When you've been covering Michael Jackson for any significant period of time, you come to believe that nothing can shock you anymore. Since I began reporting on Michael Jackson for various media organisations, he has announced the biggest concert residency of all time and then died before he could complete it. A doctor has been jailed for his homicide and a posthumous album has caused international scandal by containing tracks allegedly sung by an imposter.
For many years, Michael Jackson's life (and after-life) has been a quagmire of scandal, controversy and legal wrangling. Presently, entertainment company AEG - which promoted Jackson's 'This Is It' concerts - is on trial over what the singer's family feels is a modicum of responsibility for his death. Already, witnesses have testified that Jackson was banned from the stage during some rehearsals for fear he would injure himself. A producer has testified to weeping as she saw Jackson rambling at rehearsals that God was speaking to him. She told jurors she had warned senior production members she believed he was dying and needed to be transported to hospital, only for her pleas to go ignored. Less than a week later, he was dead.
To a seasoned Jackson correspondent, none of this was surprising. It seems that not a week goes by without some drama or another engulfing the deceased music legend or those closely associated with him, from copyright disputes to kidnap allegations. But last week there was a development in the Michael Jackson sphere which truly did surprise me. Wade Robson, who has staunchly defended Michael Jackson for 20 years and even testified for him in his 2005 trial, filed papers against various organisations connected to the pop legend, seeking multiple pay-outs for alleged childhood abuse.
The choreographer claims he was sexually abused for seven years, from age seven to age 14. The news has rocked the Michael Jackson community. Those who loved him have sprung to his defence while those who built careers on attacking him have reacted with undisguised glee. Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe has labeled the financial demands 'opportunistic' and Jermaine Jackson has branded the choreographer 'full of shit'.
Civil rights lawyer Tom Mesereau, who defended Jackson in his 2005 trial, has suggested the claims are 'suspicious' as their public filing coincided so neatly with the AEG trial. Indeed, the allegations broke as make-up artist Karen Faye testified that she and others had raised repeated concerns about Jackson's health but had received callous responses from those in charge. Robson's televised interview days later ensured little media attention was paid to testimony from an AEG employee that financial papers proved Murray was the company's employee, not Michael Jackson's. Wade Robson has repeatedly worked for AEG and apparently already has future work lined up with the corporation, but his lawyer has denied any connection between the court cases.
In light of Robson's sudden change of tune, I have dusted off my complete trial transcripts from the 2005 government prosecution of Michael Jackson. While many news reports have mentioned that Robson testified for Jackson in the case, few have made any particular effort to underscore the gravity of his testimony.
Wade Robson was such a compelling and assured witness that Michael Jackson chose him to open his defence case at trial. Under sustained and sometimes aggressive questioning by government prosecutor Ron Zonen, Robson not only denied any impropriety on Jackson's part, but did so repeatedly, vigorously and convincingly - even mocking prosecutors and describing the mere suggestion of sexual abuse at Jackson's hands as 'ridiculous'.
As a side-note, the idea that in a trial about alleged child sex abuse, a genuine abuser would choose somebody they had molested for seven years as their first witness to undergo unrelenting government cross-examination may seem somewhat far-fetched to the casual onlooker.
When viewed alongside some of the comments he made on the Today Show this week, Robson's testimony is likely to cast more than a reasonable doubt over his new claims. He answered clearly and competently to detailed questions about various examples of alleged misconduct. The testimony is so immensely damaging to his new legal demands for money that he and his lawyer have already floated two potential, but arguably equally unconvincing, explanations for the bizarre u-turn.
When the story about his demands for money went live last week, Robson's lawyer was quoted as saying the choreographer had recovered 'repressed
memories', a story many suggested could have been designed to explain away Robson's strenuous denials in the 2005 trial without admitting to perjury. However, Robson's claim was met with
such incredulity - many eminent psychologists do not even believe in
repressed memories and even those who do took rather a dim view of Robson's
somewhat extreme story - that he has since changed tact.
Robson claimed in his TV interview this week that the real reason he told jurors he was not molested was that he had not realised that what Jackson allegedly did to him was abusive - another claim guaranteed to raise many an eyebrow. He was a successful, professional 22-year-old man at the time of his testimony.
Under oath in 2005, Robson was asked repeatedly about particular acts and whether he knew Michael Jackson to have performed them upon any child. He responded vehemently that not only had he never witnessed any such behaviour, but he was steadfast in his opinion that Michael Jackson would never have engaged in it.
Looking back over the 2005 court documents, the latest explanation for his testimony simply does not stand up to scrutiny. For instance, he was asked specifically whether Jackson had touched his body. Regardless of whether he believed Jackson's conduct to constitute sexual abuse, if Jackson had indeed touched his body, the clear answer would have been 'yes'. But it wasn't 'yes'. It was 'no'. Over, and over, and over again.
He even testified that after what he now claims were several years of sexual abuse at Jackson's hands, he returned to the scene of the alleged crimes more than 20 times in later life, with friends and relatives in tow, for relaxing getaways. He also testified to remaining in touch with Jackson and still considering him a close friend. Indeed, several years after the trial, Robson continued to socialise with Jackson.
Shortly after Jackson's death was announced in 2009, Robson wrote that Jackson was 'one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of humankind'. According to Jackson's brother Jermaine, Robson and his mother helped him pen portions of his autobiography about the media's unfair portrayal of his brother as a child molester. Indeed, since Jackson's death Robson has paid public tribute to the star repeatedly, as recently as 2012. He even applied last year for a job choreographing a tribute show to his alleged molester, but did not get the gig.
Wade Robson has filed a creditor's claim against Jackson's Estate, seeking a cash pay-out for alleged childhood abuse. He has also filed 50 civil lawsuits against various individuals and companies affiliated with Jackson, seeking further pay-outs for his alleged abuse.
He insisted this week that his new claims were 'not about money'.
The full transcript of Robson's testimony on May 5, 2005, totals almost 14,000 words and runs across 60 pages of A4. It includes lots of repetition and discussion about where he lived, when his parents separated and various other tangential asides. Below, I have extracted what I believe to be the key testimony. It is difficult to see how, given the existence of this sworn testimony, Robson could ever convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackson had ever acted inappropriately in his presence.
A cynical person might therefore interpret Robson's high profile TV interview this week as an attempt to avoid ever getting into a courtroom and having a jury test his new claims. How many more high profile public attacks can Jackson's Estate suffer before it is forced to begin considering a settlement? At this stage, the ability to damage the Estate's earning potential is about all Robson has got on his side - because the evidence is firmly on Michael Jackson's.
Here is the testimony nobody else in the media is showing you. See for yourself.
Under direct examination by Michael Jackson's lawyer, Tom Mesereau:
Q. Do you consider Michael Jackson your friend?
Q. Do you consider him a close friend?
Q. You’re aware of the allegations in this case, are you not?
Q. And are you aware, as you sit here today, that there’s been allegations that Mr. Jackson molested you?
Q. Mr. Robson, did Michael Jackson ever molest you at any time?
A. Absolutely not.
Q. Mr. Robson, did Michael Jackson ever touch you in a sexual way?
A. Never, no.
Q. Mr. Robson, has Mr. Jackson ever inappropriately touched any part of your body at any time?
* * * * *
Q. How many times do you think you’ve stayed in Mr. Jackson’s room at Neverland?
A. Same amount of times as I’ve been there. Well, no, that’s not true, I’m sorry. I’ve been there a bunch of times without Michael, just with other friends and family traveling there. But, I don’t know, maybe 15 to 20.
Q. And at no time has any sexual contact ever occurred between you and Mr. Jackson, right?
Q. Have you ever taken a shower with Mr. Jackson?
Q. Have you ever gone swimming with Mr. Jackson?
Q. And please explain what you mean.
A. One time with my sister and I, my sister and I and Michael, we went in the Jacuzzi at Neverland Ranch.
Q. And do you know approximately when that was?
A. I don’t. I can’t say for sure. I have a feeling that it was within that first trip in ‘89 when I went there.
Q. Do you recall what Mr. Jackson was wearing in the Jacuzzi?
A. From my recollection, he was wearing shorts. You know, like swimming shorts. And that was it.
Q. Did anything inappropriate ever happen in that Jacuzzi?
Q. Has anything inappropriate ever happened in any shower with you and Mr. Jackson?
A. No. Never been in a shower with him.
* * * * *
Q. Mr. Robson, has anyone told you what to say in this courtroom today?
Q. Is everything you’ve said the complete and honest truth?
Q. Did Mr. Jackson ever do anything wrong with you?
Under cross-examination by government prosecutor Ron Zonen:
Q. All right. Now, the first time that you slept with Mr. Jackson you were seven years old; is that correct?
A. I slept in the same bed with him. But, yes, I was seven.
Q. Did you understand my question to mean something other than that?
A. Sounded like it.
* * * * *
Q. Were there periods of time when you were at Neverland and working with Mr. Jackson on dance routines?
A. No. I mean, we would mess around and dance a little bit in the studio every now and then, yes.
Q. Was there ever an occasion where you were on the dance floor with Mr. Jackson and he was showing you a routine and he grabbed your crotch in a manner similar to how he would grab his own crotch while doing those performances?
A. No, that’s not true.
Q. You have no recollection of that?
Q. That didn’t happen?
* * * * *
Q. Now, at any time did you start to develop conversations with your mother about the propriety of sleeping with this man who’s now well into his 30s?
Q. Did you consider it unusual at all?
Q. Did your mother consider it unusual?
Q. Did you ever talk to your father about it?
Q. You talked to your father about your sleeping with Michael Jackson?
A. No, I mean, you know, everybody knew, and nobody ever said that it was -- we never talked about it being unusual or anything like that.
Q. Did your mother ever ask you if anything inappropriate happened in bed with him?
Q. Did she simply assume nothing happened?
Q. You’re telling us nothing happened; is that right?
Q. All right. What you’re really telling us is nothing happened while you were awake; isn’t that true?
A. I’m telling you that nothing ever happened.
Q. Mr. Robson, when you were asleep, you wouldn’t have known what had happened, particularly at age seven, would you have?
A. I would think something like that would wake me up.
* * * * *
Q. Was there, in fact, a shower at Neverland in the suite, the bedroom suite?
Q. But you didn’t use it?
A. I used it by myself.
Q. Was he in the room while you were using it?
A. In the bedroom, not in the shower room, which had its own door.
* * * * *
Q. You haven’t gone back to Neverland since you were 13?
A. I have. Not with him.
Q. Have you gone back to Neverland since you were 13 and actually stayed overnight?
Q. On how many occasions since you were 13?
A. A lot. Same thing. 20, 25. Something like that.
* * * * *
Q. Mr. Jackson would periodically kiss you, would he not?
Q. Periodically hug you?
Q. Touch you?
A. Hug me. That would be --
Q. Put his hands through your hair?
Q. Touch you about the head and the face?
Q. Did he ever kiss you on the cheek?
Q. Did he ever kiss you on the lips?
* * * * *
Q. Were there occasions that Mr. Jackson would summon you to Neverland Ranch?
A. Summon me?
Q. Yes. Call you up and ask you to come and be there; invite you to Neverland Ranch?
A. Invite us, yeah.
* * * * *
Q. On the occasions that you stayed in bed with Mr. Jackson, would you ever cuddle in bed?
Q. Would you lie next to one another?
Q. Would you touch?
Q. Would you consider it to have been inappropriate to have cuddled in bed?
Q. Would you have considered it to be inappropriate to have cuddled in bed?
Under re-direct by Tom Mesereau:
Q. Okay. The prosecutor asked you questions about whether or not you were considered family. Did you consider yourself to be part of Mr. Jackson’s family?
A. Yeah, I mean, in a friendship sort of way. Because we were that close. It was like family.
Q. And did you use the word “family” once in a while --
Q. -- when you spoke to him?
Q. Did you hear your mother or sister using the word “family”?
Q. Did you think anything was strange about that?
Q. The prosecutor for the government asked about Mr. Jackson giving you a kiss on the cheek.
Q. And you said that happened sometimes?
Q. Did you think there was anything inappropriate about that?
Q. Did you do it in front of your mom?
Q. Did you do it in front of your sister?
Q. Did your mother kiss him on the cheek?
Q. Did your sister kiss him on the cheek?
Q. Did you kiss Mr. Jackson on the cheek?
Q. Did your mother used to hug Mr. Jackson?
Q. Did Mr. Jackson used to hug your mother?
MR. ZONEN: I’ll object as irrelevant what happened with his mother.
THE COURT: Overruled. Go ahead.
Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Did Mr. Jackson used to hug your mother?
Q. Did your sister used to hug Mr. Jackson?
MR. ZONEN: I’ll object as leading as well.
THE COURT: Overruled.
Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Did your sister used to hug Mr. Jackson?
Q. And would you see Mr. Jackson hug your sister?
Q. Did you ever think there was anything inappropriate about Mr. Jackson hugging any member of your family?
Q. Did you ever think it was inappropriate to see any member of your family hug Mr. Jackson?
Q. Now, you said your sister would sometimes stay in Mr. Jackson’s room, correct?
Q. And how often do you recall that happening?
A. I remember it just within that first trip we were there. So it was -- it was, you know, three or four nights or something like that.
Q. And you mentioned Brandy. Is that who you mentioned?
Q. Who was Brandy again?
A. She was Michael Jackson’s niece.
Q. You saw Brandy staying in his room?
Q. What’s the largest number of kids you ever saw stay in Mr. Jackson’s room, if you remember?
A. Yeah, probably four to five.
Q. And what do you recall the children doing in his room?
A. Well, before we went to sleep, same sort of things. We’d play video games, watch movies. Have pillow fights. You know, yeah.
Q. Did you ever see anything of a sexual nature between Mr. Jackson and any of those children?
* * * * *
Q. Have you seen Mr. Jackson hug other children at Neverland?
Q. Have you seen other children hug Mr. Jackson at Neverland?
Q. Have you ever thought any of this was inappropriate?
Q. Have you seen Mr. Jackson kiss children at Neverland?
A. On the cheek, yes. Or on the head, or on the top of the head, something like that.
Q. Ever seen kids kiss Mr. Jackson?
Q. Any of that ever look inappropriate to you?
Q. Have you seen lots of children visit Neverland on occasion?
Q. And what do you mean?
A. I think we were there once when he had one of his gatherings, like a Heal the World Foundation thing where he had a bunch of kids come up there and -- you know, and have the day there.
Q. And how many kids are you talking about, do you think?
A. Probably about 100 or 50. 75 to 100, something like that.
Q. Were there adults with those children?
Q. And you said, “Heal the World.” What did that mean to you?
MR. ZONEN: I’m going to object as exceeding the scope of the direct examination, and irrelevant, and beyond the scope of his knowledge.
THE COURT: Overruled. You may answer.
THE WITNESS: Could you repeat the question?
Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Yeah. What was “Heal the World,” as far as you remember?
A. As far as I knew, it was a foundation or a charity that Michael had created that, you know, raised money for kids with illnesses. I don’t know exactly what kind, but --
Q. Did you interact with any of these kids that visited that day?
A. I may have, yeah, I mean, waved at them or met a couple of them or something like that.
Q. Did you see Mr. Jackson hugging other children?
Q. Did you see them hugging him?
Q. Did you see Mr. Jackson kiss children?
Q. Have you seen them kiss him?
Q. Ever seen anything inappropriate?
Q. Did you see Mr. Jackson hug adults who were with those children?
Q. Did you see adults hug Mr. Jackson who were with those children?
Q. Ever think any of that was inappropriate?
Q. Now, the prosecutor for the government asked you questions about whether he touched your hair.
Q. Do you recall Mr. Jackson ever touching your hair?
A. I can’t recall an exact thing, but it seems like something he might have done at some point.
Q. Do you ever recall Mr. Jackson doing anything inappropriate with your hair?
Q. Ever seen Mr. Jackson touch another child on the head?
Q. Have you seen that many times?
A. Many times.
Q. Did it ever seem like anything inappropriate was going on when you saw that?
* * * * *
Q. Ever see Michael throw water balloons at kids?
Q. Did you ever see Michael in golf carts with kids?
Q. When you used to play at Neverland during the day, would Michael often be with you?
Q. And what would Michael do with you?
A. We’d go on rides together, you know, where we’d drive around in the golf cart together, look at animals together, watch movies together.
Q. Did you see Mr. Jackson act in a similar way with other children?
Q. Ever see anything inappropriate go on when he was doing any of these things?
Q. Now, how often do you recall your mother going to Neverland with you?
A. It’s been every time except for that one time that I spoke of when I was there with Jordie Chandler and Macaulay and I.
Q. What do you recall seeing your mother do at Neverland?
A. A lot of the same things with us.
Q. Would she sometimes be with Mr. Jackson when all the kids were playing?
A. Oh, yes. She was playing along with us.
Q. Now, you mentioned visiting an apartment in Century City with Mr. Jackson, right?
Q. And what do you recall doing in the apartment with Mr. Jackson?
A. Same sort of things. He had arcade games there. You know, candy. We’d eat, we’d watch, you know, T.V. shows, Stooges. Hang around, play games, you know.
Q. Did you ever see Mr. Jackson do anything inappropriate with any child at that apartment?
Q. Where else have you been with Mr. Jackson?
A. Like I said, we covered Las Vegas. Westwood apartment, Century City apartment. Sheraton Hotel. He came and stayed at my place once.
Q. Where was that?
A. That was in Hollywood. It was -- my mother and I had a condo, and my sister.
Q. Did you see Mr. Jackson do anything inappropriate at any of these locations?
Q. Ever seen Mr. Jackson touch any child in a sexual way at any of these locations?
Q. Did Mr. Jackson ever touch you inappropriately in any of these locations?
Q. Now, have you been following media reporting in this case?
A. Yeah. On and off.
Q. You’re aware of allegations that were made that Mr. Jackson --
MR. ZONEN: I’m going to object as leading and exceeding the scope of the direct -- cross.
THE COURT: I don’t know what the question is yet.
Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Okay. You’ve been following these reports that somehow Mr. Jackson was seen inappropriately touching you?
Q. What do you think of them?
A. I think it’s --
MR. ZONEN: I’ll object. I’ll withdraw the objection.
THE WITNESS: I think it’s ridiculous.
MR. MESEREAU: No further questions.
Under re-cross by Ron Zonen:
[NB: Prosecutors showed Wade Robson a handful of legal art books found among tens of thousands of books at Jackson's home, which included a large library. Some of the art books, featuring work by respected photographers, depicted children, occasionally nude. Others featured adult men in 'homo-erotic' poses. Some were found bubble-wrapped and unread. Others featured inscriptions, showing they had been mailed to him by fans. All of the books remain legally available to purchase. Also found at Jackson's home were thousands of adult, heterosexual pornographic magazines, some of which were also shown to Robson.]
Q. Okay. You can go ahead and close that one right now. Mr. Robson, are you concerned about a man possessing these seven books being in bed with a 12-year-old boy?
A. If it was a man I didn’t know, maybe. But not Michael.
Q. Is that because you view Mr. Jackson as being, for the most part, asexual?
Q. Because you believe that he doesn’t really have a sexual interest?
A. I believe that he has a sexual interest in women.
Q. Did you know that he possessed these magazines?
MR. MESEREAU: Objection, Your Honor, he didn’t let the witness complete his answer.
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. MESEREAU: Could the witness complete his answer, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
THE WITNESS: I believe that he has a sexual interest in women.
Q. BY MR. ZONEN: In women?
Q. These books don’t suggest otherwise?
A. Not necessarily.
* * * * *
Q. The collective material that you have just been shown does not cause you a moment of pause when you think about the prospect of this person who possesses all of this crawling into bed with a ten-year-old boy?
Q. And you would allow a child to crawl into bed with such a person?
A. If I knew the person, yes.
Q. If you knew them?
Q. Your own child, you’d have no problem sleeping with a 35-, 40-year-old man?
A. If I knew the person well, no.
MR. ZONEN: No further questions.
Under re-direct by Tom Mesereau:
Q. Mr. Robson?
Q. That’s your fiancee right there, correct?
Q. You are heterosexual, correct?
Q. You are a close friend of Michael, correct?
Q. By the way, did Michael Jackson ever -- oh, I’ll ask from there. When you were a young child, did Michael Jackson ever show you any sexually explicit material?
Q. Did you ever see Michael Jackson show sexually explicit material to any child?
* * * * *
Q. Okay. And let me show you again Exhibit No. 842, “A boy; A Photographic Essay,” okay? And that’s the one with the inscription, “To Michael, from your loving fan, Rhonda,” okay?
Q. And have you had a chance to flip through that book?
Q. In fact, you see young children with rather innocent photographs of young boys, correct?
MR. ZONEN: I’m going to object as leading, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Overruled.
Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Innocent photographs of young boys in various situations, right?
Q. Okay. You see a young boy hanging from a tree, right?
Q. You see a young boy sitting outside a door, right?
Q. See young boys on a beach, right?
Q. Okay. Now, let’s go to -- quickly, to the material the prosecutor for the government showed you, okay? He showed you some magazines with heterosexual activity, correct?
Q. Okay. Have you seen one book that depicts child pornography in that group?
MR. ZONEN: I believe there was a Court restriction on the use of that word, Your Honor, one initiated by the defense. Unless that reservation is finished.
MR. MESEREAU: He’s correct. And I made a mistake using the word. I’ll withdraw it, and I apologize.
THE COURT: All right. The problem is that sometimes it’s an appropriate word to use and sometimes it’s not. But the jury’s been instructed on it. And so if you want to rephrase it, that’s fine.
MR. MESEREAU: Okay.
Q. In those books that the prosecutor for the government showed you, you see books about men, right?
15 A. Yes.
Q. You see one book that says, “A Study of Male Sexuality” and shows some sexual acts between men, correct?
Q. And he showed you a number of magazines involving sexual activity between men and women, correct?
Q. Okay. Has he shown you one book involving children having sex?
Q. Has he shown you one book where a man is having sex with a child?
Q. The prosecutor tried to suggest that Mr. Jackson is asexual. Do you remember that question?
Q. Do you believe he’s asexual?
Q. Have you seen Mr. Jackson with women in your lifetime?
A. With what kind of woman? A woman that he’s in a relationship with?
Q. That he’s been married to.
A. Yeah, with Lisa Marie.
Q. When you were at Neverland, did you ever see anything that suggested pedophilia?
Q. Ever see any magazine or poster that suggested pedophilia?
* * * * *
Q. Has anything this prosecutor for the government has said to you changed your opinion of Michael Jackson?
A. Not at all.
Q. Does it change your opinion as to whether or not he ever did anything inappropriate with a child?
A. Not at all.
MR. MESEREAU: No further questions.
MR. ZONEN: I have no questions.
THE COURT: Thank you. You may step down
Sunday, 19 May 2013
The sworn testimony that will come back to haunt Wade Robson
Posted by Charles Thomson at 15:50
Labels: 2005, allegations, case, charles, court, jackson, mesereau, michael, prosecution, robson, show, testimony, thomson, today, transcript, trial, wade, zonen