Michael Jackson insisted Thursday that his 1993 out-of-court settlement with Jordan Chandler, the boy who first accused him of molestation, was not an admission of guilt.
"I have always maintained my innocence," Jackson said in a statement, "and vehemently denied that these events ever took place. I reluctantly chose to settle the false claims only to end the terrible publicity and to continue with my life and career."
Confidential documents were leaked to the press earlier this week and revealed that the singer paid Chandler, his family and their lawyer a total of $25 million.
Chandler first accused Jackson in August 1993, when he told police that the singer had performed acts of oral sex and masturbation with him. The criminal investigation was stalled when a separate civil suit — charging sexual battery, seduction, willful misconduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligence — was settled, with Jackson admitting only to the charge of negligence.
According to the settlement documents obtained this week by Court TV, the payout included a $15 million trust fund for the boy, plus $2 million up front for the boy, $1.5 million each for his parents, and $5 million for their lawyer, Larry Feldman, with the provision that that the settlement be kept confidential.
That provision meant that even Jackson, other than making a general denial of the allegations, was not to speak about it. This calls into question comments he made during a 1995 "Primetime Live" interview about having "no markings" on his genitalia (which Chandler was said to have correctly identified) and having no photos of nude children at his home (which investigators said they found during a search). Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon told reporters at the time that Jackson's comments were "not truthful."
Because of the settlement, the criminal case wasn't able to proceed. In September 1994, the district attorneys of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties announced that, in the absence of victims willing to testify, they would not file criminal charges against Jackson, despite finding what they said were other allegations of sexual misconduct with two other boys. The case was considered suspended, but information regarding the 1993 molestation allegations continues to surface as the 2003 allegations get closer to coming to trial, causing speculation over whether or not the previous case will have any relevance. Jackson called the leaks "attacks."
"These kinds of attacks and leaks seek to try the case in the press, rather than to a jury who will hear all of the evidence that will show that I did not, and would not, ever, harm a child," Jackson said in Thursday's statement.
Showing concern that the leaks could affect the jury pool, Jackson asked his community to not come to any conclusions based on the 1993 documents.
"I ask all of my neighbors in Santa Maria, the people whom I give my loyal trust and admiration, to keep an open mind," Jackson said, "and give me a chance to show you that I am completely innocent of these charges. I will not let you down."
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."