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The Complete List of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson with James Safechuck and Michael Jackson with Wade Robson.
Michael Jackson with James Safechuck and Wade Robson.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos courtesy of HBO.

In the documentary Leaving Neverland, which airs Sunday and Monday on HBO, two men accuse Michael Jackson of molesting them when they were children.

Wade Robson and James Safechuck are not the first to accuse Jackson. The singer paid out about $25 million in a settlement with the family of one accuser in 1994 and was tried and acquitted on separate charges of sexual abuse in 2005. In total, Jackson has now been publicly accused of abusing five boys.

Jackson maintained his innocence until his death in 2009, and his estate has continued to fight the allegations, announcing recently that it was suing HBO for $100 million over charges the documentary had violated a nondisparagement agreement. The lawsuit called the documentary a “posthumous character assassination” and “a one-sided hit piece,” and Jackson’s family said the attacks on Jackson amount to a “public lynching.

Here are the details about the five allegations against Jackson.

First Accuser: The Dentist’s Son, 1993

Jordan Chandler met Jackson in 1992, and one year later, he would publicly accuse Jackson of molesting him. According to testimony Chandler would later give in a civil lawsuit, the abuse included instances in which Jackson masturbated him and performed oral sex on him. Jackson allegedly told the boy he would go to juvenile detention if he told anyone about their sexual encounters. The two had shared a bed almost every night for more than three months.

Chandler met Jackson after the musician’s car broke down in Los Angeles. Jackson contacted a car rental agency, and its owner was Chandler’s stepfather. Soon, Jackson began calling Jordan, who was then 12 and a dedicated fan, daily. It wasn’t long until Jackson began treating Jordan, his mother, and his 6-year-old stepsister as what the tabloids later called his “secret family,” showering them with gifts and trips abroad.

Jordan’s father, Evan Chandler, a prominent Beverly Hills dentist and part-time screenwriter, became alarmed after he saw his son, fully clothed, in bed with Jackson. He took his son to a child psychiatrist, and Jordan said he had been molested. The psychiatrist reported the allegation to authorities, and the Los Angeles police and Santa Barbara sheriff’s department launched a joint investigation in August 1993. Jordan, who was then 13, was able to accurately describe Jackson’s genitals, including some identifiable markings, but police ultimately decided the investigation was inconclusive and filed no charges.

Evan Chandler filed a lawsuit against Jackson over charges of sexual battery. In January of 1994, Jackson settled with Chandler without admitting wrongdoing, and the boy’s family was paid $23 million. Jordan and his family then refused to cooperate further with the criminal case, citing death threats and frustration with the lack of charges.

Jordan went on to be legally emancipated from his parents, and in Jackson’s 2005 trial, his mother said she had not spoken to her son in 11 years.

Second Accuser: The Maid’s Son, 1993

According to a report by NBC News, authorities in the early 1990s investigation thought there might have been as many as eight or 10 other victims. A second boy, the son of a maid at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch—where at the time large numbers of children stayed in what Vanity Fair described as a “mini-Disneyland”—told police during the investigation that the singer had fondled him. But he was a reluctant witness, at first denying the abuse to police and later saying he was only willing to testify if the first accuser did. When Jordan Chandler declined to participate in the criminal investigation, the second boy also declined to go on the record, saying he was ashamed. Jackson paid the boy a $2 million settlement.

During Jackson’s 2005 trial, when the second accuser was 24, he testified that Jackson had tickled and then touched him inappropriately on three separate occasions, when he was 7, 8, and 10. He said each time Jackson slipped $100 bills in his shorts after the molestation and told him not to tell his mother.

Third Accuser: The British Teenager, 1993

In 1993, during the Chandler case, British tabloid press began to run stories about an incident that allegedly occurred in 1979, when Jackson was 21. Terry George, then 13, had befriended Jackson during a stop of a Jackson 5 tour in the UK. George, as he would later explain in a 2005 documentary, had sought out Jackson at his hotel room and requested an interview. Jackson was amiable and answered George’s questions, and the two exchanged numbers. Soon, Jackson was calling George regularly.

It was during one of these regular calls, George alleges, that Jackson asked him if he masturbated. “Would you believe me that I am doing it right now?” Jackson allegedly said. George was uncomfortable, he said, and Jackson did not try again to initiate any kind of sexual encounter. Nearly 15 years later, George received a call from detectives in Los Angeles working on Chandler’s case. They reportedly said they believed George had been Jackson’s first victim, but no charges came from that accusation.

Fourth Accuser: The Cancer Patient, 2003

Gavin Arvizo was a 10-year-old with a rare form of cancer when he met Jackson, who learned of the boy’s situation and sent him a basket full of toys in the hospital. When Arvizo had recovered enough to leave the hospital, Jackson invited him to the Neverland Ranch.

Starting in 2000, he began visiting the ranch with his family and having “sleepovers” with Jackson. In 2003, the documentary Living With Michael Jackson aired, reigniting the public outcry over Jackson’s tendency to surround himself with children. “I have slept in a bed with many children,” he said in the documentary. “It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in. … It’s very charming, it’s very sweet.”

In the documentary, Jackson can be seen holding hands with Gavin, then 13, and openly discussing their shared sleeping arrangements. The Santa Barbara district attorney reopened the investigation into the molestation allegations. This time, the investigation led to charges of child molesting, serving alcohol to a minor, conspiracy, and kidnapping.

Gavin and his younger brother testified in the trial, which began in 2005, that Jackson had showed them pornography, plied them with alcohol, which he called “Jesus juice,” and masturbated in front of them. Gavin testified that Jackson had abused him several times in February and March 2003, and his younger brother said he had witnessed the abuse. The defense pointed to inconsistencies in the brothers’ testimony and argued, based on their poverty, their tumultuous and sometimes violent household, and their parents’ criminal history, that the boys had been directed to make false accusations by their parents.

Some jurors found the argument convincing. When Gavin was 8, his father instructed him and his brother to shoplift from a J.C. Penney store (their father and mother were both arrested after an ensuing brawl with security guards). Their mother, an erratic witness, was under investigation for welfare fraud (she was convicted after the trial). Jackson’s lawyers called the boy and his family “grifters” and “thieves.” Jackson was acquitted. Through the years, Gavin declined offers to sell his story, instead saying that the truth would be revealed in time.

Fifth Accuser: The Dance Contest Winner, 2013

Wade Robson, one of the two alleged victims to appear in Leaving Neverland, became publicly associated with the controversy when, as a 10-year-old, he told reporters in 1993 that he had been a part of harmless “slumber parties” in Jackson’s bedroom.

Robson, now 36, was just 5 when he met Jackson after winning a contest to dance onstage with him during a trip to Australia for a 1987 tour. Robson was a devoted fan who dressed like Jackson, and two years after meeting, Jackson invited him and his family to travel to the U.S. for a visit. During that visit—and then repeatedly after he and his family moved to Los Angeles when Robson was 9, at Jackson’s urging—Jackson molested him, Robson now alleges.

But in 1993, and again in 2005, Robson insisted on Jackson’s innocence. At the 2005 trial, the mother of Jackson’s second accuser testified that she once saw Jackson and Robson in bed together, under the covers and naked at least from the waist up. She also said she saw the two in a shower together when Robson was 8 or 9, identifiable by his neon-green Spiderman underwear on the floor by the shower. Robson, then 22, took to the stand and refuted each of those claims. Jackson had never touched him sexually, he said.

Then in 2013, after two decades of denying any abuse, Robson came forward with the claim that Jackson had molested him for seven years, starting when he was 7. At that point a successful choreographer who had worked with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, Robson sued the star’s estate, saying he had suffering a nervous breakdown caused by the trauma from the abuse and that his perspective had changed after having a son of his own. Jackson’s supporters accused Robson of trying to make some money off Jackson’s estate. Robson said on the Today show that Jackson had brainwashed him into defending him—that he never forgot “one moment of what Michael did [but] was psychologically and emotionally completely unable and unwilling to understand that it was sexual abuse.” A judge later threw out the case because too much time had passed for Jackson’s estate to be held liable.

Sixth Accuser: The Child Actor, 2014

James Safechuck, the second alleged victim in Leaving Neverland, met Jackson in the 1980s when he was cast in a Pepsi commercial at age 10. Jackson began calling his house every day, and eventually he invited Safechuck on his Bad concert tour with him.

In 2014, Safechuck filed a lawsuit, later dismissed for being filed too late, claiming Jackson had abused him hundreds of times between the years 1988 and 1992. He said in his complaint that Jackson kissed his genitals and gave him jewelry as a reward for sexual favors. According to his allegations, their relationship became sexual during a trip to Paris, when he was staying in Jackson’s room and was allegedly introduced to masturbation.

The abuse allegedly escalated to other forms of sexual favors. He said Jackson gave him alcohol before molesting him, and he said in the documentary that Jackson even staged a mock wedding of the two when Safechuck was just 10. According to Safechuck, who is now 40, the abuse continued until he was 14.

Robson and Safechuck say they have spent years coping with the legacy of Jackson’s abuse.

Update, March 5, 2019: This post was updated to include information about Terry George’s accusation.