In Depth

A timeline of allegations against Michael Jackson

Leaving Neverland documentary reignites controversy over the late singer and the child abuse accusations against him

Michael Jackson’s legacy is in danger of being destroyed following the release of a hard-hitting documentary alleging that he sexually abused children.

Digital Spy reports that in the wake of Leaving Neverland’s “brutal and chilling claims”, broadcasters and TV channels around the world have sought to distance themselves from the late singer. 

On Thursday, Australian broadcaster Nova Entertainment, which runs the country’s Smooth FM radio station, pulled all of Jackson’s music from its airwaves, and the following day The Simpsons’ executive producer James L Brooks told news outlets that an episode starring and featuring references to the singer has been pulled from syndication.

But not everyone agrees with the documentary’s shocking claims. This week, outrage was sparked when a number of London buses emerged covered in posters protesting his innocence, the Daily Mirror says.

Quoting Jackson’s nephew Taj, the ads read: “Facts don’t lie. People do,” alongside an image of Jackson’s face. And the Jackson family have denounced the documentary and denied the accusations.

But what are the allegations against Jackson?

1986

James Safechuck first met Jackson in the 1980s and was cast in a 1986 Pepsi commercial featuring Jackson, and the two stayed in touch afterwards.

In Leaving Neverland, Safechuck alleges that Jackson befriended him and his family after the ad began airing, that the singer “was immediately generous to him and allegedly began lavishing him with gifts”, says NPR.

“Safechuck and his family also say that Jackson began flying them for visits and on vacations,” the site adds.

Early 1992

Jackson’s car breaks down on a Los Angeles motorway and he calls local firm Rent-A-Car for a replacement.

The Independent reports that “after realising who the client is”, the business’s owner called his wife, June Chandler, who “proceeds to drive to meet Jackson with her six-year-old daughter and her 12-year-old son, Jordan Chandler”.

Jackson and the family strike up a friendship and exchange numbers, and the singer eventually invites June, Jordan and Jordan’s sister to his Neverland ranch.

May 1993

Jackson and the Chandler family’s relationship reaches the press at this point, who report that Jackson has been phoning the family four times a day and sharing a hotel suite with them in Los Angeles.

August 1993

The Los Angeles police department launches an inquiry into Jackson after Jordan alleges child abuse against him. According to Chandler’s lawyer, Larry Feldman, Chandler alleges that Jackson engaged with him in oral sex and masturbation.

However, a warrant to search Neverland finds no “criminal evidence”. 

Later the same month, two other young boys - Wade Robson, 10, and Brett Barnes, 11 - defend the singer during a press conference, insisting that Jackson never behaved inappropriately with them, despite them sharing a bed on multiple occasions.

September 1993

iNews reports that the Chandlers start legal proceedings against Jackson for $30m, in a case that accuses him of “sexual battery, battery, seduction, wilful misconduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligence”. The sex abuse charges relate to Jordan Chandler.

November 1993

Jackson’s former maid, Blanca Francia, tells police that she also saw Jackson behaving inappropriately with children, adding that her 13-year-old son Jason had claimed that Jackson had touched his genitals.

December 1993

Police conduct a strip search on Jackson to see if his genitals match the descriptions given by Jordan Chandler.

Jackson denies the allegations during a live television address later in the month, calling them “totally false” and says that he’s “totally innocent of any wrongdoing”.

January 1994

Jackson settles the Chandler case outside of court for $22m.

February-April 1994

Prosecutors say they will not press criminal charges against Jackson, primarily because Chandler said he would not testify in court.

February 2003

Vulture reports that over an eight-month period beginning in 2002, journalist Martin Bashir “conducts a series of interviews with Jackson” to be made into a now-famous documentary, Living With Michael Jackson, which aired in the US and UK in February 2003.

Gavin Arvizo, a cancer patient who was told he had just weeks to live in 2000 but ended up surviving, appears in the documentary, claiming that he had requested to meet Jackson when his cancer was thought to be terminal. 

Bashir presses Jackson on allegations that he shared a bed with Arvizo, something he denies. However, Jackson admits sharing a bed with other children in the past, saying: “It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in… It’s very charming, it’s very sweet.”

June 2003

The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office reopens an investigation into Jackson after Arvizo claims Jackson molested him.

December 2003

Jackson is charged with partaking in lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 and with seven counts of child molestation and two of intoxicating minors. The Independent reports that Jackson’s lawyer says the accusers are driven by “money and revenge”. Later, additional charges are added alleging conspiracy involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

February 2005

The singer’s criminal trial begins. Arvizo and his brother claim under oath that Jackson “showed them pornography and gave them alcohol”, which he called “Jesus juice”, iNews says, adding that they also claimed that he had masturbated in front of them and molested Gavin on several occasions.

However, Wade Robson testifies that he was never molested.

June 2005

On 14 June, the jury finds Jackson not guilty on all counts, with some members of the jury stating that they had not believed Arvizo’s claims.

June 2009

Jackson dies of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication at his home. He was 50 years old. His personal physician, Conrad Murray, was later found guilty of manslaughter.

May 2013

Robson makes a U-turn from his 2005 testimony and sues the Jackson estate, claiming the singer molested him for seven years from when he was seven years old.

August 2014

Safechuck also sues MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures, alleging that Jackson abused him on “hundreds” of occasions between 1988 and 1992. 

May 2015

A judge in Los Angeles County Superior Court dismisses Robson’s suit against the estate, saying that he waited too long to file his claim. NPR notes that “neither of these judgments address the credibility of Robson’s accusations”.

December 2017

The same judge throws out Safechuck’s suit on the same grounds.

January 2019

Leaving Neverland premieres at Sundance Film Festival to shocked audiences. The detailed accusations made on camera by Safechuck and Robson reignite the debate over Jackson. Director Dan Reed tells Vice: “He was a great artist and entertainer. He was also a paedophile.”

Jackson’s estate has already filed a lawsuit against HBO, the network that broadcast Leaving Neverland in the US, “claiming that damages could exceed $100 million”, NPR says.

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