M.O.N.E.Y: The Extortion of Michael Jackson Pt. 4

And last but not least, we have the fourth and final installment of this deeper, more detailed look into what really happened with the 1993 extortion scheme. Part four begins with Settlements: Why Innocent People Agree to Settlements and will end with Evidence Presented to Two Grand Juries.

Settlement: Why Innocent People Agree to Settlements

On January 25, 1994, the L.A. District Attorney’s office decided that it would not probe Chandler’s alleged criminal extortion attempts of Michael Jackson.[i]  This decision sets the stage for settlement.  The reason for this decision is clear: it would be absurd for a District Attorney to build a case for molestation against a defendant while simultaneously bringing charges against the complainant for extortion.

Notably, few in the media reported Michael’s claims of extortion.[ii]  USA Today reported “information leaked in the child-molestation case against Michael Jackson and the public record of the unnamed 13-year-old boy’s father’s custody fight raise questions about the accuser’s motivation,” [and] “the media’s failure to treat the alleged extortion plot seriously from the beginning unfairly damaged Jackson’s image.” [e.a.][iii] 

Based upon the advice of his friends, Michael Jackson agreed to settle the Chandler lawsuit [e.a.]. 

A lot of people think that Michael settled the 1993 suit with money from his own pocket.  However, when informed that the money was actually paid by Michael’s insurer, the payout made a lot more sense [e.a.]. While most of the claims filed against Michael were intentional in nature, intentional claims such as battery, willful misconduct fraud, etc. would not have been covered under an insurance policy.  The inclusion of a negligence claim guaranteed that Michael’s insurance company would have been involved to fund a settlement.  In doing a quick mathematical calculation, we can estimate that in 1993, assuming six attorneys at eight hours a day, it would have cost the insurer over ten million dollars to defend Michael for 365 days.  (The 2005 investigation and trial lasted 572 days).  In 1993, there was a pending civil suit and a counterclaim where Jackson claimed extortion by the Chandlers.  Civil suits can drag on for years.  A conservative estimate would be 3-5 years.[iv]  In addition, it was anticipated that a criminal proceeding would also soon be commenced.  Given the diversity of the cases, two legal teams would have been necessary.  No insurance company is going to pay twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) annually for defense when it can settle and be done.  Keep in mind that this estimate does not include investigators, paralegals or other litigation costs [e.a.]. 

While detractors claim that there is no proof that Michael Jackson’s insurance company paid the Chandler settlement, evidence by virtue of an attorney memorandum was submitted to the Court on March 22, 2005.[v]  Michael Jackson’s defense attorneys filed legal papers seeking to preclude evidence of the 1993 settlement amount specifically because Michael did not have control over the settlement [e.a.].  The memorandum of law submitted by Tom Mesereau in 2005 stated:

The plaintiff seeks to introduce evidence of the civil settlement of the 1993 lawsuit through the testimony of Larry Feldman, attorney for the current complaining family and attorney for the plaintiff in the 1993 matter.  The settlement agreement was for global claims of negligence and the lawsuit was defended by Mr. Jackson’s insurance carrier.  The insurance carrier negotiated and paid the settlement, over the protests of Mr. Jackson and his personal legal counsel.

It is general practice for an insurer to be entitled to control settlement negotiations and the insured is precluded from any interference. Shapero v. Allstate Ins. Co., 114 Cal. App.3d 433, 438 (1971); Ivy v. Pacific Automobile Ins. Co., 156 Cal. App.2d 652, 660 (1958)(the insured is precluded from interfering with settlement procedures). Under the majority of contracts for liability insurance, the absolute control of the defense of the matter is turned over to the insurance company and the insured is excluded from any interference in any negotiation for settlement or other legal proceedings (emphasis added). Merritt v. Reserve Ins. Co., 34 Cal. App.3d 858, 870 (1973). An insurance carrier has the right to settle claims covered by insurance when it decides settlement is expedient and the insured may not interfere with nor prevent such settlements [e.a.]. 44 Am. Jur. 2d, Insurance, sec. 1392, at 326-27 (rev. ed 2002).[vi]

It would be unethical for an attorney to make false statements to the Court; and in such a highly publicized case, it would be professional suicide.

Non-lawyers seem to think that an insurance company cannot make you settle a lawsuit.  However, insurance is to provide you with an attorney and pay for a judgment up to the policy limits [e.a.].  In fact, the standard language in an indemnity policy provides: “We may, at our discretion, investigate any “occurrence” and settle any claim or “suit” that may result.”  Nowhere in that language does a standard liability policy allow you to consent to a settlement made at the insurance company’s discretion.  Contrary to popular belief, insurance of this type does not exist to guarantee a day in Court.  Therefore, once the insured is sued, the insurer can make any settlements that are in its best interests.[vii]  Since insurance companies are in the business of making money, settling for less than defense costs is in their best interests.   If the insured does not agree to settle within the policy limits, an insurer can rescind the policy for failure to cooperate, leaving the insured without coverage [e.a.].

If you have ever been involved in a car accident, you may not even realize that a claim was brought against you because it was investigated and settled by your insurance company [e.a.].

As part of this settlement, all of the parties signed a confidential settlement agreement, not a confidentiality agreement.[viii]  (The agreement has been widely available online for years.)  It is important to mention that the agreement dismissed the first six causes of action without prejudice.[ix]  When actions are settled with prejudice, all claims asserted in the action are forever barred from being brought again.  When actions are settled without prejudice, it allows the plaintiff to revive those claims— should they want to do so—at a later time.  Since Jordie was a minor at the time of the settlement, his rights to bring an action against Michael until his age of majority were expressly preserved.  Therefore, had Jordie decided to pursue claims against Michael, he would have been able to do so up until the statute of limitations expired.  Since he was a minor, the statute of limitations would have been tolled to add additional time for him to achieve the age of majority and bring a suit [e.a]. 

In 1993, the existing law prevented authorities from compelling an alleged victim of child abuse to testify.  Therefore, when Jordie Chandler accepted the settlement money, he was permitted to refuse to testify in a criminal matter, and he did so.  In fact, he left the state of California, which simultaneously removed him from state’s subpoena power [e.a].  

However, had he re-commenced his claims, he would then have been compelled to testify in a criminal trial.  In other words, the door was left open for Jordie to pursue civil claims against Michael, but had he done so, Jordie would have simultaneously been forced to testify had the state decided to pursue criminal charges. [e.a.][x]

Referring to the settlement, the Chandlers’ attorney Larry Feldman stated, “nobody’s bought anybody’s silence.” [e.a.][xi]  Under the terms of the agreement, the parties were to seek Court approval of the document.[xii]  In fact, the settlement was not binding until the Court approved of the document.[xiii]  Since it is unlawful to obstruct justice by requiring another’s silence of a crime, the Court could not have permitted a settlement that required Jordie Chandler to refuse to testify or in essence, obstruct justice.

Notably, on January 28, 1994, USA Today printed that Reuters News Service was reporting that, “photos of Michael Jackson’s genitalia do not match descriptions given by the boy who accused the singer of sexual misconduct.”[xiv]  The Orlando Sun Sentinel also reported, “[p]olice photographs of Michael Jackson’s genitals, which the pop superstar said deeply embarrassed him, may end up being his salvation in avoiding criminal charges of child molestation, a source close to the pop star said Thursday.”  Therefore, given the totality of the media reports, Jordie’s description did not match the body search [e.a]. 

It’s interesting to note that many people who have not learned the facts about Jordie Chandler’s inability to accurately describe Michael’s penis also claim that Michael Jackson settled after the body search because of the description.  However, it behooves us to pose this question: If there was going to be a match, why not settle before the body search?  Michael Jackson was always a very private person.  He had been shy and religiously observant.  Why would he allow photographs of his penis to be taken if a settlement could have prevented the body search that so embarrassed him?  Remember, the body search was prompted by the Chandlers’ allegations; without their cooperation, there would be no body search.  In addition, the Chandlers’ lawyer began asking for a body search a month before the subpoena was issued.  Therefore, Michael had adequate notice that the Chandlers would request such a search [e.a.].

However, if you believed that by allowing the body search you could get the District Attorney to drop the charges if there was no match, wouldn’t you consent to a body search?  In my own experience, defendants always think that they can get out of a case by telling the authorities the whole story and showing them the proof.  In fact, they have to be told that they cannot win their case by explaining the facts, but they can lose it.  Needless to say, Michael Jackson was not the first—and will not be the last—defendant to learn that, even if you show authorities they are wrong, they are not likely to simply abandon a case.

One has to question the motives of the Chandlers.  What parent in the whole world would accept money if their child was truly molested?  In addition, there would have been absolutely nothing to prevent bringing the civil suit after a criminal trial if Michael had been convicted.  According to the civil attorney at the time, quite a bit of money had been spent in preparing the civil case; the obvious risk to the Chandlers and their attorney, had they proceeded with the criminal case prior to the civil case, would have been an acquittal in the criminal case.  Such an acquittal would have—as it did for the Arvizos—stopped any movement toward a subsequent civil law suit.  This is the only justification we can find for going ahead with the civil suit first: money [e.a.].

The violation of Michael Jackson’s Constitutional rights was a second aspect motivating the Chandler settlement.  The Fifth Amendment guarantees to every American the right not to testify against himself in a criminal matter; however, the District Attorney’s office set a course to deny Michael Jackson those rights.  Soon after the Chandler civil action was commenced, Larry Feldman, Jordie’s attorney, made a motion seeking an expedited trial due to Jordie’s age.  The would-be prosecutors from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Counties supported the motion and sought any discovery obtained during that civil action.  The discovery would have included a deposition of Michael, something the prosecutors were absolutely barred from obtaining in a criminal matter.  In opposing the motion, Michael’s new counsel, Johnnie Cochran,[xv] sought to delay the civil action until the criminal statute of limitations expired as to all potential claims [e.a.].  

As an attorney, if you ask for too much, you’ll usually get nothing. (It’s of note that this same argument has been used to defend the Los Angeles District Attorney’s decision to charge Conrad Murray with only one count of involuntary manslaughter in the homicide of Michael Jackson.)  The defense should have merely asked that criminal charges related to Jordie Chandler as complainant be prosecuted prior to the civil action.  Such an argument would have also preserved Michael’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.  However, this was not done [e.a.]. 

In fact, in discussing the tactic, Michael’s business attorney John Branca told Michael, “people here think you’re trying to delay the trial for six years.”  Michael said, “[s]ix years?  What are you talking about Branca?  I don’t want to delay the trial, not even a day.”[xvi]  Michael criticized his defense attorneys for the move [e.a.]. 

This became moot when, denying Michael’s right to a speedy trial, the judge granted Mr. Feldman’s motion and on January 14, 1994, ordered that Michael Jackson appear for a deposition in the civil matter between January 25 and February 2, 1994.  The judge also set a trial date for March 21, 1994 [e.a.].[xvii] 

Upon reaching a settlement, Jordie Chandler’s attorney publicly stated:

We wish to jointly announce a mutual resolution of this lawsuit.  As you are aware, the plaintiff has alleged certain acts of impropriety by Mr. Jackson.  And from the inception of those allegations, Mr. Jackson has maintained his innocence.  However, the emotional trauma and strain on the respective parties have caused both parties to reflect on the wisdom of continuing with this litigation.  The plaintiff has agreed that the lawsuit should be resolved and it will be dismissed in the near future.  While Mr. Jackson continues to maintain his innocence, he withdraws any previous allegations of extortion.  This will allow the parties to get on with their lives in a more positive and productive manner. 

 

Much of the suffering these parties have been put through was caused by the publicity surrounding this case.  We jointly request that the members of the press allow the parties to close this chapter of their lives with dignity.[xviii]  

 

After the settlement, Evan’s brother, Raymond Chandler stated that his brother and nephew bear Jackson no ill will: “[t]hey all loved him — that was why it was so hard to come to grips with what was going on.  It’s too bad to see his career take the hit it did and we all hope he gets it back.  They don’t hold any malice in their hearts toward Michael.  I think they understand what’s happened in his life and how he’s an even bigger victim of abuse.”[xix]

Evidence Presented to Two Grand Juries

For the most part, the Chandlers only wanted "Michael the human bank" over "Michael the human."

Jordie Chandler named several other boys who he claimed were also “victims.”  Those boys included actor Macaulay Culkin, Brett Barnes and Wade Robson.  The Sexually Exploited Child Unit of the LAPD interviewed the boys.[xx]  None of the boys corroborated Jordie Chandler’s allegations [e.a].  In fact, the DCFS interviewed Macaulay Culkin who exonerated Michael.[xxi]  But that didn’t stop the Police Departments in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara from searching for evidence after the civil settlement.  Among those interviewed were Emmanuel Lewis, Jimmy Safechuck and Jonathan Spence.[xxii] 

DeWayne Wickham quipped in USA Today, “[i]f you haven’t figured it out yet, this case is about money – and nothing else.  Having been duped into launching their criminal investigations, [Gil Garcetti] and Sneddon spent tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars looking for evidence while the singer’s accusers remained focused on their money grab.”[xxiii]  The District Attorneys scoured the earth—literally—looking for another witness to corroborate molestation claims in 1993 and came up with nothing [e.a.].

Following the settlement, criminal claims against Michael Jackson were brought to two grand juries.  Neither one would indict.  It is important to note that grand juries hear the evidence that the prosecution intends to present; typically, there is no cross-examination or questioning, and the defense presents no case at all.  Therefore it is the prosecution’s evidence without any opportunity to rebut any of the claims.  Even though this one-sided form of evidence was presented to two different grand juries, Michael was not indicted [e.a.].

On May 2, 1994, the Los Angeles grand jury was disbanded.[xxiv]  One juror commented that he did not hear any damaging testimony and the panel was never asked to render an indictment.[xxv]  The FBI followed up and on August 8, 1994 the agent was told that the Los Angeles District Attorney had not yet decided whether he would file charges.[xxvi]     

Ultimately, by September 1994, Prosecutors Gil Garcetti (L.A.) and Tom Sneddon (Santa Barbara) were willing to announce that, “after an exhaustive probe involving more than 400 witnesses, including 30 called before grand juries, they were left with only Jackson’s principal accuser, who refused to testify in court and could not be compelled to by law.”[xxvii]  Therefore, neither District Attorney would file charges. 

The District Attorney found the Quindoys and the LeMarques useless as witnesses.[xxviii]  The Quindoys later tried to shop around a book deal.  In connection with their attempts to find a buyer, they claimed to have secret witnesses that they withheld from the District Attorney.

The statute of limitations on the case had another five years to expire, which allowed Jordie or Evan to change their minds and offer testimony in support of criminal charges.  That never occurred.  Once Evan Chandler obtained the money noted in his diary months earlier, if the allegations were true, he did not seek justice for his son [e.a.].

June Chandler’s former attorney Michael Freeman said, “I think [Michael Jackson] was wrongly accused.  I think that Evan Chandler and Barry Rothman saw an opportunity and went for it.  That’s my personally held belief.  I believe it was all about money, and their strategy obviously worked.” [e.a.][xxix]

Settlement Not Enough

In 1996, Evan Chandler sued Michael Jackson, seeking sixty million dollars, claiming that Michael had violated the terms of the confidential settlement agreement by denying the molestation claims.[xxx]  The claims arose from Michael Jackson’s appearance on ABC’s Prime Time Live when Michael and Lisa Marie Presley told Diane Sawyer the molestation charges were “lies, lies, lies, lies.”  Evan Chandler claimed that Michael’s statement violated the terms of the settlement agreement and, as if it were possible, damaged his family’s reputation.  The May 7, 1996, complaint alleged 16 causes of action including breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander-libel and conspiracy.  Evan Chandler’s suit claimed that when Michael wrote “They Don’t Care About Us,” the song portrayed him in a bad light because the lines “Jew me, sue me” and “Kick me, kike me” referred to him; since he was Jewish, the statements were derogatory.  (Of note, Evan Chandler changed his last name from ‘Charmatz’ to Chandler purportedly because he thought it was too Jewish sounding.)  The matter was submitted to arbitration.  On July 26, 1999, the arbitrator ruled that the confidentiality agreement specifically provided that neither party was guilty of any crime or had committed any wrongdoing.  Therefore, Michael did not damage the Chandler’s reputation by declaring his innocence.  The Supreme Court in California confirmed the arbitrator’s decision in October 2000.[xxxi]  The matter was disposed in June 2001, when the arbitrator ordered Evan Chandler to pay Michael Jackson’s attorneys’ fees [e.a].

On August 5, 2005, Jordie and his father were living together in a high-rise luxury building overlooking the Hudson River in New York City when, from behind, Evan hit Jordie with a 12 ½ -pound dumb bell.  For good measure, Evan then sprayed Jordie in the face with mace.  Jordie obtained a temporary restraining order against Evan under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35.  The restraints were continued by an order dated August 19, 2005; however, Jordie sought a permanent restraining order against his father.  At trial, after Jordie rested his case, Evan’s counsel moved for dismissal pursuant to Rule 4:37-2(b).  In dismissing Jordie’s claims, the judge found that the men were members of the same household when the abusive act occurred.  The judge also found that the weight could cause serious bodily injury or death.  Thus, the judge was satisfied that Jordie had provided evidence, which if believed, would support a finding of aggravated assault.  However, despite that finding, the judge refused to issue a final restraining order, reasoning as follows:

I’m persuaded, at this point, that the allegation . . . while serious in and of itself, is not a pattern of abusive and controlling behavior [Emphasis added].[xxxii]

The case was initially dismissed, but on appeal, the appeals court in New Jersey determined that Jordie presented enough evidence to warrant a trial to determine if Evan Chandler represented enough of a danger to warrant a permanent restraining Order.  The Appellate Court’s decision was rendered on June 8, 2006 (DOCKET NO. A-0422-05T10422-05T1). [xxxiii]  In June 2006, Jordie finally obtained a permanent restraining order against his father [e.a.]. 

On November 17, 2009, it was widely reported that the body of Evan Chandler was found in his luxury apartment in Jersey City after he missed a doctor’s appointment.  He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on November 5, 2009.  He was cremated without a single friend or family member in attendance.  It’s somewhat surprising that someone who claimed he had so much to say about Michael Jackson—and purportedly relished an opportunity to testify against Michael—did not leave a suicide note.[xxxiv]-End.

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