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June 18, 2005

Column #1,242


                      Lessons from the Michael Jackson Case


     There are lessons to be learned from the Michael Jackson case that have nothing to do with Michael Jackson himself, who is suigeneris - a unique case, not likely to be repeated.


     "This jury allowed their dislike of the victim's mother to overshadow the evidence," said Janet LaRue, of Concerned Women of America. "He acknowledges that he slept with boys every night. The housekeeper saw him nude in the shower with the kid. The guy is a classic pedophile, a 45-year-old man who sleeps with other people's little boys. He uses alcohol and pornography to seduce boys."


     "I know the cop who investigated him in 1993," added LaRue. "I know the heartbreak of the lead detective for the LAPD, a sexual abuse investigator. He says that in Neverland, the alarms go off only when you walk down the hallway to his bedroom. The detective grieved that the boy would not testify because of the ($20 million) settlement."


     Jackson earned goodwill by creating Neverland and letting sick children attend for free. They clearly became his future victims. Few pedophiles have Michael Jackson's millions, which not only gave him an endless flow of children right to his home but also a brilliant defense attorney who knew how to attack the credibility of the victim and his mother.


     However, one lesson of the Jackson case is that all pedophiles target vulnerable children in a dysfunctional family. They are easier to victimize.


     Are you a single parent of a young boy? If so, he is vulnerable. Are you in an intact home, but he is teased at school for some physical imperfection? If so, he too, is vulnerable.


     How can you protect him? First, be suspicious of any man who shows excessive devotion to your son - the scoutmaster who takes boys camping, without another adult along; the coach who spends excessive time with your boy after practice is over.


      Patrick Trueman, the U.S. Justice Department's Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section from 1988-2001, warns that a second lesson about pedophiles is that "They have great skill in taking parents into their confidence as well." 


     One reason so many Catholic priests got away with molesting children is that they were trusted by parents.


     A single mother may welcome her brother's attention to her son, believing the boy will be safe with his uncle who takes the boy to movies. She thinks the boy needs to have a male mentor. She may believe there is no danger since her brother is married. But remember Michael Jackson was also married - twice. Marriage provides a cover.


     However, if the uncle invites her boy to go on an overnight trip, the alarm signals should flash. Do NOT allow your son to stay overnight with him. In fact, break off the relationship altogether.


     What if you have evidence that your son was molested by a family member, a teacher, a coach? He needs to be questioned by a detective with sophisticated training in dealing with victims of such abuse. "Child witnesses tend to be less reliable in their rendition of the facts than an adult because they can be more easily led than an adult," says Trueman.


     "A report on child sexual abuse might lead to a cop on the beat being the first to interview the child. He is not trained to do so. He might say, `Who did this to you? Your uncle?' Where prosecutors have gone wrong in the past in child sexual abuse cases, is in having more than one person interview the child," said the former top federal prosecutor.


     The child ends up giving different versions, as happened in the case involving Jackson. That can be used by the defense to undermine the child's credibility.


     The day after the trial Jackson's attorneys said he yielded to advice not to repeat the behavior that got him into so much trouble - sharing his bed with boys.


     Trueman retorted, "A pedophile cannot be cured. There is no one who has shown that there is any treatment - even if you castrate him - that will stop a pedophile from going back to molesting children. No counseling has ever cured a pedophile."


     My fear is that Jackson's acquittal will be great encouragement to America's pedophiles, that they can get away with it. The only way for major change to occur, as in the Catholic Church, is for many more adults who were molested as kids, to bring law suits against the school systems or other institutions which covered up such crimes. 

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