This morning, it seems, Michael Jackson has been indicted by a Santa Barbara grand jury on charges of child abuse. However: The two young men who worked for Jackson and took care of the family now accusing him of child molestation will have a lot to say should they ever testify in the case.
The two young men are Frank Tyson and Vincent Amen. A mutual acquaintance tells me that their main fashion accessory is a briefcase full of documents on this subject. It contains receipts, correspondence and loads of other evidence that piece together their experience with the woman, her boyfriend, and the children.
I saw some of this evidence a few months ago, and I can tell you that District Attorney Tom Sneddon is walking into a buzz saw if he thinks this pair can help his case.
In fact, I am told, Tyson and Amen will recount how, when they returned the family to their own apartment in East Los Angeles on Feb. 16, 2003, a business card belonging to Sneddon had already been slipped under the door of their apartment.
The mother — fresh from the uproar 10 days earlier caused by her two sons being featured in the Martin Bashir special "Living with Michael Jackson" — picked up the card and called Sneddon, they will say. And that could suggest that Sneddon, long before there was any accusation against Jackson of child molestation, was already looking for a case that might develop into something more.
Sneddon's office refused to take messages for him yesterday. They referred all questions to their public relations firm.
What is patently absurd: charges that the two young men intimidated the family of Michael's young accuser.
Readers of this column know that long ago we discussed these two young men: Frank Cascio, who goes by the name Frank Tyson, and his pal, Amen. They are both 23 years old, and they come from New Jersey. Tyson has known Jackson since he was a child. He and his next oldest sibling, a brother, and Tyson's parents are old friends of Jackson and consider him family. The feeling is mutual.
I met Tyson with Jackson in November 2000 at the home of public relations expert Howard Rubenstein. I ran into him again in the summer of 2002 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. He is as capable of intimidating or threatening someone as my beloved 10-year-old calico cat. Both Tyson and Cascio are well brought up, intelligent young men. They are not thugs. They are well-spoken, handsome and humble, with excellent manners. It's not even remotely possible that they threatened to kill anyone or hold them against their will.
On the day the Bashir special aired on ABC — Feb. 6, 2003 — Tyson was in Miami with Jackson. That was when he met the boy who would later accuse Jackson of child molestation, plus the boy's mother and siblings. He returned to New York, but Tyson's brother and sister were among the passengers who flew back to Neverland with Jackson, as well Michael's own children, their nannies and the accusing family.
A few days later, Tyson was called by Jackson's videographer Marc Schaffel to come to Neverland and help work on the rebuttal video that Jackson's group sold to Fox TV. Tyson brought his childhood pal, Amen, with him and they began to help Schaffel.
Concurrently, I am told, the family — which was now happily ensconced at Neverland — was being "handled" in the aftermath of the Bashir special by Jackson's then manager, Deiter Wiesner. But Wiesner was heavy-handed with them.
Finally, in frustration, he turned the project of entertaining and mollifying the family over to Schaffel. But Schaffel was busy with putting together the Fox special. He delegated the job to Tyson and Amen. Quite the opposite from holding them hostage, the pair was at the beck and call of the boy's mother.
If Sneddon thinks he's going to indict Tyson and Amen on obstruction of justice — or any other charges — as reported yesterday, here's a little flash for him: According to my sources, these guys kept the most detailed records of all their dealings with this woman and her children. As eyewitnesses to what went on with the family in question, the pair is ready and able to defend not only themselves but Jackson and Schaffel as well.
In fact, Tyson and Amen give an account of a timeline in this case from Feb. 7 to mid-March, 2003, that could make them star defense witnesses — and a big headache for Sneddon and his prosecutors.
They will testify, if it goes that far, to the mother's constant complaints and requests, and to her anger when Jackson did nothing, as they remember her saying it, "to make my kids stars." They will describe her as a conniving opportunist and a leech.
According to my sources, they will also recount how the mother did not want to leave Neverland once she had allowed the pair to move her in from her impoverished flat in East Los Angeles. In fact, she told them each on numerous occasions that she thought Jackson should buy her a house in Solvang, a stone's throw from Neverland.
This conversation took place on March 11, 2003, the day Amen drove the mother to family court so she could fight her ex-husband for more child support. Amen told friends that when the judge ruled in the mother's favor that day he thought she'd be happy. She wasn't.
"She said she'd been promised all kinds of things. She wanted to work for MJJ Productions," my source reports. "She told Frank and Vinnie that she wanted to do Michael's PR because of all the bad things people said about him. She thought Michael was going to make her kids into stars."
Rather than hold anyone hostage, as the mother has now reportedly told Santa Barbara police, Tyson and Amen shuttled the mother's children around while she went off with her boyfriend. After the family court ruling, the mother asked Tyson and Amen to bring the children to her parents' home in El Monte, Calif.
"She called up, acting very sweet, and said her father was sick and wanted to see the kids," a source told me. That would be the last time Tyson and Amen saw the children, around March 15, 2003.
Sneddon has reportedly offered Tyson and Amen immunity if they testify against Jackson, but my sources are adamant that the pair has rejected this idea. Believe me, they are not stupid. If they thought they had done something wrong, both Tyson and Amen would have taken the DA's deal. But they know what happened, and they feel, according to my sources, that they can prove it. Easily.
As if today's news about Michael Jackson weren't enough, here's a quick update on Whitney Houston. According to my sources, she's been holed up in the Atlantis Casino and Resort down in the Bahamas for about 10 days. At first she was there only with friends and doing better. But about a week ago she was joined by Bobby Brown, and now, say my sources, things are back to square one.
So where is Whitney's daughter, Bobbi Kristina? In New Jersey, being raised by the ever-faithful Cissy Houston and other members of the Houston family. Apparently, Cissy's prayer vigil on April 5 at a Harlem church did not reach Whitney. Perhaps nothing and no one can. People who have heard her sing recently tell me Whitney's voice is "shot to pieces."
And, just as this column reported, Houston never did go into any rehab.
I suppose things could get worse for Whitney, but not much worse. It's a shame that she doesn't see it.