Brandon and Omar set forth to find out: what really happened with Michael Jackson? Through an interview with Bert Fields, Jackson’s famed entertainment lawyer, comes a portrait of the singer at the height of his talents and fame. And following a televised interview with Oprah in 1993, Jackson befriends a boy named Jordan Chandler – a relationship that will change both of their lives forever.
As Michael Jackson and Jordan Chandler’s relationship evolves into constant companionship, Jordan’s father, Evan Chandler, a Beverly Hills dentist, grows suspicious that something is amiss. He begins a custody dispute with Jordan’s mother over his concerns, which leads to allegations that Jackson had a romantic, sexual relationship with Jordan.
Featuring author and critic Margo Jefferson, we explore Michael Jackson’s childhood and rise to stardom — growing up in the limelight of a family band and dealing with his complicated and dysfunctional relatives.
Following interviews with the Chandler family by DCFS and the LAPD, Jackson’s homes are raided and press scramble to find the origins of the boy’s claims and the police investigations. As the Chandlers lawyer up, Jackson cancels tour dates over a drug problems and disappears in Europe.
Jordie Chandler’s lawyer files devastating motions in court, Jackson switches legal council, and Elizabeth Taylor takes a front row seat in his defense. Soon, Jackson returns to the US to undergo a humiliating body search, and within weeks a massive financial civil settlement is announced, shocking investigators engaged in a criminal investigation.
Taking a break between the cases, Brandon and Omar speak with two lauded former FBI profilers – Ken Lanning and Jim Clemente, to better understand the complicated dynamics of child sex offenders and their victims. The “stranger danger” fear is rooted in truth, but exaggerated, they come to learn, and the real danger for children is the “nice guy” offender who becomes a pillar of his community only to gains access to children and manipulate them into silence once they are victimized.
Following the Jordie Chandler scandal, Michael Jackson’s career wanes, his drug use worsens, he surrounds himself with sycophants and his finances are in shambles. Jackson’s charitable efforts and public appearances become crude punchlines. Attempting to reign in the narrative and gain sympathy, Jackson agrees to allow British journalist Martin Bashir to film his private life — a terrible miscalculation which results in a new, criminal investigation into the singer.
Young Gavin Arvizo, stricken by cancer in 2000, wanders into a world of celebrity, meeting idols from Chris Tucker to Michael Jackson. But Gavin and his troubled family are soon painted as con artists and gold diggers as the Arvizos find themselves at the center of a PR fallout. Gavin ultimately alleges abuse by the singer, resulting in a new investigation and a second raid on Neverland.
Following the second raid on Neverland, the small town of Santa Maria is quickly overwhelmed with a media frenzy as the criminal trial against Michael Jackson begins to take shape. Brandon talks to counsel on both sides of the aisle to identify the complications of readying the case of an international superstar facing the most heinous allegations imaginable.
The People v. Jackson commences on the world stage and the singer arrives late to court – dazed and in pajamas, nearly forfeiting his bail. The tone soon shifts as defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau prods at inconsistencies in the Arvizo children’s testimony and calls into question the credibility of expert witnesses in both forensics and child abuse. A ruling by Judge Melville prevents the amount of Jackson’s 1994 settlement from being admitted in the trial, leading Brandon to get to the bottom of a burning question: who really paid off Jordan Chandler – Jackson or his insurance company?
It All Backfired
Prosecuting DA Tom Sneddon uses California’s “prior bad acts” statute in order to delve into Jackson’s past. Former employees testify to witnessing inappropriate behavior between Jackson and other children from Jordie Chandler to Macaulay Culkin but Jackson’s defense attorney Thomas Mesereau methodically picks apart each witness’s credibility. After a disastrous appearance by the accuser’s mother, the prosecution rests its case on shaky ground and Mesereau gears up to mount his defense.
With the prosecution’s case in shambles, Mesereau swings for the fences and presents a full blown defense for Michael Jackson – calling up celebrities to vouch for the singer and smear the Arvizo Family. The result is 14 acquittals and a celebration for die-hard Jackson fans around the world. Reporters, the prosecuting attorneys, and Jackson’s defense attorneys weigh in on the impact of Jackson going free. Meanwhile, over 2,000 accredited media personnel pack up and go home, and a key source reveals how an original prosecution strategy could have upended the verdict.
The season finale of Telephone Stories picks up after the trial, as Michael Jackson wanders the world in crippling debt and agrees to a concert series to rebuild both his finances and reputation. The comeback plans are cut short by Jackson’s sudden death from a drug overdose in 2009. Within months, tragedy also strikes the Chandler family, and FBI files on the singer are released to confusing results. And nearly a decade later, Leaving Neverland causes a cultural stir, compelling Brandon to speak with lawyers from the powerful Jackson Estate on their legal strategies, their logic in fighting Jackson’s current accusers and how they handle the diehard Jackson fans. Omar and Brandon wrap up with final thoughts on the singer’s innocence, complicated by the discovery of an interview in which acting legend Marlon Brando describes a tear-filled conversation with the music icon.