Michael Jackson’s legacy is being viewed in a new light by many after HBO’s Leaving Neverland docuseries. The Dan Reed-directed, four-hour docuseries features Wade Robson and James Safechuck recounting graphic allegations of molestation during their childhood and adolescent years at the hands of Jackson. The series has resulted in Jackson’s music being banned from certain radio stations, taking a plunge on the charts, and even his classic Simpsons episode being pulled from the air.
Robson and Safechuck have been accusing Jackson of abuse for several years, after previously defending the singer against other boys’ accusations. The men contend throughout the docuseries that they weren’t ready to face the reality of what had allegedly been done to them.
Though the FBI investigated Michael Jackson for over a decade and closed their file without seeking charges, and he was acquitted of sexual molestation in 2005, there are many people who feel like the singer’s friendships with kids weren’t about his “Peter Pan syndrome,” but predation. Here is a full timeline of allegations and legal proceedings against Michael Jackson:
September 1993: First allegations against Jackson surface
Evan Chandler filed a civil suit against Michael Jackson in late 1993, alleging that the singer molested his son Jordan Chandler, who met the singer through his parents while Jackson was renting a car. In August of 1993, Jordan told a psychiatrist that Jackson had molested him. The psychiatrist was legally bound to tell police in California, who launched an investigation. He was never charged for the accusations, though they marred his reputation and brought his relationship with children into question.
Several of Jackson’s underage friends, including Wade Robson and James Safechuck, denied that he had ever abused them and said they had never seen or heard anything inappropriate. Evan Chandler’s suit, which claimed “sexual battery” against Jordan, was settled for over $20 million dollars in January of 1994.
December 1993: Jackson denies allegations
Chandler’s allegations got Jackson thoroughly investigated by the LAPD and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. In December of 1993, a visibly shaken-yet-defiant Jackson took to the airwaves via live satellite to deny the “disgusting” accusations and recounted the “dehumanizing” circumstance of the police photographing him nude while fulfilling a search warrant. Jackson stated that his love for children was purely wholesome, and implored listeners and the media to not “treat me like a criminal, because I am innocent.”
February 2003: Living With Michael Jackson premieres
Jackson had faced no more legal or civil action after the Chandler case by 2003, but he was an extremely polarizing figure. While his fans and some onlookers chalked up his adult friendships with children as a result of never having his own childhood as the star of the Jackson Five, skeptics thought that he had a more nefarious reason for the relationships.
Martin Bashir’s 2003 Living With Michael Jackson documentary put more fuel on the fire for many. Bashir spent over eight months with Jackson, who continued to have boys at his Neverland Ranch for sleepovers. Bashir documented the then-44-year-old Jackson’s “disturbing” relationship with then 12-year-old Gavin Arvizo, who he held hands with and admitted sharing a bedroom with calling it “a beautiful thing.” Jackson also admitted that he has “slept in the bed with many children,” including child actor Macauley Culkin and his siblings.
There was widespread outrage to Jackson’s comments.
Winter 2003: Jackson is charged with molestation
It was Arviso, from the Bashir documentary, who anonymously accused Jackson of molestation in 2005. His claims led to Jackson being charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent for the purpose of a committing a felony. Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was raided.
Arviso testified that Jackson showed he and his brother “several pornographic websites depicting naked women and girls, some of them about 15 years old.” Arvizo and his brother also accused Jackson of committing sexual acts on and in front of Arvizo. They also said that Jackson tried to give the underage boys wine, which he allegedly called “Jesus juice” and “Jesus blood.”
Jackson, who was visibly gaunt throughout the proceedings, turned the court dates into a spectacle, dancing on top of a car and even coming to the courthouse in his pajamas. He had several friends who he met at a young age testify in defense of his character, including Wade Robson, who testified that he had never been touched or been in an inappropriate situation with Jackson.
Jackson’s legal team aimed to depict the Arvisos as liars out to get a piece of Jackson’s fortune. In June of 2005, Jackson was acquitted of all charges, with one juror surmising that the Arviso’s mother “had taught her children to lie to gain money or favors from celebrities.”