Columns 2003

The law is different if you’re rich – ask MIchael

I imagine that someday in the future, we will view the Michael Jackson interview as one of those moments when you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you saw it.  Not unlike the death of JFK or Martin Luther King, it will be a moment when, looking back at it from a future perspective, we will all realize that the ground shifted under our feet to reveal a truth we had been desperately trying to deny.  That truth is that if you are very rich, a very different law applies to your behavior.

America likes to think of itself as a nation of laws.  We even pay taxes that pay lawyers to represent the indigent in court so that no one ever faces a trial in this country without benefit of counsel.  All of which is well and good and as it should be. Except for the little fact that if you are rich, some laws are simply not applied equally to you.

We see this repeatedly with athletes and entertainment figures in this country – people who act above the law with impunity.  They rape and then negotiate a settlement.  They batter and buy a defense team that makes it look like the woman’s fault.  And in the case of Michael Jackson, a 44-year-old man admits on national TV that he sleeps with children not his own while living behind the closed gates of his Kingdom of Neverland and no one bothers to investigate.

The law is apparently applied differently when you can create your own kingdom and pay disadvantaged people to bring their children to you like sacrificial lambs in return for a night at a cottage in Neverland and free amusement park rides.

I can’t exactly pinpoint all the times I inadvertently blurted out “Oh God” while watching this freak show interview. But I know one of them was when Jackson sat on a couch holding the hand of a 12-year-old boy. He admitted the boy shares his bedroom at night while the boy’s parents sleep in one of the cottages on his estate.  The boy sat next to Jackson, head snuggled on Jackson’s shoulder, hand clasped tightly in Jackson’s. The only thing missing was the word “victim” printed across the boy’s shirt.

But this was not enough. Jackson went on to talk about sleepovers with the entire Caulkin clan – MacCauley, Kieran and their sister. He sat there and described eating cookies in bed with them and then all snuggling together and called this the greatest gift you could give to someone – the gift of your bed. 

And where, you ask, were the Caulkin’s parents in all this? I’d guess they were probably calculating how this friendship could help foster their children’s careers and earn them even more millions before they turned 18 and were too old to amuse Jackson anymore.  Where they weren’t, was in that house protecting their children.

I know of no one who could act like this and not have the police and social service agencies all over them with questions and interrogations. I know of no parents who wouldn’t risk having their child removed from them if they were known to allow that child to sleep in the same bed with a 44 year old man while they enjoyed his largesse a few houses away.

I don’t even want to think about those poor children he is raising – the ones never allowed out in public without masks and nets over their faces. Do you think they even have the slightest chance at normalcy in any area of their life?  Do you think their mother’s should be arrested for abandoning those children to him? Do you think you could get away with treating your children this way?

Yep, the rich are different from you and me.  And the law seems to see that difference and treats them accordingly.