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Lawyers being hired and the formation of the allegations

On March 24, 2003 Janet Arvizo formally hired William Dickerman as her attorney and Dickerman began writing letters to Jackson’s attorney, Mark Geragos on her behalf demanding the return of furniture, clothes, documents and various other items which were put in a storage locker after the Arvizos moved out of their Los Angeles apartment on March 1-2. The storage locker was rented in Bradley Miller’s name. There were numerous back and forth letters between the two attorneys about the issue of where and how the Arvizos would take possession of their belongings and who would pay the outstanding bill of the storage locker.

In his letters Dickerman also claimed that Jackson’s people harrassed and followed around the Arvizo family after they left Neverland. However, nowhere in his letters there are claims of child molestation, claims of false imprisonment or claims of providing alcohol to a minor. From William Dickerman’s cross-examination by Jackson’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau:

Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Nowhere in this letter of March 26th that you wrote to Mr. Geragos on behalf of the Arvizos is there any mention of alcohol, correct?

A. Correct. [1]

and

Q. Now, in this letter of March 26th to Mr. Geragos, there is no mention of the Arvizo family ever being falsely imprisoned, correct?

A. I believe that’s correct.

Q. And in this letter of March 26th to Attorney Mark Geragos, there’s no mention of the Arvizo family ever being kidnapped, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. In this letter of March 26th, 2003, to Mr. Geragos that you wrote, there’s no mention of any extortion, right?

A. I believe that’s correct. I haven’t read this word for word, but it sounds right.

Q. Okay. When you sent this letter to Mr. Geragos on March 26th, 2003, two days after you had been retained by the Arvizos, did you ever call the police to complain about false imprisonment, kidnapping, molestation or alcohol?

A. No. [1]

 and

Q. In that letter, you never mention anything about molestation, correct?

A. That’s correct. The only purpose of the letter was to get the items that I had written about before.

Q. In the April 3rd letter, 2003, you mention nothing about alcohol, correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. You mention nothing about false imprisonment, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. You mention nothing about any alleged kidnapping, correct?

A. That is correct.

Q. You mentioning nothing about any alleged extortion, correct?

A. Correct. [1]

Dickerman never mentioned any such complaint in his verbal communication with Geragos either:

Q. Now, in all of these conversations you had with Mark Geragos on behalf of the Arvizos, at no time did you mention to him anything about child molestation, correct?

A. Well, I don’t think I had more than one or two conversations.

Q. And you never mentioned anything about child molestation, correct?

A. That’s correct. That wasn’t the purpose of the communication.

Q. You never mentioned anything about wine allegedly being given to any of the Arvizo children, correct?

A. Correct. There was no reason to do that. [1]

According to his own testimony, in early May of 2003 William Dickerman entered into a fee-sharing agreement with attorney, Larry Feldman. Feldman in his own testimony confirmed that they had fee-sharing agreement, although he suggested it came about a little bit later, (”not right at the beginning”), but he did not specify when.

Larry Feldman was the same civil attorney who negotiated the $15 million settlement for the Chandlers, the family of Jackson’s first accuser in 1993-94 . [For more details about the 1993 Jordan Chandler allegations please see the relevant section of our website.] According to the Arvizos’ later story at this time Gavin had not yet disclosed his alleged abuse to anyone, including his mother or Dickerman, so at this time there were no allegations of child sexual abuse by the Arvizos yet. So why would Dickerman refer them to the same attorney who dealt with the first child abuse allegation against Jackson in 1993-94? In his 2005 testimony he explained it this way:

Q. All right. Did you file a lawsuit on behalf of Janet Arvizo or her family?

A. No.

Q. At some point in time, did you refer this matter to another attorney?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. Who was that other attorney?

A. Larry Feldman.

Q. And why did you do that?

A. Excuse me. I began representing the Arvizos in February. And by the time I met with Mr. Feldman, it was the beginning of May. In that period of time I had learned a lot of things. There were a lot of allegations being made, and I realized that the best thing for my clients to do, and for me personally as their attorney, was to get some expert input as to matters of Michael Jackson. The initial things I didn’t think I really needed to do that with, but as things developed, I wanted to get some input. So I met with Mr. Feldman, whom, by the way, I knew — not “by the way.” It was very important. I knew that he was – by reputation, he was one of the top trial lawyers in California, if not the United States.
And actually, previously, not knowing him except by reputation, I had referred a case to him, tried to refer a case to him that I could not handle for various reasons of an old client of mine. And I knew that he was the go-to guy with regard to Michael Jackson matters. Of course, I knew about the 1993 case, so I met with him, with the idea of picking his brain, actually, not to refer any matters to him. And afterwards, he met with them, and they — we all associated together. The Arvizos hired both him and me.

Q. All right. Have you filed a lawsuit as of this time on behalf of the Arvizos or anybody else?

A. No.

Q. Is it the case that the extent of your dealings with them so far, in terms of your communicating with others, has been for purposes of getting their property returned or dealing with the consequences of “Living with Michael Jackson,” the documentary?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you have an understanding with Mr. Feldman that should there be a lawsuit in the future, that –

THE COURT: They’re not hearing you.

MR. ZONEN: I’m sorry?

THE COURT: Behind; these people can’t hear you.

MR. ZONEN: I’m terribly sorry.

Q. Is there an arrangement that, should there be a lawsuit in the future, that there would be compensation for you in any form of a settlement even if you’re not participating in that lawsuit? Do you know what I mean?

A. Well, we have an agreement.

Q. Okay.

A. It doesn’t say anything about participation or not. We were retained together, and I have a fee-sharing arrangement with Mr. Feldman.

Q. Which means what?

A. Which means I will get — if there is such a lawsuit anytime in the future, that I will be entitled to a sliding scale, depending on whether there’s a settlement or a judgment.

Q. Okay. What kind of lawsuit do you anticipate?

A. I don’t anticipate any lawsuit. My understanding is that there isn’t one in the offing. Nobody’s talking about one. And I suppose if there were to be one — well, that would be speculation. [1]

It is not clear what Dickerman refers to when he says: “In that period of time I had learned a lot of things. There were a lot of allegations being made”, because according to the Arvizos’ own story they had not disclosed anything about alleged child sexual abuse to Dickerman at that point yet. The claim is that they contacted Dickerman to get back their stuff from the storage locker, to stop alleged harassment by Jackson’s people and to deal with the Arvizos’ issues with the media – i.e. writing letters to various media outlets to make them stop using the Arvizos’ photos and footage from the Martin Bashir documentary, unless they could show that the Arvizos had given their legal consent.

In the above extract Dickerman says: “And I knew that he was the go-to guy with regard to Michael Jackson matters. Of course, I knew about the 1993 case, so I met with him, with the idea of picking his brain, actually, not to refer any matters to him.”

Feldman previously dealt with only one case regarding Michael Jackson and that was the allegations of child sexual abuse by the Chandler family in 1993. There is no other claim for him being “the go-to guy with regard to Michael Jackson matters”. But we are supposed to believe that Dickerman contacted him just to help him get back some old furniture from a storage locker or to help him write letters to the media? Because remember, this was all happening BEFORE Gavin first made allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson.

After being referred to Feldman by Dickerman, Feldman sent the Arvizos to Dr. Stanley Katz, a psychologist whose field is child sexual abuse. Moreover, Dr. Katz is the same psychologist who evaluated Jordan Chandler in 1993 and with whom Larry Feldman first worked together in 1987. Dr. Katz was formerly also involved in the highly controversial McMartin preschool trial. He was the Director of Training and Professional Education at the Children’s Institute International (CII). Kee McFarlane, who initially interviewed the McMartin children, worked under him. On cross-examination at Jackson’s 2005 trial, Dr. Katz testified that he did the assessments of the McMartin children. [2] The CII’s role in the McMartin case has been widely criticized in professional circles. Their interviewing techniques are considered coercive and manipulative which may lead children make false allegations about sexual abuse. [3]

Again, keep in mind that the claim is that the Arvizos were sent to Feldman regarding the storage locker, the alleged harassment and the media issues. Gavin testified in 2005 that the first person he ever made his allegations to was Dr. Katz and that he did not make any such allegations to either Dickerman, Feldman or his mother. Yet, he was sent to the same lawyer who negotiated a $15 million settlement for the Chandler family in 1993 in a child molestation lawsuit and this lawyer then sends him to a child abuse psychologist – the same one who also evaluated the 1993 accuser.

In his testimony Feldman claimed that Dr. Katz reported his findings to him in a verbal conversation in his office. Next Feldman called the Arvizo family back in his office to tell them about it. This is yet another contradiction among the many contradictions in the Arvizos’ story, because according to Janet Arvizo she had not learnt about her son’s alleged abuse until September 2003 when the police informed her about it after talking to her children. It actually does not make much sense that a child is sent to a psychologist who is a child abuse expert and the parent would not be informed of the alleged findings of that interview until months later, nor would she enquire about them.

From Feldman’s testimony:

Q. At some point in time, did you receive a report back from Dr. Katz about his initial contacts with the family?

A. Oral. I got an oral — I had an oral conversation with him.

Q. Do you recall whether it was in person or over the phone?

A. I think it was in person, quite frankly. I think he came to my office.

Q. Now, after you received this report, did you do anything?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you do?

A. I called the Arvizo family, Mrs. Arvizo and the three children, back into my office for a meeting.

Q. All right. And in that meeting, what was the topic discussed?

MR. MESEREAU: Objection to the extent it calls for hearsay.

MR. SNEDDON: All right.

THE COURT: Overruled. The subject matter only.

THE WITNESS: The subject matter only. The subject matter was the options — well, what Dr. Katz had told me, and their — the options that existed at that point for that family. Different courses of action that were available to them at that point in time. [4]

Now we have four different versions by the accusing side about how and when Janet Arvizo found out about the alleged abuse of her son:

1) According to the prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause (November 17, 2003) in her initial interview with Sgt. Steve Robel on July 6-7, 2003 Janet Arvizo claimed that their sons disclosed to her the alleged abuse after February or March, 2003:

“These disclosures were made to her after February or March of this year [2003]. She explained that she would interrupt and tell Star and Gavin to “forgive and forget”. She did this because she thought she was doing the right thing. She wanted Star and Gavin to make the disclosures to a priest or someone else. She has since learned that this was wrong of her to do.” [5; page 23]

On the stand in 2005 Janet Arvizo claimed that at the time she was not aware that either of her sons were molested, she was only “aware of things”, however, in the prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause document (November 17, 2003) it is clearly claimed that in February-March, 2003 her sons disclosed accounts of molestation to Janet Arvizo (eg. Jackson allegedly “moving his hips against Gavin” in bed while they were supposedly in bed together, Jackson allegedly touching Star’s private parts etc. – see page 22-23 of the referenced document [5]).

2) The very same prosecution document later contains a totally different version of how and when Janet Arvizo learnt about the alleged molestation of her son:

It is important to note that during the course of the two interviews detailed in this affidavit, Mrs. Arvizo was not aware that Gavin has been molested. She believed the focus of our investigation was the family’s having been held against their wishes at the Neverland Ranch upon their return from Miami and their escape in March. Mrs. Arvizo (sic) told your Affiant she had contacted an attorney to help get their possessions back and to set up contacts with law enforcement to report what had happened to them. She emphasized she was not interested in money.

Your affiant is aware through a conversation with Sgt. Robel that around 5:00 p.m. on September 30, 2003, that Sgt. Robel, Lt. Klapakis and District Attorney Tom Sneddon met with Mrs. Arvizo and her family in a Los Angeles hotel and informed her that our conversations with her children had established that Gavin had been molested. This was the first time she was aware of the nature of her children’s disclosures to law enforcement.” [5; page 64]

3) On contrary with both versions in the prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause Larry Feldman in his testimony in 2005 then provided a third version when he said after sending the Arvizo family to Dr. Stanley Katz in June 2003 he called them back to his office and discussed Dr. Katz’s findings with them and what kind of legal actions were available to them at that time.

4) As mentioned above, in March-April 2003 attorney William Dickerman wrote letters to Jackson’s attorney, Mark Geragos regarding the issue of returning the Arvizos’ items from a storage locker. In those letters Dickerman never makes any allegation of child molestation, false imprisonment or providing alcohol to a minor. When asked about this on the stand by Jackson’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau, this is what Janet Arvizo had to say:

Q. In none of his letters did he ever mention anything about alcohol or child molestation, true?

A. Because that was information for these guys right here, for the police.

Q. How many months later?

A. Because I didn’t want Geragos to know that we were headed towards — straight to the police. [6]

So this is yet another version, in which they do not mention alleged molestation in those letters dated March-April, 2003, not because Janet Arvizo was not aware of it at the time yet, but because they were preserving that information for the police. Here we have to add, however, that they did not go “straight to the police” in March-April 2003, but they went to civil attorney Larry Feldman in May 2003 – like we have described above.

This is just one of the many contradictions in the Arvizos’ allegations. Others are discussed in detail in a separate article.

Although Feldman represented the Arvizos, in a private conversation with television and radio host Larry King, shortly before Jackson’s trial began, Feldman admitted to King that he did not believe them, that he felt they only wanted money and that the mother was a ”whacko”. King testified about it at Jackson’s trial but due to the hearsay nature of his testimony the jury was not allowed to be present and to take his testimony into consideration. Earlier in April in his own testimony, Larry Feldman denied making these remarks to Larry King.

It should be also noted that the California law that allowed the Chandlers to push the civil trial ahead of the criminal trial in 1993-94 was changed since – according to Santa Barbara District Attorney, Thomas Sneddon directly because of what happened in the Chandler case. [Details see in our article about Jackson’s settlement with the Chandler family.] Because of this change, an accuser in a sexual assault case cannot pursue a civil lawsuit right away. The new law restricts a civil trial from preceding a criminal trial.

It is for this reason that the Arvizos could not use the same strategy as what the Chandlers did in 1993. They had no choice but to begin a criminal trial first. And if they had won the criminal case that could have been used to secure an automatic win for them in a civil court too, as we have learnt from the cross-examination of William Dickerman by Thomas Mesereau:

Q. But you certainly know that if someone has a judgment of a criminal conviction against them for sexual assault, you can use that in a civil court to establish liability and not have to incur the expenses and the time involved in a trial on liability, right?

A. I would assume that to be the case.

Q. The only issue at that point would be how much money you get in a civil courtroom, correct?

A. I don’t know if there are other issues, but I think as the judgment, that’s true of any criminal action, that you don’t then have to go, once again, and prove exactly what was proved with a higher burden of proof. [1]

Larry Feldman’s testimony under cross-examination confirmed this:

Q. Isn’t it true that a judgment of conviction in a criminal case for anything related to child molestation could be dispositive in a parallel civil suit alleged for the same facts?

A. As long as it’s a felony conviction, that’s right.

Q. In other words, if Mr. Jackson were convicted of felony child molestation in this case, either Gavin Arvizo or Star Arvizo could use that conviction to essentially win a civil case regarding similar alleged facts against Mr. Jackson?

A. That’s correct.

Q. If there were a conviction for felony child molestation in this case, and if Star or Gavin elected to sue in a civil case based on the similar alleged facts of sexual abuse, essentially the only issue remaining would be how much money you get, correct?

A. Probably. I think that’s — it’s close enough. I mean, nothing is that simple, as just stated. You know it as well as I. But essentially I think that’s what would happen. [4]

Whatever Larry Feldman privately thought of the Arvizos, on June 13, 2003 he called Lieutenant Jeff Klapakis at the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office and reported to him Gavin’s allegations. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office was not new to the case. Like mentioned earlier they were already investigating Jackson since February 2003 and their investigation started before the alleged molestations even happened according to the Arvizos’ final timeline. Klapakis was personally involved in that investigation since the beginning.

In July-September, 2003 investigators conducted several interviews with Gavin, Star, Davellin and Janet Arvizo. These interviews contain several contradictions with each other, as well as with the later versions of the Arvizos’ story. We address those and other contradictions of the Arvizos’ allegations in a separate article.

According to Larry Feldman’s testimony in about August, September or October of 2003 (he was not sure of the exact month) he wrote a letter to the Arvizos saying he was not going to represent them. However, from his testimony we have learnt that later he and his law firm did represent various members of the family in related and other matters. For example, in 2004 on behalf of the Arvizos he filed a claim with the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services, seeking monetary damages, because the DCFS’s report from February 20, 2003 got leaked to the public.

On November 18, 2003 an arrest warrant was issued for Michael Jackson based on Gavin Arvizo’s allegations. Jackson at the time was in Las Vegas, but at the news of his arrest he returned to California and turned himself in. He was then released on a 3 million dollar bail. The same day, in Jackson’s absence, 70 sheriffs raided his home, the Neverland Ranch, to carry out a search warrant.

The Prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause (November 17, 2003) document, on which the search and arrest warrants were based, reasoned the request for the warrants as follows:

“The mere fact of forty-five-year-old Jackson’s three-year-long interest in the adolescent Gavin is corroborating in itself; it would strike a reasonable person as grossly abnormal. So is the way that interest manifested itself: endless telephone conversations with the youngster, inappropriate and relatively public touching, kissing, licking and cuddling of him; expensive gifts, cross-country flights, the relocation of the family from their modest quarters in Los Angeles, his efforts to have them take up residence in Brazil.” [5; page 66]

As you have seen above in reality Jackson did not have a “three-year-long interest in the adolescent Gavin” and “endless telephone conversations with the youngster”. In actuality, Gavin himself complained on the stand that Jackson was actively avoiding him during those three years and did not take and return his phone calls. The so called “inappropriate, public touching, kissing, licking and cuddling” was conveniently always only observed by other members of the Arvizo family and there were no independent witnesses to confirm them.

As for expensive gifts, Jackson was generous with everyone – children and adults alike. The only cross-country flight (there were no cross-country flights in plural) took place on February 5-6 where the Arvizo family, including the mother, was invited to Miami for a press conference which eventually was called off (see above) and the claim about an attempt to relocate the family, to have them “take up residence in Brazil” is also a gross misrepresentation of what really happened (again see earlier in this article).

The case went to Court in 2005 and Jackson was found not guilty on all charges on June 13, 2005. We will discuss the details of the case in separate articles.

Sources:

[1] William Dickerman’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (March 30, 2005)

[2] Dr. Stanley Katz’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (March 30, 2005)

[3] See for example:
– Learning From the McMartin Hoax (1989)
http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume1/j1_2_7.htm
– Suggestive interviewing in the McMartin Preschool and
Kelly Michaels daycare abuse cases: A case study (5 May, 2005)
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=james_wood

[4] Larry Feldman’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 1, 2005)

[5] Statement of Probable Cause (filed by the Prosecution on November 17, 2003)
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[6] Janet Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 18, 2005)

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