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Conspiracy in Michael Jackson case?

They're linked to Michael Jackson not by family or fame, although they could soon be among the best-known of his extended circle of friends and associates. They're the unindicted co-conspirators in the case against Jackson. Dateline has an exclusive inside look at this group -- and what some are saying could be behind that charge of conspiracy.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

They're linked to Michael Jackson not by family or fame, although they could soon be among the best-known of his extended circle of friends and associates. They're the unindicted co-conspirators in the case against Jackson. Dateline has an exclusive inside look at this group -- and what some are saying could be behind that charge of conspiracy.

It began with a now famous statement in the Martin Bashir documentary last year.

Jackson: "Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone.”

It exploded into a criminal prosecution for child molestation. Now there is a bombshell charge that may change the course of this case: conspiracy. Prosecutors say Michael Jackson and at least five of his associates plotted to commit extortion, child abduction and false imprisonment. The question is, did they hatch a plan to keep the accuser and his family under wraps -- even scheme to ship them out of the country to keep them quiet?

In February 2003, when that controversial Bashir documentary launched an avalanche of bad publicity for Jackson, by almost all accounts the Jackson camp began to scramble to repair the damage to the singer's image. And new details are emerging about what happened in those critical days.

International journalist Daphne Barak has unprecedented access to Jackson's inner circle. She says in the days after the documentary aired some in Jackson's camp were very concerned that the boy seen holding the singer's hand in the documentary and his mother would become a problem.

Daphne Barak: “Two of my sources said that she is threatening to go to the tabloids.”

Hoda Kotb: “And what were they afraid, particularly afraid, that she'd talk to the tabloids about it?”

Barak: “At that point it was a huge scandal already, Michael sleeping with kids. And it was post Martin Bashir documentary. Everybody was discussing it. And of course, I mean, anything she went to the tabloids with would not be very flattering, whatever it is.”

But sources close to the accuser's family deny that. They say she never made that threat. In fact, several sources say it was the family who was threatened by people in Jackson's camp. The sources say Jackson associates actually moved the accuser's family out of their apartment and into Neverland ranch where they were held as virtual prisoners. They say intimidation by Jackson's people became a way of life.

Bill Dickerman: “It was on a daily basis or almost daily basis involving surveillance, following around with a video camera, near brushes with an automobile if I recall.”

Bill Dickerman is an attorney the accuser's family turned to for help. He spoke to Dateline before the judge issued a gag order in the case.

Dickerman: "I can't speak about what was in Jackson's and his henchmen's minds or in whoever was running the show. But if it were happening to me, I would expect or suspect that it was an intention to keep me quiet, to keep me scared, to not go to the police.”

Sources close to the accuser's family also say not only were they prevented at times from leaving Neverland, but there was actually a plan to fly them out of the country to Brazil. Was that also to keep them quiet?

Details of the indictment against Jackson are sealed. NBC chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams explains the role Jackson's five associates listed as unindicted co-conspirators might have played.

Abrams: “It seems pretty clear that prosecutors are saying that these five conspired with Michael Jackson  to prevent the child and his mother from going to certain places, that they conspired to take certain property from them by force or fear. But remember, the five aren't actually charged. It's just Michael Jackson who's charged.”

So who are the five unindicted co-conspirators? According to sources they are Dieter Wiesner, a former business manager now living in Germany; Ronald Konitzer, a one-time Jackson financial advisor who lives in Canada; Mark Schaffel, a producer of pornographic films and a Jackson charity concert; Frank Tyson, a former personal assistant; and Vinnie Amen, caught on camera by the TV show “Celebrity Justice,” used to work at Jackson's production company.

Attorney Joe Tacopina, who represents Tyson and Amen, says his clients never intimidated anybody.

Tacopina: "Frank never threatened anyone in that family. The guy's about  5'5", 130 pounds. You know, sweetheart, intelligent, soft and gentle, not someone who's prone to be a tough guy." 

And what about that planned trip to South America  the accuser's family says it never wanted to take?

Kotb: “Some are contending that hey, we want to shut that family up so let's get them out of the country and send them off to Brazil.”

Tacopina: “That's just not true. The mother wanted to take her family away to Brazil for a whole host of reasons including just getting away for a while.”

The other three alleged co-conspirators also deny any wrong doing. One of them, Jackson's former business manager, Dieter Wiesner spoke about it for the first time on camera with Barak.

Barak: “You found out a few days ago that there might be legal complications for you.”

Deiter Wiesner: “I'm really not scared, really not, at all.”

Barak: “But were you surprised?”

Wiesner: “Yeah, of course, of course surprised.”

Barak: “Is that the most difficult time for you recently?”

Wiesner: “No, I'm not scared. I did nothing wrong. Why I should be scared?”

Barak: “But I'm sure you're not comfortable with this.”

Wiesner: “No. Nobody can be comfortable with things like this.”

Jackson isn't talking, but has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His father, Joe Jackson, is talking along with his own newly hired attorney Deborah Opri.

Deborah Opri: “Just because there are conspirators or alleged conspirators doesn’t make Michael Jackson part of the conspiracy.”

Joe Jackson: “Michael doesn't know anything about a conspiracy. He's never done anything wrong at all.”

But these new charges may represent a major shift in the case, and could reveal part of the prosecution's strategy.

Kotb: “So is the goal here then to get those five to sort of flip on Michael Jackson? To tell everything about it?”          

Abrams: “Yeah. The fact that those five remain unindicted and that Michael Jackson has been indicted, you’ve got to believe that the prosecutors would love to get one of them to come forward and say, here's the deal, here's how it happened."

Kotb: “Is it easier for the prosecution to prove the conspiracy charge against Michael Jackson or is it easier to prove lewd and lascivious charges?”

Abrams: “I think it would generally be easier to prove the conspiracy but more importantly it allows them to bring in a whole host of other types of witnesses, when you are talking about the lewd and lascivious acts they have to prove that Michael Jackson did x, y or z to the boy.”

Kotb: “It's a he-said, he-said.”

Abrams: “Exactly.”

In the end prosecutors could be increasing their odds, opening two fronts against Jackson, charging him with the crime and now the conspiracy.