offered, while the latter two men had to be subpoenaed. Jonathan Spence and Jimmy Safechuck were ultimately ‘no-shows’, though the back story remains unknown for only one of them.
Farcically and with zero self-awareness, Jackson called James, then in his mid-20s, several times throughout the trial in an attempt to get James on the stand to “deny everything that the cooks at Neverland said that they saw happen between Decedent and him,” his Petition says. The bid failed spectacularly.
On the first call, Jackson tried to soften James with chat about wanting to assist him with music, directing, and film; when James was a teen, Jackson had promised that “one day, we’re going to make movies together.” Jackson then made the request for James to testify in his defense; James declined.
Jackson became enraged, the Complaint says, and threatened his former ‘special friend’. James told Jackson “never to call him again, and that he wanted a normal life.” Jackson grew angrier at this, James remembers, and escalated his threats — he told James he’d “get [him] for perjury” for statements James had made under oath as a fifteen-year-old at his November 1993 deposition. Jackson was evidently fearful James would decide to tell the full version of their story for the Prosecution in lieu of cooperating in his defense, and attempted to intimidate him with invectives about jailing the boy he once ‘loved’. When the call concluded, James began to panic, his court filings say. He dreaded what his mother could learn about the aspect of he and Jackson’s relationship the star had made him keep secret.
It was an understandable fear for a young heterosexual man. Though Mark Quindoy died before getting to testify about what he’d seen on August 12, 1989, when Jackson caressed and fondled eleven-year-old Jimmy in the Neverland hot tub, chambermaid Blanca Francia was very much alive. She’d worked for Jackson long enough to see his boys from Spence through Culkin before quitting in 1991. She claimed to have seen Jackson and Jimmy in one of the ‘cancer-kids’ bedrooms in the Neverland theater, both shirtless with their waists and legs covered in a blanket.
James told his mother about the telephone call with Jackson, saying he would not testify for Jackson and that the star was a “bad man” — a vague descriptor that no doubt confused his mother, who, like other members of the Safechuck family, believed Jackson “could do no wrong.” In explaining his sudden and surprising rejection of Jackson to his mother but still sparing her the grimy particulars, James “was unable to tell her any details or say anything but the briefest statement that he had been abused.”
Jackson later called Mrs. Safechuck himself. He asked the mother not only to convince James to change his mind about testifying, but also if she and her husband would give under-oath testimony in his defense. Mrs. Safechuck kept her son’s secret, and apparently neither of the parents took Jackson up on his request.
Jackson’s lawyers and longtime assistant Evvy Tavasci made the second call to James, but he rebuffed their pleas by stating he wanted nothing more to do with Jackson.
The final call from Jackson, James remembers, seemed “rehearsed”, with Jackson’s tone reminding James of all the listening devices attached to phones at Neverland Ranch. It occurred near the end of the trial, perhaps at a moment when — in spite of his attorney Tom Mesereau’s confidence the Prosecution’s case was full of holes — Jackson feared for his freedom, a tacit acknowledgment that years of bad behavior may have finally caught up with the allegedly ‘smooth criminal’. He needed James. He apologized, James remembers, telling James he was “sorry for not being there for [the Plaintiff].” James suspected the phone call was being recorded and “the very sound of Decedent’s voice made him very uncomfortable and put him into panic mode.”
Jackson pressed, saying Gavin Arvizo — as he’d said about Jordie Chandler over a decade earlier — was only interested in money, but James resisted. He told Jackson “never to try to call or try to talk to him ever again” and hung up.
At trial, Tom Mesereau, arguing against 1108 witness testimony, stated the following on March 28, 2005 — eleven days after his cross-examination of Kiki Fournier where he stated James had been married at Neverland:
18 Six, Jimmy Safechuck, who we are informed
19 says nothing happened. They don’t propose to call
20 him as an alleged victim either, but they’ve got the
21 same old gang again coming in to try and capitalize
22 on the case, people who have been adjudged to be
23 liars, and they are. People who asked for money
24 from tabloids, who’ve asked for money from Mr.
25 Jackson, et cetera.
Of course, it remains uncertain when Jackson’s attorneys and Evvy Tavasci contacted James Safechuck — before or after Mesereau gave the above argument (Jonathan Spence was also alleged by the Defense to have said “nothing happened”). If Mesereau’s argument preceded that call, it was exceedingly premature for Mesereau to insist James’s feelings about Jackson were positive without having spoken to him. He’d already confused legions of Jackson’s admirers into believing Jimmy Safechuck had been married at Neverland.
But if his argument came after the call, it shows the Jackson team to be without any integrity, especially in the face of the ‘Neverland wedding’ claim that made Jackson and James seem on good terms.
Jackson was later acquitted.
Michael Jackson died four years after those disastrous calls. He was a shell of a man, beaten down by the excesses of fame and a lifetime of bad choices, both cosmetic and personal. A ‘freak’ by most honest accounts.
In remembering both the good and the bad, Jackson’s death was met with a confluence of shock, superficial mourning, and the type of lurid fascination that often yokes itself with most kinds of celebrity spectacle. Rumors that he was underweight, covered in bedsores and needle marks from stabs of Demerol, and had died without his allegedly detachable nose flowed in the press before his body was fully on ice.
For James Safechuck, the boy Jackson really had ‘thrown away’, his former friend’s passing left him conflicted. He “felt sad” at the realization that he and Jackson would never be able to have a “normal relationship” and that “his experiences with Decedent would never be resolved.” In spite of the abuse and the ugly note on which they last left, there were still pangs of guilty longing for the man who’d taken ten-year-old Jimmy’s innocence in order to rekindle his own — James had, in fact, “deeply loved and idolized” Jackson.
But James had a life to live as a married man — and never married at Neverland Ranch! — even if something lurked below the surface. As James says, despite his anxiety issues, he always tried to look as though he had “it together”, even if it was a farce in the innermost part of himself — he “just thought it was a part of who I was,” his Declaration says. Things unraveled when he began to have a family. While his wife was pregnant with their son in 2010, he was prescribed Xanax, a short-term drug ‘fix’ that masks anxiety by dulling its symptoms. Apparently it didn’t help and worries resurfaced; in late 2010 after his son was born, James “began to worry that he himself would have pedophilic urges.”
It was reported last year in the bottom-feeding online tabloid media that James experienced “pedophilic urges”, which morphed into gossip about his using anti-anxiety drugs to block nascent impulses so that he wouldn’t molest his own children. This overly-dramatic speculation, used intentionally to hurt James’s perception in favor of boosting Michael Jackson’s, was based upon the following poorly executed sentence from the Jackson Estate’s demurrer against James’s Petition:
Safechuck alleged that he became concerned about having pedophilic urges when his son was born and that he was prescribed Xanax during his wife’s pregnancy in 2010.
The Estate had (sloppily) summed up the facts as presented in James’s pleadings. The original source documents, however, do not at all support the idea that James Safechuck ever had so-called “pedophilic urges”. Instead, James was moved by the innocence of his children — their inherent and fragile vulnerability — and, with paranoid dread, his mind drifted to the worst case scenario. Though he may have pointed a finger at himself during his darkest ruminations, the documents do not comport with a notion that something constitutive about him would’ve ever put his son and daughter at risk.
But James kept these fears to himself. Outside of that quick admission to his mother in 2005, no one else knew, the documents insist, not even his wife who, no doubt, saw the consequences of his private struggle but didn’t know its cause.
As the story has been told since May 2014, Wade Robson’s confession triggered James’s longstanding panic and anxiety issues and nightmarish worries about what could happen to his own children, and, like a domino effect, those issues led him to seek treatment with a therapist.
James has been decimated by the abhorrent actions of the Decedent, the very person he loved deeply and idolized. He has been robbed of a normal childhood and left shattered as an adult to pick up the pieces of his life. He has suffered for years and continues to experience significant feelings of guilt; shame; self-hatred; low self-concept and self-esteem; the inability to trust others; distress and alienation in social situations; difficulty expressing intimacy, affection and sexuality; and has a negative view of people, especially men, and of the world. His life’s dreams and his sense of self in the world have been brutally compromised and his ability to be a secure and loving father and husband is at risk.
— Petition, p. 6
James Safechuck says quite poignantly in his filings that reflection on his experiences with Michael Jackson (a year and a half of pre-molestation grooming, roughly three years of abuse) and, especially, seeing his own kids, underscored to him that children were “blank slates”, that if told something was “[their] idea”, whatever occurred in that moment — after that false consent — seemed less bad than it was in reality. Jackson had told him, “You are teaching me,” “This was your idea, remember?”, and “This is how we show our love.” With the aid of a therapist, recognition of that kind of insidious grooming awakened James to the fact that what Jackson did to him “as a child” was “sick”, the documents reveal.
In fact, it is the ability to make those kinds of connections that will become the star issue in James’s case (Wade’s, too).
Because many victims were arguably too ‘well-groomed’ by their abusers to speak out, California law (CCP Section 340.1) recognizes that a victim’s cognition of a linkage between their psychological illness or injury and the sex abuse suffered is a crucial step in having the awareness to sue an abuser for damages, and it takes both time and often psychotherapeutic intervention to meet that litmus. If James Safechuck is to successfully file a late claim despite the statutory limits defined in Probate Code Section 9103 and CCP Section 366.2, he would have to convince the Judge: (a) that it was only with recent therapy — significantly after the administration of the Estate — that he could fully understand that the sexual abuse by Michael Jackson led to his “panic, depression, and anxiety”; and, importantly, using equitable estoppel, that (b) the delayed onset cognition of that abuse-injury linkage was due to Jackson’s brainwashing and threats that kept him silent.
But, however true, that is the argument the lawyers have to make.
As of this writing, James’s attorneys have been sent back to Start to file an amended petition with new (or stronger) arguments. According to news reports, the Judge was likely hung up on the incongruity between Safechuck attorney Maryann Marzano’s insistence in the Petition that “Claimant lacked any cognizance that his long-term childhood relationship with Decedent was filled with over 100 acts of sexual abuse, beginning at age 9-10 and lasting until he reached puberty — the acts giving rise to this claim — prior to late May 2013,” and the fact that James told his mother in 2005 that Jackson was a “bad man” who abused him.
Marzano clarified in her Declaration in Support of the filing that it was Jackson’s “brainwashing and intimidation techniques” that had blurred the “distinction between the sexual abuse and real love and affection” in the minds of both young Jimmy and adult James. He was made to believe “the sexual activity between a child and an adult [was] normal and that the child [was] responsible for the abusive behavior.” It was for this reason, Marzano argues, that James was unable to appreciate the serious, non-consensual nature of his relationship with Jackson until therapy demonstrated the causality between the sex abuse and his psychological suffering. The doctor who authored James’s Certificate of Merit and interviewed him for thirteen-and-a-half hours over four sessions came to a similar conclusion (she found him credible).
But the attorney has a history of conflating Wade Robson’s story with James’s, copying-and-pasting between the claims as if they both have the same underlying sets of facts. They don’t.
Because Marzano has argued identical positions for both men’s claims, namely that both didn’t realize until recently that they were abused (CCP Section 340.1, for the record, does not preclude an understanding that one was touched or fondled), the Judge understandably wondered how James Safechuck could have had two realizations: the first brief acknowledgement to his mother and the second fuller one with a therapist roughly eight years later.
Indeed, in terms of filing, that may be an important issue. But here in reality, away from court rules and red tape, the 2005 “bad man” reference seemed to be the tortured confession of a man worried his mother would learn his secret before he was ready to tell. He made a preemptive strike. Ironically, had Jackson not died of a propofol overdose, filing lawsuits against him for sex abuse would be extremely easy, and this writer suspects Jackson would settle with both James and Wade, as he did with Jordie Chandler over twenty years ago.
Though the law may turn out to be unforgiving of those filing late claims, James Safechuck’s story is utterly compelling and unimpeachable. I only wish that, back in 2011, when I tried without success to contact James to confirm the ‘Neverland wedding’ story, I had known his silence masked a dark and painful secret.
1. Though they both sat in the courtroom the entire trial, attempts at confirmation of James’s “Neverland wedding” with Maureen Orth and Diane Dimond back in 2011 yielded negative results. Mesereau’s quip about a ceremony at Jackson’s home didn’t even register with either journalist.
2. It is important to note how James Safechuck became a subject of Fournier’s testimony. During direct examination, Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss ran through a list of boys Fournier might have seen Jackson with during her approximate twelve-year tenure at the Ranch. James was one of them. Auchincloss then emphasized the age similarity of these boys; Fournier testified James appeared to be approximately ten to 13- or 14-years-old while he was visiting the Ranch, typical of nearly all of Jackson’s ‘special friends’. Perhaps in a maneuver to de-emphasize Jackson’s obvious sex and age preferences, Tom Mesereau then brought up James’s alleged “Neverland wedding”.
3. In my original 2011 investigation into the “Neverland wedding”, I came to the conclusion that because James Safechuck wasn’t married at Jackson’s Ranch, no ‘special friend’ wedding ever took place (at that time, there was little evidence disputing my findings). As of this writing nearly four years later, however, it has since been asserted that Mesereau “misspoke” during his questioning of Fournier, and actually meant to say that Jonathan Spence — rather than Jimmy Safechuck — had been married at Neverland Ranch. The source underscoring the idea of Mesereau’s “J.S.” switcheroo is Jonathan’s mother Marion Spence, who’d supposedly been contacted by one of Jackson’s admirers in July 2013.
Assuming this information is true, and Jonathan Spence had been married at Neverland at some as-yet-to-be-determined date (the fan failed to extract the exact date of the ceremony from Mrs. Spence), Mesereau possibly confused the two ‘special friends’ or was slipped the information by Jackson himself while Auchincloss was busy questioning Kiki Fournier — it could’ve even been Jackson who’d provided his attorney the wrong name. The latter could explain Mesereau’s conversations with Jackson biographer Randall Sullivan. The Untouchable author asked Mesereau about James’s alleged wedding at Neverland after reading this writer’s discoveries confirming that it never happened; Mesereau could not tell Sullivan where he’d heard the information about James. Alternately, Sullivan writes in his Chapter 10 Book Notes that, according to his own sources, he doubted James had ever been married at Neverland.
But if it was a Jonathan wedding and Mesereau is absolved of “lying” to protect his client, nothing would change for Jackson in James’s story. Jackson’s admirers will shift James’s previous usefulness as a ‘vindication tool’ onto Jonathan — though how important is a Neverland wedding in the face of a nude photo of Jonathan found in Jackson’s Hayvenhurst bedroom back in November 1993? James Safechuck, on the other hand, was the boy employees witnessed being molested, the boy Jackson abandoned, and the man now accusing his idol of abuse.
4. In an August 1993 report by caseworker Ann Rosato, Jordie Chandler’s mother June “acknowledged that she loved the attention paid to her by a star.” The Safechucks’ star-struck reaction to Jackson’s generosity is not unusual, even if it was part of what blinded them to his alleged misdeeds with Jimmy.
5. Jolie Levine is mentioned frequently in James Safechuck’s legal papers, which is expected given that she was his executive secretary for much of the time Jimmy was Jackson’s favored ‘special friend’. Specifically, she’s cited as making arrangements for the Safechucks on Jackson’s behalf. In a December 2004 motion regarding the admission of 1108 evidence at Jackson’s trial, Levine reportedly told investigators that, by her own eyewitness account, Jimmy Safechuck was very attached to Jackson.
6. No doubt much teeth-gnashing is to occur at the congruity between Jordie Chandler’s and James Safechuck’s sexual ‘codes’, as if the latter copied the former. A simpler explanation is that the congruity lies in the fact the originator of the words was the same person. Though “duck butter” for semen is the same, James’s version of Jackson’s reference to an erect penis — “bright light, brick city” — differs from Jordie’s “lights”, which was noted in in the boy’s October 1993 interview with a psychiatrist. James was told “bright light, brick city” was inspired by the film Bright Lights, Big City. Jackson evidently shortened the term to “lights” by the time he was with Jordie Chandler.
7. In Evan Chandler’s chronology, he reports that his son Nicholas (formerly known as “Nikki”) conferred to he and the boy’s mother Nathalie about whether “two boys” could get married. Nikki was then a five-year-old, and slept on the top bunk of a bunk-bed he and Jordie shared. At the time of his question, Michael Jackson also slept in the boys’ room, and Jordie later claimed Jackson sexually abused him in that bed while spending evenings at the Chandler home. It’s not difficult to conclude that Nikki Chandler bore witness to conversation or activities between Jordie and Jackson that triggered his curiosity. In seceding months, according to Evan Chandler, Nikki told his parents, “Michael Jackson is bad. He did bad things to Jordie.” Interestingly, in Randall Sullivan’s book Untouchable (p. 529), Nicholas and Jordie’s half-sister Emmanuelle were said to have seethed with animosity at Jackson during a Thanksgiving dinner party in 2009, according to a source of Sullivan’s who was there, and “couldn’t speak his name without cursing him.” They believed Jackson had both violated their brother and destroyed their family, the author wrote.
8. When Jordie Chandler told Dr. Richard Gardner that Jackson believed he was Peter Pan and was attempting to relive his childhood, the child abuse expert was perplexed at the inexplicable psychological dualism of Jackson’s desire for both young boys and never growing up. Gardner wondered if Jackson had been sexually abused and, therefore, had sexualized childhood:
DR. GARDNER: You say, psychologically, he believed he was a child? When you were with him — you described the video games — he would play with you child games. Did he ever give any explanation as to why he did that?
JORDIE: Because he’s, like, when he was young, like my age, his father would continuously make him work, and like, his father would like beat him and stuff, and he’s trying to relive what he didn’t have as a young boy. Peter Pan is his idol.
DR. GARDNER: Why is that?
JORDIE: Because Peter Pan is forever young, and he goes on adventures and stuff.
DR. GARDNER: He could relive all the experiences he didn’t have, but what about the sexual part? How does that fit into reliving? Did he say he had sexual experiences of any kind as a child with some older person?”
JORDIE: No, not that I know of.
9. Based on the statute scheme as listed in CCP Section 340.1 and pattern recognition through comparisons with Wade Robson’s Complaint, from which the lawyers frequently copy-and-paste, it was easy to glean, through the redactions, what James Safechuck alleged against Jackson: 266j; “lewd and lascivious acts”: 288(a) and 288(b)(1); “oral copulation”: 288a(b)(1), 288a(b)(2), 288a(c)(1), 288a(c)(2)(A), 288a(c)(2)(B), 288a(c)(2)(C), and 288a(c)(3); “sexual penetration”: 289(h), 289(i), and 289(j); “molesting or annoying a child”: 647.6. He was spared anal sodomy.
10. Bill Dworin said of the 1993 Neverland raid: “We knew they had time to prepare. And, uh, our feeling was — it’s a strong possibility that something was removed. There was one room dedicated to Jackson’s videotape collection. And, he had bookcases — built in bookcases, and one section of those bookcases there was (sic) no videotapes.” Diane Dimond wrote in her book Be Careful Who You Love (p. 71) that sources informed her the items inside the briefcase and suitcase confiscated by Gary Hearne were “pornographic magazines and videos”.
11. The Mirror tabloid dubbed boys’ names in a story featuring Lemarque and Marcroft’s interview with an investigator. Based on their employment at the Ranch, during approximately 1990 – 1991, “Boy C” is likely James Safechuck, as I’ve amended above. “Boy A” was Macaulay Culkin; “Boy B” is unknown, though it may have been Wade Robson.