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The crucial period: February 7-March 12, 2003

In the hindsight, when they made their allegations, the Arvizos claimed that during this period, February 7-March 12, 2003, they were kept captive at Neverland against their will. This allegation is what the conspiracy charge deals with and we discuss it in detail in this article. During their alleged captivity the Arvizos went shopping several times, visited a lawyer, talked to Child Protective Services because of the Bashir documentary and appeared in a Court regarding a child support debate, yet they never reported to authorities that they were allegedly being kidnapped and held against their will at Neverland. The claim was that Jackson supposedly kept them captive to force them to participate in the so called “rebuttal video”.

Jackson’s team was trying to do damage control regarding the Bashir documentary and they were working on a so called “rebuttal video” which was released on February 20, 2003 as Michael Jackson, Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See. This documentary features footage made by Jackson’s own cameraman Hamid Moslehi during the shooting of the Bashir documentary and it features material that Bashir deliberately omitted, shows his manipulation of Jackson and also features interviews with other people, for example with Jackson’s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe.

Initially the Arvizos would have been featured in this documentary as well, but at the end their segment was not included. However, the footage that was made for this documentary with the Arvizo family was shot early in that morning (on February 20) and later found by the prosecution when they searched Moslehi’s home during the Jackson investigation. As a result the Arvizos, – with the prosecution’s assistance – were forced to change their initial timeline of the allegations.

Initially the Arvizos claimed the molestation started as soon as they returned from Miami with Jackson, on February 7. Their segment of the “rebuttal video” however was shot on February 20. In it they are seen laughing and joking, happily praising Michael Jackson. They also express their displeasure with Martin Bashir. In the hindsight they tried to claim they were under duress, but behind the scenes footage showed them not only laughing and joking, but even making suggestions themselves about what they wanted to do on film. They certainly do not seem to be forced or under duress by any means. The resulting timeline change was not just a minor correction. It significantly changed the narrative of the Arvizo’s initial story as we will discuss later in this article.

The Arvizo segment from the so called “rebuttal video” which eventually was not used in the Take Two documentary, but later became significant at Jackson’s trial:

Behind the scenes footage shows the family laughing and joking:

On February 20, the same day as the Arvizo’s segment for the “rebuttal video” was shot they also got a visit from the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS, also mentioned as Child Protective Services – CPS). They interviewed the Arvizo family because a teacher from Gavin’s school filed a complaint over the claim in the Bashir documentary that Gavin had slept in Jackson’s bed. Again, the Arvizos said nothing but positive things about Jackson. They denied molestation and never claimed that they had been supposedly “kidnapped” or held against their will. In actuality, this meeting with the DCFS took place in Major Jay Jackson’s (no relation to Michael Jackson) home who was Janet Arvizo’s boyfriend at the time and later her husband.

To explain why they did not tell anything negative about Michael Jackson to the DCFS the Arvizos had several versions of their story: initially they claimed it was because Jackson and his people intimidated them. According to the prosecution’s Statement of Probable Cause (November 17, 2003) document on August 13, 2003 Gavin told them:

“Gavin was asked why he did not disclose anything to the CPS people. He said by then they were really afraid of Frank (Cascio) and Michael.” [1; page 60]

His brother Star too claimed on the same day that the reason why they had not disclosed anything to the DCFS was intimidation by Jackson and his people:

“When asked during the CPS interview why he did not disclose anything about what was going on with Michael’s people and Michael himself, Star replied that Michael had scared them by threatening them that he was going to kill them. He then clarified that it was not Michael that actually made the threat, but “Michael’s people.” He was asked if he was personally threatened or if he heard a threat, and he said yes. Frank told him that if Star didn’t protect Michael, something bad would happen to the family.

The threat was made at the snack area of the theatre at Neverland. He was the only one there at the moment. Frank made another threat a couple days before the CPS meeting. Star was asked if Frank knew that they would be meeting with the ladies from the Child Welfare Services, and he said yes. When Star was asked why he thought Frank had made that threat, he said, “Because he already knew what Michael did to us.” If they had told the truth, Michael would have gone to jail. “ [1; page 51-52]

and

“He is sure he did not say anything bad about Michael (to the CPS), because he was scared.” [1; page 52]

This is, however, totally contradictory with the later version of the Arvizos’ story, in which they claimed that the molestation started happening only AFTER the DCFS’s visit and that is why they did not disclose anything to them. In actuality, in 2005 in Court Gavin testified – according to the latest version of their story – that on February 20, when they shot the “rebuttal video” and when they were interviewed by the DCFS, they still considered Jackson to be a good person and they had no problem praising him.

Under cross-examination by Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, the boy stated that most of the things that they said in the “rebuttal video” reflected their true feelings about the entertainer at the time. He talked about some lies that they told – allegedly at the request of one of Jackson’s people, Dieter Wiesner – but these were only exaggerations about how much Jackson was really there for him during his cancer or how much part he really played in his healing. However, on contrary with his and his brother’s earlier statements to the police, on the stand Gavin clearly stated that when they made the ”rebuttal video” they still felt that Jackson was a great person. Gavin also said that he had a good time at Neverland and did not give the impression they were intimidated by anything there:

Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: Okay. It wasn’t until you realized you were not going to be part of Michael Jackson’s family, you were not going to meet Michael Jackson in Brazil, you were not going to be going to Neverland, that you ever came up with these allegations of molestation, right?

A. I didn’t come and talk to the — to the — my mom always wanted to leave. She was the one that was able to realize and get us out of there. I liked being there. [2]

 and

Q. I see. So you went into town with Michael Jackson, correct?

A. Yeah. Michael took us to Toys R Us.

Q. You picked up some fans, correct, on the way?

A. Yeah, Michael invited some people into our – the thing.

Q. You never complained to anyone in the store or any of these fans that anyone was being held against their will, correct?

A. I was actually happy to be at Neverland all the time.

Q. And you were happy to go –

A. That’s something you don’t really understand, is that the majority of those times was — the first few escapes that you talk about, I liked being at Neverland. That was like Disneyland. I loved being there. I had lots of fun. I mean, my mom was the one always worried. It wasn’t until the last time that I realized “I don’t want to be here.”

Q. Your mother was worried, but she always came back, right? Right?

A. I guess so. [3]

These last two lines are a reference to the Arvizos’ claim that during their alleged “kidnapping” they “escaped” three times, but then they always returned.

The first alleged “escape” happened shortly after they returned from Miami on February 7. One night Janet Arvizo asked Jackson’s ranch manager, Jesus Salas to take them home to Los Angeles, which he did. Moreover according to Janet Arvizo’s own claims in her police interview on July 6-7, 2003, Marie Nicole Cascio assisted them in their “escape”:

“She described running in the dark through Neverland, being led by Marie Nicole, to find her way to the car. Mrs. Arvizo was unable to recall exact dates of events during this period. She stated that there were no clocks or calendars at Neverland and she would lose track of the date.” [1; page 25]

Marie Nicole Cascio is the sister of Frank Cascio, who allegedly was one of the main culprits in the Arvizos’ “kidnapping”.

According to the Arvizo family there were no clocks at Neverland...

According to the Arvizo family there were no clocks at Neverland…

Janet Arvizo explained her “escaping” with the fact that she did not like two of Jackson’s people, Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer, whom she called “the Germans”, and felt intimidated by them. After Frank Cascio promised her that the Germans would not be at Neverland any more, she and her children returned. However, the Germans were still at Neverland, so Janet Arvizo “escaped” again, this time on her own, leaving her children behind, asking Jackson’s bodyguard, Chris Carter to take her to Jay Jackson’s house, which he did.

Both of these alleged “escapes” happened within a couple of days after they returned from Miami on February 7. The third occasion that was characterized as an “escape” by Janet Arvizo was when the Arvizos left Neverland for good. Once again the “escape” was not met with resistance from Jackson’s people – in fact, Janet Arvizo just asked Vinnie Amen, Frank Cascio’s friend and closest colleague, one of the Arvizos’ alleged “kidnappers”, to take them to the home of Janet Arvizo’s parents and he did.

Jackson and his people apparently were suspicious of the Arvizos and of how they may use the media frenzy resulting from the Bashir documentary for their benefit. The media at this point tried to contact the Arvizos and Jackson already had experience with the practices of the tabloid media and what the temptation of tabloid money can make people claim (see this article). (Remember this is all before the Arvizos allege Jackson started to molest Gavin.) The fact that Jackson did not trust this family from the beginning is apparent from the fact that he tried to keep his distance from them, as described by even Gavin himself in Court.

Gavin’s mother, Janet Arvizo too complained about Jackson’s people keeping her away from the star during their stay at Neverland. The following exchange is from the testimony of Jesus Salas, a prosecution witness, who served as a housekeeper at Jackson’s Neverland ranch. The prosecutor tried to get Salas say that Janet Arvizo complained about her children being kept away from her, but Salas made it clear that the woman did not complain about her children, but about Jackson being kept away from her:

Q. You also said that Janet complained about being separated from Michael, that Dieter was separating her from Michael. Yes?

A. Yes. That was her expression, yes.
 
Q. Didn’t she say that she was — didn’t she complain that Dieter was separating her from Michael Jackson and her children?
 
A. Not exactly what she said. She said that she was being separated from Michael.
 
Q. Okay. But didn’t she reference her children when she was talking about that?
 
MR. MESEREAU: Objection; asked and answered.
 
THE COURT: Sustained.
 
Q. BY MR. AUCHINCLOSS: You say “not exactly.” What do you mean?
 
A. She never mentioned the kids.
 
Q. Did she ever complain about being separated from her kids?
 
A. No, sir. [9]

Not long after the Bashir documentary aired Jackson hired attorney, Mark Geragos. Bradley Miller, a private investigator working for Geragos, conducted and tape recorded an interview with Janet Arvizo in Jay Jackson’s home on February 16. On the tape Janet Arvizo does not mention she or her children being “kidnapped” or being held captive by either Jackson or his people, nor any other wrongdoing by Jackson. In fact she says nothing but nice things about him. In Court in 2005 Janet Arvizo said of that interview:

Q. All right. And you said nice things about Mr. Jackson, did you not?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. And did you believe those things at that time?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. You would have said those things even if he hadn’t rewound the tape-recorder?

A. That’s right. [4]

Like said before, the Arvizos’ story changed over the course of the investigation. Initially they claimed that Jackson started molesting Gavin immediately after they returned from Miami on February 7. This is also represented in the prosecution’s initial felony complaint, filed on December 18, 2003 [5]. In interviews they gave to the police in 2003 the Arvizos claimed that they told nice things about Jackson in their interview with the DCFS and the “rebuttal video” (both on February 20) because they were under duress and intimidated by Jackson’s people.

However, with the emergence of the “rebuttal tape” that was shot of the Arvizo family by Hamid Moslehi, this claim became hard to defend, so the story later changed to the molestation starting only after February 20 – after the shooting of the “rebuttal video” and after the Arvizo’s interview with the DCFS. In the new version of their story, and this was the version they presented in Court, the Arvizos did not tell the DCFS simply because no molestation had happened yet on February 20 and not because they were intimidated by Jackson and/or his people, as they initially claimed.

It was not only the DCFS that started an investigation against Jackson because of the Bashir documentary. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department too launched an investigation in February 2003 based on a complaint by psychiatrist Dr. Carol Lieberman – again, because of the Bashir documentary. This investigation continued until April, 2003.

(Dr. Lieberman is the same psychiatrist who together with attorney and TV personality Gloria Allred also filed complaints against Jackson for the so called “baby dangling incident” and campaigned for Jackson’s children to be taken away from him. Then later in 2003 Allred represented a 18-year-old young men, Daniel Kapon, who claimed he had been sexually molested by Michael Jackson when he was a child. Kapon claimed he had “repressed memories” of the molestation and therefore only recently recalled the abuse. It was Dr. Lieberman who “helped” bring forth his “repressed memories”. During an investigation into the matter by the Santa Barbara Police Department it emerged that in reality Kapon never even met Jackson. For details about Kapon see this article.)

In the latest version of their story the Arvizos’ claim was that Jackson molested Gavin between February 20 and March 12, 2003 [6]. So the Arvizos’ story is that while all this was happening – public outrage because of the Bashir documentary, innuendo and allegations in the media about Jackson’s relationship with children – and specifically Gavin – as a result of the Bashir documentary, high media interest, tabloids trying to “hunt down” the Arvizo family, DCFS investigation, another investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, Jackson’s PR and legal team working overtime on damage control because of the public relations backlash resulting from the Bashir documentary and its innuendo – all WHILE this is happening Jackson starts molesting Gavin Arvizo, even though for three years he has not touched him and obviously not even trusted him and his family. And even though he had not molested Gavin until all these investigations by the DCFS and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department started, but he started to molest him WHILE these investigations were ongoing. THIS is exactly what the Arvizo family claimed, this is exactly their story that you have to believe in order to believe their allegations! (Among several other problems with their case that we detail in separate articles.)

The Arvizos left Neverland for good on March 12, so according to their final version of the allegations Jackson molested Gavin between February 20 and March 12, 2003. In actuality, this period becomes even shorter when we know that between February 25 and March 2 the Arvizos were not at Neverland but stayed in a hotel in Calabasas. Moreover phone logs presented by the prosecution towards the end of the presentation of their side of the case inadvertently revealed that in early March Jackson stayed a few days at the Beverly Hilton hotel using the pseudonym Kenneth Morgan (as celebrities often use pseudonyms to avoid attention). From the logs it appears he was there at least on March 7-8, but possibly also on March 6, while the Arvizos were at Neverland. Based on the phone logs it also seems on February 20 Jackson was at the Turnberry Isle Resort in Miami, Florida. The testimony of Azja Pryor (Chris Tucker’s girlfriend at the time) confirms that Jackson was not at Neverland on February 20.

On February 21 Janet Arvizo first visited civil attorney William Dickerman. Janet Arvizo denied this in her testimony, but Dickerman in his own testimony stated they first met on February 21. Then they met again on February 25 – on this both testimonies agreed. This was during the Arvizos’ supposed “kidnap”, yet Janet Arvizo did not mention being kidnapped or being held captive to the lawyer on any occasion, nor did the lawyer report any such thing to any authority. According to Janet Arvizo she contacted Dickerman because she wanted him to stop the media from using her children’s likeness and photos in their publications and on their programs.

Around this time there were plans to take the Arvizos to Brazil for a vacation (possibly to keep them away from the media). This was later characterized by the Arvizos and the prosecution as an attempt to deport them, when in reality travel documents presented in Court showed that they were supposed to stay in Brazil for only a one week vacation. From Janet Arvizo’s cross-examination:

Q. Well, the itinerary says you’re leaving Los Angeles for Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 1st, 2003, right?

A. Okay.

Q. It says you’re returning from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Miami on March 6th, 2003, correct?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. And it says you’re leaving Miami for Los Angeles on March 7th, 2003, correct?

A. Uh-huh. [8]

According to the testimony of Azja Pryor, girlfriend of the actor Chris Tucker at the time, far from being forced, at the time Janet Arvizo was looking forward to the trip and even invited her:

Q. Did Janet ever mention a trip to Brazil to you?

A. Yes.

Q. What did she say?

A. She said that they –

MR. SNEDDON: I’ll object as hearsay.

MR. MESEREAU: Impeachment, Your Honor.

THE COURT: The objection’s overruled.

THE WITNESS: She said that they were going to Brazil for Carnival.

Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: And what is Carnival, to your knowledge?

A. Beautiful costumes, beads. I guess it’s kind of like Mardi Gras.

Q. Kind of a holiday celebration, right?

A. A holiday celebration.

Q. Did she ever ask you to go with her?

A. Yes, she did.

Q. And when did Janet ask you to go to Brazil with her to attend Carnival?

A. During a phone conversation. It was sometime in February.

Q. Okay. And did you say anything in response to her invitation?

A. I said, “Sure, I’d love to go.”

Q. And did you ever talk to her about Brazil again?

A. Yeah, we talked a couple of times about Brazil.

Q. And did you talk about your going with her?

A. I’m sure — I’m sure I did. I told her I couldn’t go for too long. I was in school at the time, so I would only be able to be there for, like, three or four days.

Q. Did she say that was okay?

A. Yes. [7]

Eventually the whole trip was called off and never happened.

On March 2 the family went back again to Neverland and stayed there until March 12 when they left for good. Like mentioned above, this was characterized by Janet Arvizo in her 2005 testimony as their “final escape”. In actuality, according to Janet Arvizo’s own testimony, she told Frank Cascio on the phone that her parents were sick and she would like her children to see them. Then Vinnie Amen delivered them to their parents’ home and that was it. This was “the big escape”.

Sources:

[1] Statement of Probable Cause (filed by the Prosecution on November 17, 2003)
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[2] Gavin Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (March 14, 2005)

[3] Gavin Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (March 15, 2005)

[4] Janet Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 13, 2005)

[5] The Prosecution’s original felony complaint (filed on December 18, 2003)121803complaint_initial charges

[6] Opening statements at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (February 28, 2005)

[7] Azja Pryor’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (May 19, 2005)

[8] Janet Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 18, 2005)

[9] Jesus Salas’ testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 4, 2005)

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