Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In 2003, pop-music star Michael Jackson was charged with child molestation and administering an intoxicating agent to commit that felony. Jackson was later acquitted, but his career was negatively affected.

Summary of Event

On December 18, 2003, global pop-music star Michael Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to commit that felony. The crime allegedly took place in February and March, 2003, against a thirteen-year old boy, Gavin Arvizo. [kw]Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation, Pop Star Michael (Dec. 18, 2003) [kw]Child Molestation, Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with (Dec. 18, 2003) Child abuse;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] Jackson, Michael Arvizo, Gavin Pedophilia;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] Child abuse;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] Jackson, Michael Arvizo, Gavin Pedophilia;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] [g]United States;Dec. 18, 2003: Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation[03370] [c]Law and the courts;Dec. 18, 2003: Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation[03370] [c]Families and children;Dec. 18, 2003: Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation[03370] [c]Communications and media;Dec. 18, 2003: Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation[03370] [c]Music and peforming arts;Dec. 18, 2003: Pop Star Michael Jackson Is Charged with Child Molestation[03370]

In 2000, Arvizo had been diagnosed with cancer and had his spleen and a kidney removed. Jackson paid for Arvizo’s medical expenses and made accommodations for Arvizo to be transported to and from chemotherapy sessions. The boy later began to visit Jackson at his home in Santa Maria, California, and he and Jackson had many telephone conversations.

Michael Jackson arriving at the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, in early 2005.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

The police investigation into accusations of alleged child molestation by Jackson began after a television documentary featured an interview with the singer. The documentary Living with Michael Jackson, with British journalist Martin Bashir, aired in the United States on February 6, 2003. The film, which included Arvizo, showed the boy holding Jackson’s hand and resting his head on Jackson’s shoulders. Arvizo told the journalist that he and Jackson often slept in the same room but not in the same bed. Jackson said in the interview that many children, including some actors, have slept in his bed, but he adamantly maintained that nothing inappropriate occurred.

Jackson is one of the most prolific entertainers in modern history. His 1992 album Thriller sold more than 65 million copies and put Jackson in the Guinness Book of World Records for producing the world’s best-selling album. Although he has had monumental success in the music and entertainment industries, he has also been one of the most ridiculed entertainers, facing accusations of odd behavior and, most critically, sexual inappropriateness with boys. Some speculate that Jackson fueled the public’s perception of him as a bizarre eccentric who is obsessed with recapturing his childhood after he purchased a mansion and large property in Central California and built an amusement park there. The nearly 3,000-acre property is called Neverland Ranch.

Jackson has often stated that he prefers the company of children, adding that children are more honest than adults. Jackson befriended many children and invited many of them to his home to enjoy the amusement-park rides. Some children also slept at his home as part of their visits. Jackson has always denied any sexual contact with any of children. At the time Jackson was charged with child molestation in 2003, many individuals thought he would finally be found guilty and imprisoned. However, this would not happen.

Responding to public concerns after the airing of the documentary, the Santa Barbara County district attorney stated that, under California law, even if Arvizo had slept in the bed with Jackson, such an act would not have been deemed criminal without “affirmative and offensive conduct.” On February 19, in response to the Bashir documentary, Jackson produced his own documentary to disprove accusations of child molestation against him. In the Video evidence;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] video, Arvizo and his mother, Janet Arvizo, insisted that he had not been molested by Jackson, and Arvizo’s mother claimed that Jackson was like a father to her son. She also stated that she was thinking about taking legal action against Bashir.

After the rebuttal documentary, Arvizo’s mother contacted Larry Feldman, the attorney who in 1993 represented Jordan Chandler, another child who had accused Jackson of child molestation. Feldman sent Arvizo and his family to psychologist Stanley J. Katz, the same psychologist who assisted Chandler’s family in determining if their son was molested by Jackson. Arvizo’s brother told Katz that he witnessed Jackson touching his brother, and Katz, in return, reported what he heard to authorities, citing that this was protocol for someone of his profession. He stated that he is mandated to report child abuse, although he later testified in court that he did not think Jackson was a pedophile but a regressed ten year old.

In June, 2003, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department started an investigation into the allegations of child abuse. The media began to descend on Santa Maria, a town of about 90,000 residents in Central California, 170 miles north of Los Angeles. In July, the sheriff’s department first interviewed Arvizo and his family. On November 18, more than seventy investigators from the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department went to Jackson’s home with a search warrant. Along with the warrant to search the property, they also had a warrant for Jackson’s arrest. Again, the media were there, recording the entire police action on film. On November 20, Jackson surrendered to authorities.

The felony complaint stated that Jackson had committed a lewd act with Arvizo and, on two occasions, administered an intoxicating agent with the intent to enable Arvizo in the commission of the lewd acts. Jackson was arraigned January 16, 2004, in Santa Maria and pleaded not guilty.

Jackson was indicted on all seven charges following grand jury proceedings in March. Jury selection for the trial began almost one year later, on January 31, 2005. Media from around the globe camped out at the courthouse for the entire trial. Fans and critics of Jackson camped out as well, especially as the trial neared completion. The proceedings included ninety-one prosecution witnesses and fifty defense witnesses, including comedian and late-night talk-show host Jay Leno. The judge in the case allowed Leno to joke about Jackson and the case out of court, but only if the jokes were unrelated to the incident about which Leno would act as a witness during the trial.

Arvizo’s claims and those of his family members were contradictory when compared during the trial. Arvizo also stated during testimony that he lied to a school administrator that Jackson had not molested him. He stated that he feared being teased at school and that he was already being teased after the airing of the Bashir documentary.

At the trial, prosecutors introduced several Pornography;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] pornographic books and magazines (some of which were taken from Jackson during the 1993 child molestation allegations) that had been seized at Jackson’s home. The prosecution argued the periodicals and books amounted to child erotica and thus proved his sexual attraction to boys. The defense, however, argued that the books were legal to possess and that a substantial number of the books and magazines had been taken from Jackson’s home long before 2003. While the books featured nudity, Nudity none reportedly displayed sexual acts.

Many of the witnesses who were called to testify at trial had problems with credibility. Arvizo’s mother had been accused by several celebrities of attempting to extort money from them. One prosecution witness who stated that he had seen Jackson molest children had been accused of robbing several restaurants, a toy store, and an electronics store. Another witness, who was a former maid at Jackson’s home, had been convicted of stealing a sketch of Elvis Presley made by Jackson.


On June 13, the jury found Jackson not guilty on all charges. Fans cheered and cried outside the courthouse as the verdicts were read. After trial, the conduct of jurors during deliberations became an issue. One juror admitted to bringing in a medical textbook and stating that Jackson fit the profile of a pedophile. The juror also claimed that she winked at Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, even though jurors are instructed to avoid such communication. Several jurors apparently admitted they were fans of Jackson and that they would never convict him.

Even when plagued by rumor and scandal, as Jackson has been for much of his career, the pop singer has managed to translate adversity into greater fame. Some would argue that the continuous media reports on Jackson and his erratic behavior have made him more infamous. While many argue that his work as a musical artist has been uneven, his contribution to modern music and entertainment has been enormous. The sex-abuse scandals have tarnished his reputation only to the point of making him fodder for ridicule. The scandals, however, have not diminished his overall status as one of the greatest entertainers of modern times. Child abuse;and Michael Jackson[Jackson] Jackson, Michael Arvizo, Gavin Pedophilia;and Michael Jackson[Jackson]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Guest, Lynton. The Trials of Michael Jackson. Vale of Glamorgan, Wales: Aureus, 2006. A look at the unreported or underreported aspects of Michael Jackson’s 2005 criminal trial.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Taibbi, Matt. “The Nation in the Mirror.” Rolling Stone, June 16, 2005. A scathing critique of the circus atmosphere both outside and inside the Santa Maria courtroom during Michael Jackson’s molestation trial.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness. New York: Turtle Point Press, 2004. A book chronicling the life of Michael Jackson. First published in 1991 and updated for this edition.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wilkinson, Peter. “The Case Against Jackson.” Rolling Stone, January 25, 2005. Details the inner workings of Jackson’s trial and arguments made by the prosecution and defense.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Williams, Troy M. “The Trial of a Career.” Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2005. Gives a detailed analysis of the 2005 trial for child molestation, with a focus on the trial’s long-term effect on Jackson’s singing career.

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Categories: History