Michael Jackson's longtime protégé, confidant and friend is broke and living at home with his parents.
That was one of the many things we discussed recently after Frank Tyson learned he would not be called by either side in the Jackson case.
Tyson -- which is a stage name -- is the son of New Jersey restaurateur Dominic Cascio, who met Jackson when he was banquet manager at New York's Helmsley Palace Hotel in the early 1990s. The elder Cascio would have been an excellent character witness for Jackson: an adult male upon whom Jackson depends for advice and who trusts the singer enough to let his children stay at Neverland unsupervised.
Tyson, whom I first met when Jackson was involved with Shmuley Boteach in a questionable charity, is only 24 years old. He's trying to get his music career together without Jackson's help and he's just starting to make some inroads. But when he heard that Judge Rodney Melville mentioned his name while reading the Jackson jury their instructions yesterday, he had to laugh again.
One of the most amusing of the 28 items that make up the "conspiracy" charge is that Michael Jackson allegedly gave Frank Tyson $1 million in cash on March 31, 2003.
Today, Tyson is wondering where that million dollars might be. Last week, after his grandmother passed away suddenly, Tyson moved home to stay with his parents. He was forced to give up his share in a midtown apartment. The reason? He's broke.
Isn't that the reason most 24-year-olds move home?
Of course, readers of this column know that the $1 million withdrawn from Washington Mutual Bank in Santa Monica by Tyson was taken directly to Jackson. Tyson and I talked about that as well. It's laughable to think he pocketed the money, he said. And we know what Jackson did with some of it: He bought an almost $500,000 Mercedes limousine. This is also not in evidence.
"Michael likes to have cash around the house so he can buy things without asking his accountant," Tyson told me.
It was not uncommon for Tyson to run such errands for Jackson.
As far as holding the accuser's family against their will, Tyson says it was often the other way around. Directed to baby-sit them for several weeks, Tyson and his pal, Vinnie Amen were at the beck and call of Janet Arvizo, the accuser's mother. Tyson and Amen were assigned by Jackson's associate Marc Schaffel to look after the Arvizo family in February 2003 after Jackson's manager, Dieter Wiesner, antagonized the mother beyond belief.
Amen voluntarily submitted to an interview with assistant District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss back on Dec. 30, 2004. After accepting limited use immunity, he gave Auchincloss a three-hour interview and answered all his questions about the "conspiracy."
Unfortunately, Amen's answers contradicted the district attorney's charges and Auchincloss realized he couldn't call Amen as a witness.
Amen, his immunity limited to just that interview, then declined to testify for the defense. So nobody will ever hear his story. Neither he nor Tyson nor Schaffel has ever gotten to tell their side of the story or has even been interviewed by the defense.
Now Tyson and Amen are at the center of the conspiracy charge, which is at the heart of Tom Sneddon's case against Jackson. What Tyson did for Jackson, and Amen for Tyson, was a favor. The Arvizos had come to Jackson right after Martin Bashir's special, "Living With Michael Jackson," aired in Britain on Feb. 3, 2003.
They had been approached by, and sort of sold a story to, the Daily Mail of London the next day. Tyson and Amen were asked to keep the family away from the media. No good turn goes unpunished, as they say.
But almost none of this came out in testimony during the 14-week trial. I'm not sure why, because certainly the evidence was there to be introduced. As Melville read off the laundry list of conspiracy charges yesterday, all I could think was that this should be a no-brainer. But as one observer said: That was a long list.
Another item on the conspiracy list was the Arvizos' weeklong stay at a hotel in Calabasas, Calif. As far as I know, the receipt for that stay never made it into evidence. I've told you that it shows endless phone calls made by Janet Arvizo to family and friends. There are also receipts for their trip to the movies and endless shopping sprees and meals out.
The jury heard little of that in testimony. They never got to hear about the benefits of being "kidnapped" by Jackson. Perhaps the jury in the inevitable civil case -- which will probably be filed by the Arvizos any day now -- will get to hear about all of that.
Part of early yesterday's court proceedings dealt with how to work out telling the jury about the specific counts against Michael Jackson. Four of them concern child molestation, which is the most serious. Nevertheless, District Attorney Tom Sneddon didn't want to be specific about those charges.
You see, after all these weeks, we still do not know when Jackson allegedly molested the then 13-year-old son of Janet Arvizo. We also do not know when her 12-year-old allegedly witnessed this behavior. Sneddon is satisfied with the older boy's quote: "It happened toward the end of our stay [at Neverland]."
That's the charge that could send Jackson to Corcoran State Prison as a cell neighbor of Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan.
The boy recalls all sorts of things in his testimony, such as the times he visited Neverland, the games he played, etc. But he can't give dates for the two times that he says Jackson molested him. He can't even give a parameter such as: "It was the day after we played bumper cars." Or, "I remember because we were feeding the llamas that day." Or, "I'll never forget it because my brother pushed me off the swings."
Judge Rodney Melville seems satisfied with this situation, to a point. He said in court yesterday to defense attorney Robert Sanger: "We've seen in these kinds of case that children don't give times and dates."
I'm a fan of Judge Melville, but that doesn't ring true in this case. The Arvizo boys were not toddlers -- they were 12 and 13, large physically and in personality.
Comedian Chris Tucker testified that it was the accuser who introduced him to Jackson when the boy was 10 or 11. The same boy also pursued a friendship with comedian Jay Leno and kept in regular contact with many other comics as well. He made regular phone calls to all of them and was considered "cunning" by Tucker and articulate by people like George Lopez and Louise Palanker.
He was only inarticulate when it came to recalling exact details of his intimate experiences with Jackson.
Tomorrow we'll address the timeline, which still doesn't make sense in a case full of twists and turns.