Michael Jackson abuse claims: Timeline of allegations as Leaving Neverland documentary released

The first allegations against the singer date back to 1993

Jack Shepherd
Wednesday 06 March 2019 15:00
Oprah Winfrey asks Michael Jackson accuser why he continued to associate with the star

Leaving Neverland centres on two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, accusing Michael Jackson of grooming, sexually assaulting and raping them as children.

While the four-hour documentary has brought the allegations against Jackson back into the public eye, the singer has been associated with accusations of sexual assault for over 25 years.

Here’s a comprehensive timeline of the allegations against Jackson.

Early 1992: Michael Jackson meets Jordan Chandler

Jackson breaks down on a Los Angeles motorway. He calls a Rent-A-Car agency, who come with a car. After realising who the client is, the business’s owner calls his wife, June Chandler, who proceeds to drive to meet Jackson with her six-year-old daughter and her 12-year-old son, Jordan Chandler. Jackson and the family strike up a friendship and exchange numbers.

Over the next few months, Jackson begins phoning Jordan Chandler and eventually invites June, Jordan and Jordan’s sister to the Neverland Ranch.

May 1993: First reports of Jackson befriending the Chandler family

Jackson and the Chandler family’s relationship reaches the press. The National Enquirer reports a source claiming Jackson said: “The four of us are like a little family. We all have so much fun together that it’s ecstasy.” Their trips to Disneyland and shopping sprees in Toys R Us are mentioned. Jackson reportedly phones the family four times a day and shares a hotel suite with them in Los Angeles.

August 1993: Jordan Chandler accuses Jackson of sexual assault

Chandler, now 13 years old, graphically describes – first to a psychiatrist and then to the police – how Jackson allegedly repeatedly sexually molested him. According to Chandler’s lawyer, Larry Feldman, Chandler alleges that Jackson engaged with him in oral sex and masturbation.

Later that month, KNBC in Los Angeles reports a police investigation is ongoing. Publications around the world soon pick up the news.

Jackson, on his Dangerous World Tour, has his private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, host a press conference. “For years I have been working for Michael, who unfortunately has been the victim of this and other extortion attempts,” Pellicano says, adding that a $20 million demand has been made by the Chandler family.

Jackson’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, reads a statement from Jackson, who denies the allegations and says that an investigation will find no wrongdoing. The details of Chandler’s allegations then leak to the press, to which Jackson responds by saying there’s no physical evidence.

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September 1993: Jordan Chandler’s parents file a lawsuit against Jackson

While Jackson’s on tour in Moscow, Chandler’s parents sue the pop singer for “repeatedly committing sexual battery”. They accuse Jackson of performing oral sex and masturbating Chandler. The Jackson estate continues to hold that the family are attempting to extort the singer, and cite alleged recordings of conversations between Chandler’s father and step-father.

December 1993: A former maid makes allegations while Jackson is strip searched

Blanca Francia, a former maid of Jackson’s, gives a high-profile interview on the tabloid show Hard Copy. She claims to have witnessed Jackson showering with boys, although her disposition to police reportedly counters this.

Five days later and police conduct a strip search on Jackson. They take photos of Jackson’s naked body to verify Chandler’s description of his penis. Jackson’s friend John Randy Taraborrelli says years later that the incident “broke” the singer.

Michael Jackson performs during halftime at Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl in California on 31 January 1993

Jackson cancels his final tour dates and appears on television. Speaking from Neverland Ranch, Jackson denies any wrongdoing and criticises the media storm around the allegations. “They served a search warrant on me, which allowed them to view and photograph my body, including my penis, buttocks, my lower torso, thighs, and any other area that they wanted,” he says. “It was the most humiliating ordeal of my life.”

During this time, Jackson’s camp also start asking young boys to testify on television. One, Wade Robson, tells CNN that the “slumber parties” were harmless. James Safechuck, who appeared with Jackson on a Pepsi advert in 1987, also gives a sworn testimony in support of Jackson.

January 1994: Jackson settles the case

On the 24 January, a prosecutor rules that there is no evidence to show that the Chandler family were attempting to extort Jackson. On the 25 January, Chandler and Jackson’s lawyer come to a settlement and the civil lawsuit ends. A report 10 years later claims that Jackson paid over $20 million to settle, with $15 million going into a trust for Chandler, $1.5 million to each of his parents, and $5 million to lawyers.

“The resolution of this case is in no way an admission of guilt by Michael Jackson,” his legal team says.

Later that year, the Chandler family and the prosecutors decide not to file criminal charges. Reports emerge that two other alleged victims have been identified by prosecutors but neither wants to come forward.

Jackson is never charged with any misdemeanour. Jackson responds in a statement: “I am thankful that the investigation has reached a conclusion. I continually maintained my innocence. I am grateful to all my family, friends and fans who have stood by me and also believed in my innocence.”

February 2003: Living With Michael Jackson

Journalist Martin Bashir visits Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for an in-depth documentary about the singer’s life. The result is Living With Michael Jackson, which is broadcast on ITV in February 2003.

Bashirt bringst up the allegations against Jackson and discusses his ongoing friendships with children, including Gavin Arvizo. Arvizo is a cancer patient who was diagnosed with just weeks to live in 2000. He had requested to meet his hero, Jackson, and the singer obliged.

In the documentary, Jackson and Arvizo discuss sharing a room at the Neverland Ranch. They are specifically questioned about one night where Jackson insists he slept on the floor, while Arvizo was in the bed. Bashir later questions Jackson on his own, and he defends himself by saying he previously slept in bed with Macaulay and Kieran Culkin, insisting it is “not sexual”.

Jackson responds to the documentary by saying: “Today I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before; that someone who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could then sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair [programme].”

November 2003: Police arrest and charge Jackson

Michael Jackson as he leaves the Santa Barbara County Courthouse after a day of his child molestation trial on 23 May, 2005 in Santa Maria, California. (Photo by Phil Klein-Pool/Getty Images)

Following Living With Michael Jackson, people once again question Jackson’s relationships with children. The police open an investigation and raid Neverland Ranch in November. The next day, an arrest warrant for Jackson is issued on multiple counts of child molestation. Jackson’s lawyer denies any wrongdoing by the singer and, after being detained for an hour, Jackson is freed on a $3 million bond.

A month later, Jackson is formally charged for seven counts of child molestation and two of intoxicating minors. Jackson’s lawyer says the accusers are driven by “money and revenge”. The crimes are dated to after Bashir’s documentary.

2004: A Grand Jury indicts Jackson

A grand jury hears testimony from Living With Michael Jackson interviewee Gavin Arvizo, his relatives, and other witnesses. The hearing concludes with additional charges against Jackson, including false imprisonment, extortion, and multiple counts of attempting lewd acts with a minor.

2005: Jackson’s criminal trial begins

The trial begins on the 28 February and garners global attention. Arvizo, 14-years-old, alleges Jackson masturbated him. His brother claims to have witnessed the abuse and says Jackson also gave them wine, calling the alcohol “Jesus Juice”. Blanca Francia, the same housemaid who spoke out in 1993, testifies to seeing Jackson shower naked with Wade Robson. Her son, Jason Farncia, claims to have also been molested on three occasions by Jackson between the ages of seven and 10.

Jackson makes headlines with his erratic behaviour (including wearing pyjamas to court) and by bringing celebrities to testify towards his characters (such Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin, who was 24 years old during the trial).

Robson, now a famed choreographer, testifies to sleeping at Jackson’s Ranch more than 20 times and says he was never abused. The Jackson estate calls into question Arvizo’s account of what happened, saying the timeline does not fit.

On the 14 June, the jury finds Jackson not guilty on all counts. Speaking to press after the case, one juror says they were unconvinced by the Arvizo family’s testimony, with one saying of the child’s mother allowing Arvizo to stay in Jackson’s bedroom: ”What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen?”

2013: Wade Robson sues Jackson’s estate

Michael Jackson with the Robson family

Four years after Jackson’s death and Robson – who previously testified for Jackson – sues the estate, saying the singer molested him for seven years, from when he was seven years old. Robson says he was “brainwashed” by Jackson to testify for him, although the estate say his past statements ruin his credibility.

“I was psychologically and emotionally completely unable and unwilling to understand that it was sexual abuse,” he claims on a television broadcast. “Michael was, yes, an incredibly talented artist with an incredible gift. And he was also a paedophile and a child sexual abuser.”

2014: James Safechuck comes forward

Safechuck, who also previously testified for Jackson, comes forward with new claims against Jackson. He claims to have been abused “hundreds” over a four year period, beginning when he was four-years-old. Safechuck likewise says that therapy helped him come to terms with the alleged abuse. The claims are denied by the Jackson estate.

2015-2017: Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits are dismissed

Robson’s initial lawsuit is dismissed in 2015 for being filed too late. A year later, Robson files an amended complaint, claiming MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures are both “child sexual abuse operations”.

“The thinly veiled, covert second purpose of these businesses was to operate as a child sexual abuse operation, specifically designed to locate, attract, lure and seduce child sexual abuse victims,” the complaint by Robson’s attorney reads. Safechuck later files an amendment, claiming the two companies enabled sex abuse.

The lawsuits from Robson and Safechuck are both dismissed, on the grounds that neither company could affect Jackson’s behaviour.

2019: Leaving Neverland

Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed and produced by Channel 4 and HBO, debuts at Sundance Film Festival. The four-hour documentary features Robson and Safechuck alleging sexual assault at the hands of Jackson. The Jackson estate calls Leaving Neverland a “public lynching”. They seek to sue HBO for $100 million.

“Ten years after his passing, there are still those out to profit from his enormous worldwide success and take advantage of his eccentricities,” the estate says. “Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself, and the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are.”

HBO broadcast the first part of Leaving Neverland on the 4 March. The documentary airs in two parts in the UK on Channel 4, on 6 and 7 March at 9pm. Read more about the documentary here.