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AMERICAN MORNING

Some Damaging Details in Jackson Case

Aired January 30, 2004 - 08:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Jackson has been charged with seven counts of child molestation and according to a new report in "Vanity Fair," a long and detailed article, there are some damaging details to support those charges.
"Vanity Fair's" special correspondent Maureen Orth has followed Jackson's legal problems all the way back to 1993.

She's written extensively on the topic.

She's our guest here now on AMERICAN MORNING.

Nice to see you again.

Welcome back here.

MAUREEN ORTH, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, "VANITY FAIR": Thank you.

Thank you.

HEMMER: One of the things you make quite clear in your piece is going back to 1993 you allege that there are similarities between the case that was settled out of court and the case that right now is gathering steam in Santa Barbara.

Those similarities are what, did you find?

ORTH: Well, just start with the physical types of both boys. They're both the same age, 13. They look a lot alike. When their parents came to the ranch or their families came to Neverland, the mothers were always put aside. It was only the boys that were allowed in the bedroom, not the sisters, with Michael Jackson.

He basically tries to sort of insert himself in weak families between the mother and the father. He, in both cases, tried to put his own attorneys in custody battles between the parents. It just -- and then the worst part, really, is that it's alleged in this case, and it was before, as well, is that he sort of keeps the underwear of boys in that...

HEMMER: So this is the allegation -- these are the details that you allege that you have found out recently. It may be one thing to repeat similar patterns, but it's another thing to make that jump to child molestation.

Is there anything that supports that right now, based on the reporting you've come up with at this point? ORTH: Well, basically, if you -- the last case had more than one boy and there were other people who were paid off. There's a massive, huge attack machine that goes into effect when these allegations...

HEMMER: What do you mean?

ORTH: Well, for example, last time there were members of the South Central L.A. gangs that were brought up to Neverland armed. This time there's the Nation of Islam. These are sort of tactics of intimidation so that other people don't come forward or that Neverland employees don't speak.

HEMMER: Because that, it comes, I come back to my same question, though. Where is this taking us in terms of child molestation...

ORTH: I think what you...

HEMMER: ... and proving this?

ORTH: Well, that is for the court to do. But there are over 400 witnesses from last time. There are people that -- in my article, I talk about people who have been paid off. I talk about a lot of the attack -- you know, it's witnesses who have been interviewed, it's people who, one of the prosecutors told me that they had found special friends for him going back 10 years before 1993. I mean I'm not here to be the prosecutor. I'm here to be a reporter on his life and how he surrounds himself with children.

HEMMER: One of your sources, Myung Ho Lee, was a former business partner, a former business advisor...

ORTH: He was his top business advisor and his sister was the legal officer of his corporation.

HEMMER: No longer works with Michael Jackson, right?

ORTH: No.

HEMMER: Was there bad blood between these two?

ORTH: They had a, there was a civil suit between them in Myung Ho Lee got a bunch of, really, I guess, he collected several million dollars. However, he has all the financial records. I mean he just isn't making allegations. He has paper to back it up. You know, "Vanity Fair" does not go into print on spurious allegations. We have a very thorough fact checking process.

HEMMER: What do you say to those who contend that there is such a massive security detail at the Neverland Ranch that Michael Jackson cannot have private time with young boys or girls or...

ORTH: Oh, that is absurd.

HEMMER: Absolutely absurd?

ORTH: Yes, because his entire bedroom is so completely alarmed that there is tremendous security all over Neverland. But...

HEMMER: What do you mean alarmed?

ORTH: Within -- if you enter the door to the hallway that goes to the bedroom, a huge alarm sounds to Michael Jackson in his room. It is so loud that it can be heard when the shower is running. So there are electric eyes all over the residence of Neverland. Everything is surveilled in every part and he knows anybody who's approaching within 10 feet. And nobody else gets to go in there except one maid to clean up.

HEMMER: I have read your article. It's very long. It's very detailed.

What have you found out about this case that details directly Michael Jackson and possibly links for the current accuser?

ORTH: I don't understand the question.

HEMMER: Well, there is an allegation in your piece that leads to alcohol...

ORTH: Oh, yes.

HEMMER: ... and wine that was given to...

ORTH: Well, one of the allegations of a boy is that he was given wine, also shown pornography on the Internet and in magazines. And on, two of the counts are about providing an intoxicating agent. And I have eyewitnesses saying that Michael Jackson regularly pours white wine into soda cans. That's Jesus juice. Red wine is called Jesus' blood. And these boys were given this wine. And I also have an incident in 1998 when one of his Japanese partners and -- they had announced a big business deal. And he had taken that boy's, that man's 13-year-old son to an amusement park and allegedly he was also given Jesus juice and it blew the whole deal.

HEMMER: The defense attorneys are saying that people are just after money from Michael Jackson. In the short time we have left...

ORTH: This case...

HEMMER: This case what?

ORTH: This case is not about money because this boy is a cancer victim of stage four who is in danger of death. There's no way you should go through the criminal justice system if what you're after is money.

HEMMER: My question is does anyone know how much money Michael Jackson has at this point?

ORTH: He doesn't have -- he certainly hasn't got very much in terms of cash flow. He has very valuable assets. But he's been, he's in debt over $200 million.

HEMMER: Maureen Orth.

The article is in "Vanity Fair."

Thanks for sharing with us today.

ORTH: Thank you.

HEMMER: Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The article clearly damaging to Michael Jackson in the court of public opinion.

But what about legally?

Senior CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin joins us this morning.

You've read the article.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I sure have.

O'BRIEN: It's incredibly well reported and detailed. But legally, are there any bombshells in there that you think the prosecutors could run with?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. There are, if they can duplicate Maureen's reporting. I mean it is, obviously, a different standard. It's a different kind of research. Just, for example, the similarities between the '93 incident and the current incident, just one detail that jumped out at me is that the accusers say Michael Jackson had the same nickname in both of them, Rubba, R-U-B-B-A. That is the kind of thing that prosecutors could use to show a pattern.

Also, a very important difference now than in '93 is that the laws have changed. In those days, you couldn't use prior uncharged conduct to prove the current conduct in the case. Now, because of changes in the law because of all the priest scandals, the prosecutors can use the '93 incident to prove the 2003 incident. A very important difference.

O'BRIEN: In the article, and we just heard Maureen and Bill talking about it, as well, Jesus juice versus Jesus' blood, meaning white wine versus red wine, and she says there's another completely unrelated incident, apparently, of another man whose son had a similar experience.

Could that have an impact on this case?

TOOBIN: It could. That is such an unusual kind of behavior, you know, pouring wine into soda cans, calling it Jesus juice, calling it Jesus' blood. If prosecutors can show that's a pattern, they could introduce several witnesses to make the current charge that much more believable. Again, if it stands up in court and if they have witnesses to say it, totally devastating evidence.

O'BRIEN: A lot of the information, and some of the most devastating, I think, comes from, as Maureen just said, a former legal advisor and her sister -- his sister, who worked with Michael Jackson.

Your expectations they will be on the stand?

TOOBIN: Not clear. Some of the financial stuff, while it's certainly interesting, is probably not that directly relevant to this charge. Some of the other stuff in the article not -- like his, perhaps, prior drug or alcohol problems, probably not relevant to these charges. But nothing in that article is good for Michael Jackson. And, you know, what's interesting is we've heard a lot from Jackson advisors and Jackson lawyers. It's interesting to hear from another perspective.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, as always, thanks.

TOOBIN: OK.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

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