Jacko Bail Mystery Solved ... or Not?
As the Michael Jackson trial lurches into its second century (or so it seems), the mystery of the defendant's bail deposit deepens.
Quick: What do Brian Oxman, Ron Burkle and the Jackson family home all have in common?
I told you last week that Jackson's erstwhile attorney, Oxman, took out a new $3 million bond on Jackson on April 26. This meant anteing up $300,000 to the new bondholder, Plotkin Bail Bonds of Norwalk, Calif.
I also told you there was no need to do this, since the old $3 million bond, posted with David Perez Bail Bonds of West Covina, Calif., was perfectly good.
The Perez bond, in fact, was very good, since Perez decided not to charge Jackson a first-anniversary premium.
Perez says he told Oxman that, but it doesn't seem to have mattered. The old bond is gone — and with it the original $300,000 deposit.
In what may or may not be a coincidence — you, dear reader, can decide — the old bond vanished along with Oxman's place on Jackson's defense team.
It was, in fact, April 25 when Oxman sat down in the Santa Maria courtroom, was ejected from his seat at the defense table with Tom Mesereau, Bob Sanger and Susan Yu and was eventually served with papers severing him from Jackson's child molestation case.
You will also recall that it was at 2:35 p.m. that afternoon when Mesereau and Oxman had a very public confrontation in the parking lot outside the courthouse. After that, Oxman was gone, never to be heard from again.
To add to the mix: Oxman and new bail bondsman Plotkin are, according to sources, old friends from childhood.
Plotkin, who did not return calls, has his own story in this movie-within-a-movie. Well known as a courageous quadriplegic (due to multiple sclerosis), Plotkin has built his bail-bond business into one of the biggest in California.
But back to April 25: According to public records, that was the day that the bond change took effect, the first working day after the new agreement was signed Friday, April 22.
The 25th was important for Jackson in another way — on that day, he somehow managed to get a $2.2 million personal loan.
It was not from a bank, as we first thought, but from a private lender, according to public records. Jackson had been prohibited from receiving a private loan under the terms of his $270 million loan from Bank of America, but got one anyway.
Interestingly, the new bond and the new loan have something in common. They are both backed by the Jackson family home in Encino, Calif. The house, on Hayvenhurst Avenue, is said to be worth about $5 to $6 million.
Plotkin, according to filings, accepted the house as collateral. But who, you might ask, is the private lender of the $2.2 million? My sources say it's none other than Jackson's pal, grocery magnate Ron Burkle.
Originally, we thought that Burkle had helped get Jackson a bank loan. But the public filing is specific — "private lender."
This means that Burkle, who Jackson thought was a white knight bearing cash gifts in the millions, required the beleaguered pop star to put up his family homestead in exchange for a loan.
Jackson must have moon-kicked himself when he realized what happened, insiders tell me. After all, his previous financial backer, Al Malnik, once loaned Jackson $5 million with no interest or collateral.
And so, patrons of Ralph's, Pathmark and other grocery emporiums will be interested to know that somewhere down the line, they are vaguely responsible for paying the staff at Neverland, keeping the llamas well fed and making sure Jackson has a ready stash of new armbands to wear to court.
But $2.2 million doesn't last long behind the golden gates in the Santa Ynez Valley. Not when you're busy planning celebrity animal parties.
Two seasoned civil servants came to Michael Jackson's aid in court yesterday.
The two women, Irene Lavern Peters and Karen Walker, were from the Department of Children and Family Services.
The former has 30 years on the job investigating child abuse cases, the latter 13. Of course, the younger woman is the older's supervisor, but that's another story.
Peters, who with her high forehead and Hollywood sunglasses looked like a Pointer Sister on the stand, pretty much stole the show. She toughed it out through grueling direct questioning and cross-examination as she defended her department, career and judgment.
Mostly, though, what she did was bring the trial into perspective.
She and Walker interviewed Janet Arvizo, the accuser's mother, and her three children back on Feb. 20, 2003.
The interview was the result of a call made to their office's hotline from someone who didn't like what she saw of the Arvizos and Michael Jackson on the Martin Bashir televised documentary.
The caller is said to have been legendary California attorney Gloria Allred, who was apparently encouraged to phone in by a West Coast journalist.
And what did Peters find? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
She determined that there had been no abuse of any kind of the three Arvizo children. As of Feb. 20, 2003, they were in good shape. Their only complaint, Peters said, was that they hadn't signed releases for the Bashir documentary.
What was interesting about Peters' and Walker's testimony was the revelation that they had stayed in touch with Arvizo for some time after that — at least through the end of the following March.
At no time in their many phone conversations did Arvizo mention to either woman that she and her family had been held against their will by Jackson and his associates.
And then there was this: On April 1, two and a half weeks after the Arvizos' Neverland adventure had ended, Peters and Walker ran into the family at a Fat Burger restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard.
It was lunchtime. Arvizo was taking her kids to a tutoring center above the Fat Burger in a strip mall. There was much chatting and catching up.
Again, the mother made no mention of "kidnapping" or child molestation. She did tell the women that "Michael wanted to send us to 'that dump', Brazil," and that the family's time at Neverland had been "horrible."
Peters managed to get through all her testimony yesterday like a champ, never once letting the District Attorney Tom Sneddon bait her.
"If I thought there was any abuse going on," she said, "we'd be in children's court."
When Sneddon implied that despite three decades' experience, Peters was no expert on sexual abuse, she countered that she was not a therapist and had never claimed to be one.
She simply knew what the signs of sexual abuse of children were, and weren't.
"There are indications," Peters said. "If they're withdrawn or reluctant. [The boy] appeared very open, eager to talk. He didn't seem uncomfortable. My observation at the time was he showed no indication of sexual abuse."
What Peters did not know at the time was that in the Arvizo family, accusations of child abuse filed with the authorities were commonplace.
The Arvizos' daughter had made the charge against her father, and one of the sons against his mother.
The defense will likely conclude that the Arvizos were sufficiently well-versed in child abuse charges to fabricate the ones against Jackson.