The FBI’s Case Against Michael Jackson: Eyewitnesses, Train Rides, and an Alleged Sex Tape
In the early Aughts, the FBI was helping build a child sexual-abuse case against Michael Jackson. Here’s what it found.
On Monday, HBO aired the second and final installment of Leaving Neverland, a four-hour documentary that shares two separate, in-depth allegations of sexual abuse against superstar Michael Jackson. The two subjects of the documentary, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, both came to Jackson’s defense after the pop star was accused of sexually abusing Jordan Chandler in 1993 (that case eventually settled out of court). Robson also testified during the 2003 Jackson trial; as The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon reported, “[Robson’s] testimony is credited with convincing the jury that Jackson was innocent. In 2013, Robson revealed publicly that he had lied on the stand.”
“What’s notable about Leaving Neverland is its scope,” Fallon continued. “It doesn’t distill Safechuck and Robson’s cases to the most salacious sex allegations. It spends time with their respective families to understand how semi-watchful parents could be so ignorant of what was going on, and why the two boys would bury the truth about their relationship with the entertainer for so long.”
“More, it indicts so many people: the Safechuck and Robson families, the people in Jackson’s camp, Jackson’s fans, the media, and all of us. This was happening in plain sight. The amount of footage of Jackson walking hand-in-hand with a carousel of young boys through the years is shocking. He was exonerated for it twice. In many fans’ eyes, for a lifetime.”
The Daily Beast’s Stereo Williams added, “There was never a time when the biggest star in the world jet-setting with what seemed like an endless line of young ‘traveling companions’ should have been endorsed or normalized. There was never a time when him admitting he slept in beds with them should have been defended.”
The partial, heavily redacted FBI files on Michael Jackson that were released in 2009 offer their own insight into this epic saga—the allegations, exonerations, and years of investigating and compiling evidence. Some revelations from the file are strikingly incomplete. There are multiple pages about a videocassette tape, “marked in part ‘Michael Jackson’s Neverland Favorites An All Boy Anthology.’” The subject of a 1995 analysis request from US Customs is “child pornography.” It is unclear from the report what exactly was on the tape.
The files indicate that the FBI was involved in multiple investigations into Jackson. A 1993 memorandum reveals that the LAPD’s Child Sexual Abuse Section requested assistance from the FBI “in their investigation of child molestation allegation against entertainer, Michael Jackson.” More specifically, “Inquiring if the FBI would be interested in working a possible federal violation against Jackson concerning the transportation of a minor across state lines for immoral purposes.” At a subsequent meeting, “The United States Attorney’s position of not pursuing a federal investigation was expressed to the group.” However, “[Redacted] offered the assistance of the FBI in covering leads that may develop.”
The documents further detail how the FBI helped to facilitate interviews in the Philippines with two former Neverland ranch employees “concerning their knowledge of accusations against Michael Jackson of sexual abuse of young boys.” Attached newspaper clippings from 1993 cover the interviews, which occurred in the wake of Jordan Chandler’s allegations. “The detectives, one from Los Angeles, the other from Santa Barbara, began meeting Wednesday afternoon with Mariano Quindoy and his wife, Faye,” The Philippine Star reported. “The Philippine couple managed Jackson’s Neverland Valley home from 1988 to 1990.”
The article continued, “Quindoy, a 59-year-old Philippine lawyer who left Jackson’s ranch due to disagreements with other staff and a pay dispute, claimed he saw the singer fondle young boys on at least two occasions…He and his wife said they had ‘reason to believe’ the 13-year-old’s allegations against Jackson.”
Also in 1993, London agents forwarded Los Angeles colleagues a letter providing “background information on articles that appeared in the U.K. press concerning a British national who alleges that Michael Jackson made an indecent telephone call to him during 1979.” An attached article in The Sun relays the allegations of Terry George, who “was only 13 when he had a bizarre late-night conversation with the superstar—who described how he was fondling himself at the other end of the line… Terry said he believes the abuse allegations against Jackson—‘because of what happened to me.’” The communication concluded, “Legat London is taking no further action in this matter.”
Another haunting tip from 1993 summarizes a telephone conversation with a woman from Toronto, Canada, who said that both she and her husband worked in child services. According to handwritten notes, the couple claimed to have taken a train from Chicago to the Grand Canyon in 1992. Michael Jackson allegedly had “four compartments” on the train, which would continue on to California. Jackson was allegedly traveling with a “12/13” year old boy, who “was ID’d as Michael’s ‘cousin.’” The document continues, “Jackson was very possessive of boy at night [the caller] heard questionable noises through wall. She was concerned enough to notify the conductor of her suspicions.”
In 2004, according to the FBI files, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office requested assistance “to develop a prosecutive strategy and to provide forensic guidance regarding a high profile child molestation investigation.” A subsequent report, following the news that Jackson had been indicted and would be arraigned at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on April 30, 2004, reads, “The SMPD previously requested FBI involvement based on the belief that the Jackson court proceedings could represent a soft target for terrorism due to the worldwide media coverage the case is receiving.”
“There is no intelligence indicating a threat of a terrorist act targeting this event,” documents conclude.
Also in 2004, FBI agents traveled to New York to interview a “victim.” During the meeting, “[Redacted] advised the agents that he had no interest in testifying against Jackson. [Redacted] advised that he would legally fight any attempt to do so. [Redacted] believed that he had done his part.”
The FBI files from 2005 ultimately report that Jackson has been acquitted of all charges, and that no further assistance would be required—“Therefore, it is requested that the above captioned case be administratively closed.”