Revenge, not greed, is behind Jackson case

WILEY A. HALL

September 21, 1993|By WILEY A. HALL

I suppose I must be the only person in these United States who appreciates why the parents of a 13-year-old boy are suing rock superstar Michael Jackson for allegedly sexually abusing their son. I seem to be the only one who understands that the motive is not greed, as many assume, but revenge.

And by George, I'd do the same thing myself were I in the parents' position! So would you.

We are a vengeful society -- perhaps the most vindictive on earth. Our jails and prisons overflow with people who have provoked our ire, from matrons who have bounced a check to madmen who have killed and devoured their victims. We sentence more people to prison, and for longer periods of time, than any other developed nation. Yet daily, the public cries out for more: more incarcerations, longer sentences.

Nonetheless, there are some people who are all but above the law. They are performers and athletes, politicians and businessmen; the wealthy, the celebrated and the powerful. They are virtual gods, wrapped in the warm, protective glow of public adulation; insulated by wealth and privilege and the best attorneys, accountants and general go-fers that money can buy.

True, godhood is a precarious thing. The same public that casts celebrities up can tear them down with equal fervor. But against the gods, individual mortals contend in vain.

Nevertheless, the parents -- mere mortals though they are -- jTC contend in a civil suit filed last week in Los Angeles that Mr. Jackson lavished expensive gifts on their boy, took him on vacations and then made repeated sexual advances. They claim that the pop star "feigned despair and grief" when the boy rejected him. And, claim the parents, Mr. Jackson told the boy that such sexual episodes were "customary acts in a relationship between friends." Eventually, Mr. Jackson allegedly persuaded the youth to submit to "repeated sexual batteries," which the suit graphically described.

The allegations first surfaced in mid-August after a therapist decided the boy's story was credible. Los Angeles police raided Mr. Jackson's estate searching for evidence, but no criminal charges have been filed. Meanwhile, Mr. Jackson's camp attributes the charges to an extortion attempt.

"When people are asking you for money, they will try to get it one way, and if they can't, they will try to get it another way," a private investigator working for Mr. Jackson was quoted as saying.

Let's pretend for a moment that the allegations against Michael Jackson, the child-like god, have substance. Already, the parents have discovered that police and prosecutors are reluctant to press charges based on the word of the child alone. And, the weight of public opinion appears to be firmly against them -- judging by commentary on TV talk shows and radio call-ins, and by my own circle of friends.

The consensus, carefully nurtured by Mr. Jackson's army of publicists, seems to be that the parents are greedy opportunists, willing to sacrifice their son for an easy buck. (Somehow, for instance, the fact that the parents are divorced and in the midst of an ugly custody battle keeps coming up -- as though that were an indictment of their character.)

Meanwhile, the charges against Mr. Jackson are widely dismissed as "unthinkable," though his public persona seems bizarre to me even by Hollywood standards.

Finally, would prison be appropriate for a delicate flower such as Mr. Jackson, even if he were tried and convicted of child sexual abuse. Wouldn't therapy be better? Intensive therapy?

So, what are the aggrieved parents to do? How else does one punish a god but through his purse?

By the same reasoning, I can appreciate the motives that led the parents of Desiree Washington to consult an attorney about a civil suit against former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson shortly after he assaulted their daughter whom he met at a beauty pageant. The odds of a celebrity like Mr. Tyson being tried and convicted (as he eventually was) must have seemed remote at the time. Indeed, you still see people with "Free Mike Tyson" and "Desiree Lied" T-shirts.

Whether in the court of public opinion or in the court of law, mere mortals scarcely stand a chance against our godlike celebrities. But at least we can try to make them pay.

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