It was the first allegation of abuse against Michael Jackson, dating back to 1993, a case settled not in court, but with a checkbook. Were the claims a shakedown or the truth? NBC’s Josh Mankiewicz has an exclusive, inside look at that explosive case with new details and audio tapes the public has never heard.
Boy’s father: "I was taken in by him when I met him because of who I thought he was, which was an asexual, kind, loving, generous, humble genius."
Those words were spoken by a man who has never before spoken publicly.
Boy’s father: "At some points I hated him, and some points I loved him. Some points he was cruel and some points he was kind."
He's the man (Dateline is not sharing his name) whose then 13-year-old son made accusations of sexual molestation back in 1993 against Michael Jackson.
Boy’s father: “He's a sick guy and not only is he a sick guy but he's a sick nice guy. He does a lot of good for a lot of kids."
Jackson denied the charges, and in turn accused the boy and his father of trying to extort money from him. It was a vicious war of words that ended with a huge out-of-court settlement.
But in the end, that settlement only fueled more questions. If you've followed this case, you know that this became a legal and public relations struggle. But early on, it was one father's struggle. Now, for the first time that boy's father talks about his son's relationship with Michael Jackson, about what the father knew and when, and about the decision to settle the allegations with a check instead of with a trial. That comes not from third parties or court records, but from the father's own lips, from portions of private audio tapes that have never before been heard outside his family.
Ray Chandler had no part of the multimillion dollar deal between his brother's family and Michael Jackson, but he was at his older brother's side as the scandal broke, and he sometimes recorded private conversations between the two as the family was pulled deeper and deeper into the international fury. Ray says his brother knew the conversations were being recorded because even then, Ray Chandler was laying the groundwork for a book.
Mankiewicz: “You tape recorded a number of conversations with your brother?”
Chandler: “There were some conversations that we taped in order to preserve ideas in order to preserve what had happened.
Using notes, documents, and those recordings he says he made in 1993, before his family's settlement with Jackson, Ray Chandler has written and self-published "All That Glitters: The Crime and the Coverup,” the story of his family's struggle with Michael Jackson, including details never before reported.
Mankiewicz: “Did your brother ghostwrite this book?”
Chandler: “Absolutely not.”
Chandler says his nephew had worshipped Jackson since he was a small child. He would mimic the singer's signature moves years before he would accuse Jackson of molesting him.A chance meeting in late 1992 spawned a friendship between the boy and Jackson, and by early 1993, the two started spending a lot of time together.
Mankiewicz: “Most parents would find it kind of unfathomable that this international superstar wanted to hang out with their boy.”
Mankiewicz: “And this didn't seem particularly weird to either your brother or his ex-wife who had custody?”
Chandler: “There was a sort of pulling back and forth. Well, there's something weird about it, but then again you know he's with his mom. I trust his mom. They're telling me everything's okay.”
According to Chandler, the father put aside any qualms he might have had. At the time, few questioned Michael Jackson's devotion to children.
Boy’s father: "He's child-like, he's a child, nothing to fear. You put that together with the way he looks… And you feel sorry for him. And you know that because he tells you that he grew up an intensely lonely person.”
As the relationship progressed, Chandler says Michael Jackson lavished gifts and exotic travel on both mother and son. Soon, the super-rich entertainer left his own phenomenal mansion and started spending many nights at the boy's mother's suburban home -- sharing the child's bedroom.
Chandler: “And you know, the boy would go off to school. Michael would go off to do what Michael did and they'd all come home at the end of the day and have dinner and watch TV. And then Michael and the boy would go into the boy's bedroom at night and do what they did in there.”
Mankiewicz: “And the mother would not flinch?”
Chandler: “Apparently not.”
Mankiewicz: “It seems bizarre that any parent would allow a child to sleep with a 35-year-old man who is not a relation.”
Chandler: “She said you know, when the door is closed you don't know what is going on behind there. And I trusted him.”
Mankiewicz: “Isn't it a parent's job to not just take somebody else's word for what's going on behind that closed door?”
Chandler: “I agree with you.”
But remember, Ray Chandler wasn't there and neither was the boy's father. His mother had custody and Chandler says she apparently bought Jackson's explanation that his relationship with her son was innocent. The mother has declined to speak with Dateline.
It wasn't long before the superstar wanted to be a house-guest at the father's home, too. The father was a licensed dentist who had done some work as a screenwriter on the film "Robin Hood, Men in Tights" and soon he too was caught in the spell of a man-child revered by fans around the world. Was this a friendship or a seduction?
Boy's father: "Here he was, this kind of genius, just sitting in my house. Michael and I sitting on the couch talking about Peter Pan movie and how Michael's going to bring back the musical and that he thought I had enormous amount of talent. He loved my ideas and everything and we would write together and this whole thing.”
But Ray Chandler says the flattery and his own ambition didn't completely overwhelm his brother's better judgment and he did ask the 35-year-old celebrity sleeping in his 13-year-old son's bedroom a question that might already seem obvious to many parents.
Chandler: “He asked Jackson if there was a physical part to the relationship. Michael denies it and you know Michael says you know, ‘I like children.’”
Mankiewicz: “And he bought it.”
Chandler: “Absolutely, he believed Michael was telling him the truth.”
But as the book tells it, one night the father would learn what a mistake he'd made. As the boy and the famous guest slept, Chandler says the boy's father opened the bedroom door to check on everyone. He saw his son, not on his own bunk, but in Jackson's bed. The star's hand was resting on the boy’s crotch on the outside of the covers.
Chandler: “That was a key defining moment in my brother's take on what was going on here.”
Mankiewicz: “Later in the book, you say, he looked in the mirror and said, ‘You're a fool.’"
Chandler: “Right after he realized that he'd been played.”
Chandler says his brother finally understood what had been happening. He suddenly realized that the friendship, the star's attention, the international travel and the money that flowed through all of that might have another purpose.
Boy's father: "I am just beginning to see it right now as we speak. These things are -- were all nagging me but I'm not taking any action based on them."
Ray Chandler: "Well because no one side is strong enough to cause you to act on it."
Boy's father: "So somebody might fault me for not having put a stop to it right then and there".
Ray Chandler: "Absolutely"
Boy's father: "And maybe I was wrong. In retrospect, obviously I was.”
What he was certain about was that Michael Jackson was now making a deliberate effort to drive a wedge between father and son. The boy had stopped seeing his friends, and had stopped coming by to see his father. He only wanted to spend time with Jackson, the star he had long idolized.
Chandler says the father believed the boy's mother wasn't doing enough to protect their son, and so he tried to get custody of the boy himself. It was during that legal battle, Chandler says, that the boy finally told his dad that Michael Jackson had not only molested him, but also warned that if he ever told any one, Jackson would go to jail and the boy would be sent to juvenile hall.
In his book "All That Glitters", Chandler writes how an angry dad and his terrified child confronted Michael Jackson at a Los Angeles hotel. Jackson denied any abuse, but the father says the body language of both his son and the star told a different story.
Boy's father: "It wasn't really until I saw him look into [my son's] eyes. [My son] was no different than a little fawn out in the woods at night that gets caught in the headlights. You could see the fear in the eyes anybody could see that and for Michael to look at him with that remorseless grin on his face and say he didn't do anything, right in [my son's] face a foot away.”
But despite that, the boy's father didn't go to police because he says he feared it would subject his son to the worldwide publicity that would surely follow.
Mankiewicz: “I just find it hard to understand how when your son admits to you, yeah this guy has been molesting me, and whether his name is Michael Jackson or Michael Jones why the next call you make isn't to the police saying I have evidence of a crime.”
Chandler: ‘Well, the boy's mother is going to deny it, Michael's going to deny it. Nobody is going to believe me.”
Mankiewicz: "One of the things that comes out in your book is that your brother was sort of more worried about the estrangement from his family at the hands of Michael Jackson than he was that his son might be having sex with Michael Jackson.”
Chandler: “Initially. Initially yes, because that's what he saw as happening.”
Mankiewicz: “But estrangement from family, not a crime, sex with children, crime.”
Chandler: “Well right. That's true, but again, he didn't know about the sex and didn't know that they were sleeping together on this consistent basis.”
Chandler says the father finally came to believe that Michael Jackson had seduced an entire family -- the parents into ignoring their responsibilities and their son into a sexual relationship.
Chandler: “My nephew loved this idol, this star. You know he went along with the sexual stuff because, I mean he said it was really, really uncomfortable for him, but Michael would cry. Michael would tell him it's okay.”
In his book, Chandler argues that father and son at first cooperated with a criminal investigation, even after they settled their civil suit with Jackson. But as time wore on, criminal charges against Jackson were never filed, and the family received numerous death threats.
Chandler says the boy and his father asked to be placed in the witness-protection program and that when that request was denied, the family stopped cooperating with investigators.
In the end, Jackson vigorously denied any guilt but did pay a reported $25 million settlement. He has repeatedly said he could never harm any child and that he settled out of concern for his own family if the case went to court. Ray Chandler says that settlement was meant to send a message.
Chandler: “The purpose of it really is not only to compensate for whatever damage it's caused to people but also if it's high enough to punish the person who did this.”
The huge sum and the secrecy surrounding it brought criticism that the family and especially the father had made up the allegations for cash, a blatant case of extortion. Add to that the fact that the settlement negotiations included a discussion about Michael Jackson providing the opportunity for the father to write screenplays, and it was easy for the Jackson camp to claim this was all about money.
Back in 1993, Jackson's representatives released portions of a taped conversation in which the boy's father talked to his son's stepfather about Michael Jackson, a man the father now saw differently.
Stepfather: I mean do you think he's a bad guy?
Father: He's an evil guy. He's worse than bad. If I go through with this I win big time. There's no way I lose. I will get everything I want, and they will be totally -- they will be destroyed forever.”
Mankiewicz: “Those don't sound like remarks coming from a father whose primary concern is his son's welfare.”
Chandler: “If you look at the rest of the tape, he's saying 'And she will lose custody of the boy.’ If my brother wanted money, and that was his goal from Michael Jackson, he could have gotten a lot more money and a lot further in Hollywood by letting Michael continue a relationship with the boy.”
The family denied money was ever a motive in making the allegations. Police investigated and never brought any extortion charges, but the damage to the father's reputation was done.
Mankiewicz: “With this book you're cleaning up your brother's reputation a little bit.”
Chandler: “Well yeah I suppose that's true. I mean, I'm just telling the facts.”
Mankiewicz: “I can guarantee you it's going to be asked by the Jackson camp whether this is just your way of cashing in.”
Chandler: “Well look, you know, if money were my motive, I could have gone to a major publisher and gotten a big fat advance. But if I had done that, I wouldn't be able to publish the book that I wanted to publish.”
Mankiewicz: “Because a major publisher wouldn't have been willing to put in print the charges that your are making?”
Chandler: “When it comes to Michael Jackson, people are still afraid.”
Ray Chandler says he's no longer close to his brother, because of a family disagreement unrelated to Michael Jackson. But Chandler says other family members tell him that today the boy's father is alone and in ill health, close to only one person -- his son. Those tapes from years ago still seem to reflect a parent's regret that the sparkle of a superstar blinded him to the welfare of his boy.
Boy’s father: "But Michael is as clever and brilliant as you can get and I think he's an extremely intelligent human being."
Chandler: "Well that's what the devil really is. The devil acts like God but fools you."
Boy's father: “"Michael Jackson is the devil in God's clothes, [my son] says.”