Five days after Abrams called the authorities, the media got wind of the investigation. On Sunday morning, August 22, Don Ray, a free-lance reporter in Burbank, was asleep when his phone rang. The caller, one of his tipsters, said that warrants had been issued to search Jackson's ranch and condominium. Ray sold the story to L.A.'s KNBC-TV, which broke the news at 4 P.M. the following day.
After that, Ray "watched this story go away like a freight train," he says. Within twenty-four hours, Jackson was the lead story on seventy-three TV news broadcasts in the Los Angeles area alone and was on the front page of every British newspaper.
The extent of the allegations against Jackson wasn't known until August 25. A person inside the DCS illegally leaked a copy of the abuse report to Diane Dimond of Hard Copy. Within hours, the L.A. office of a British news service also got the report and began selling copies to any reporter willing to pay $750. The following day, the world knew about the graphic details in the leaked report. "While laying next to each other in bed, Mr. Jackson put his hand under [the child's] shorts," the social worker had written. From there, the coverage soon demonstrated that anything about Jackson would be fair game.
"Competition among news organizations became so fierce," says KNBC reporter Conan Nolan, that "stories weren't being checked out. It was very unfortunate." The National Enquirer put twenty reporters and editors on the story. One team knocked on 500 doors in Brentwood trying to find Evan Chandler and his son. Using property records, they finally did, catching up with Chandler in his black Mercedes. "He was not a happy man. But I was," said Andy O'Brien, a tabloid photographer.
Next came the accusers -- Jackson's former employees. First, Stella and Philippe Lemarque, Jackson' ex-housekeepers, tried to sell their story to the tabloids with the help of broker Paul Barresi, a former porn star. They asked for as much as half a million dollars but wound up selling an interview to The Globe of Britain for $15,000. The Quindoys, a Filipino couple who had worked at Neverland, followed. When their asking price was $100,000, they said " 'the hand was outside the kid's pants,' " Barresi told a producer of Frontline, a PBS program. "As soon as their price went up to $500,000, the hand went inside the pants. So come on." The L.A. district attorney's office eventually concluded that both couples were useless as witnesses.
Next came the bodyguards. Purporting to take the journalistic high road, Hard Copy's Diane Dimond told Frontline in early November of last year that her program was "pristinely clean on this. We paid no money for this story at all." But two weeks later, as a Hard Copy contract reveals, the show was negotiating a $100,000 payment to five former Jackson security guards who were planning to file a $10 million lawsuit alleging wrongful termination of their jobs.
On December 1, with the deal in place, two of the guards appeared on the program; they had been fired, Dimond told viewers, because "they knew too much about Michael Jackson's strange relationship with young boys." In reality, as their depositions under oath three months later reveal, it was clear they had never actually seen Jackson do anything improper with Chandler's son or any other child:
"So you don't know anything about Mr. Jackson and [the boy], do you?" one of Jackson's attorneys asked former security guard Morris Williams under oath.
"All I know is from the sworn documents that other people have sworn to."
"But other than what someone else may have said, you have no firsthand knowledge about Mr. Jackson and [the boy], do you?"
"Have you spoken to a child who has ever told you that Mr. Jackson did anything improper with the child?"
When asked by Jackson's attorney where he had gotten his impressions, Williams replied: "Just what I've been hearing in the media and what I've experienced with my own eyes."
"Okay. That's the point. You experienced nothing with your own eyes, did you?"
"That's right, nothing."
(The guards' lawsuit, filed in March 1994, was still pending as this article went to press.)
Note: The case was thrown out of court in July 1995. The Press Reports.
Next came the maid. On December 15, Hard Copy presented "The Bedroom Maid's Painful Secret." Blanca Francia told Dimond and other reporters that she had seen a naked Jackson taking showers and Jacuzzi baths with young boys. She also told Dimond that she had witnessed her own son in compromising positions with Jackson -- an allegation that the grand juries apparently never found credible.
A copy of Francia's sworn testimony reveals that Hard Copy paid her $20,000, and had Dimond checked out the woman's claims, she would have found them to be false. Under deposition by a Jackson attorney, Francia admitted she had never actually see Jackson shower with anyone nor had she seen him naked with boys in his Jacuzzi. They always had their swimming trunks on, she acknowledged.
The coverage, says Michael Levine, a Jackson press representative, "followed a proctologist's view of the world. Hard Copy was loathsome. The vicious and vile treatment of this man in the media was for selfish reasons. [Even] if you have never bought a Michael Jackson record in your life, you should be very concerned. Society is built on very few pillars. One of them is truth. When you abandon that, it's a slippery slope."