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Jackson Back on Stage; Inquiry Continues : Investigation: Singer resumes Bangkok concerts after two-day absence. Officials here are now looking into extortion claims.

August 28, 1993|CHARLES P. WALLACE and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Michael Jackson, fighting off allegations of sexual abuse and a case of what his doctor described as severe dehydration, returned to the concert stage Friday, performing a lively two-hour show before a capacity crowd in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jackson's appearance was greeted enthusiastically by more than 40,000 fans in Bangkok's National Stadium, temporarily quelling speculation that he was preparing to abort his world tour amid allegations that he sexually abused one or more young boys. Although rumors continued to circulate that Jackson was preparing to surrender to authorities, his lawyer vehemently denied those reports.

"There is no plan for him to surrender because there is no reason for him to surrender," attorney Howard Weitzman said from Los Angeles.

In Bangkok, Jackson did not address the international furor surrounding the allegations. He spoke directly to the audience only once, saying: "I love you."

Meanwhile, police and social workers in Los Angeles continued to press forward with their investigation on two fronts: opening an inquiry into allegations that Jackson was the victim of a $20-million extortion attempt and interviewing young people close to Jackson about whether he made sexual advances toward them.

Although investigators have the statement of a 13-year-old who says he was molested by Jackson over a period of months, sources say their probe has been hampered by a shortage of physical or medical evidence linking Jackson to sexual molestation. Videotapes seized during the Aug. 21 searches of two homes belonging to Jackson did not produce evidence that would support a criminal filing against the entertainer, says a well-placed police source.

Thousands of photographs also were seized during those searches. They still are being reviewed, sources said.

The extortion investigation is proceeding separately, say sources familiar with that inquiry. It grows out of allegations raised by members of Jackson's camp that the singer was the victim of an extortion attempt and that the sexual abuse charges arose only after that attempt was thwarted.

In an Aug. 17 report detailing the allegations brought by the 13-year-old alleged sexual abuse victim, a county social worker wrote: "Minor stated he and his father met with Michael Jackson and attorneys for (the boy's father) and Mr. Jackson and confronted him with allegations in an effort to make a settlement and avoid a court hearing."

Film industry sources have said that the boy's father sought a $20-million movie production and financing deal with Jackson. Although the boy's father has not commented publicly about that charge or any other aspect of the case, he has told friends that the extortion allegation is untrue.

Officially, the Los Angeles Police Department was silent about the extortion charge and all other aspects of the case. "I cannot confirm or deny the existence of any investigation," said Lt. John M. Dunkin, a spokesman for the department.

Weitzman, however, said he was told that an extortion investigation is under way and that it was opened after he met with police late Thursday. "That's my understanding, based on our meeting with them," he said.

Asked by the Associated Press why Jackson did not report the alleged extortion attempt to police earlier, Weitzman said: "It was our hope that this would all go away. We tried to keep it as much in-house as we could."

Meanwhile, authorities continued to reel under the crush of publicity that has accompanied the Jackson investigation. Unauthorized news leaks have bedeviled investigators probing the case since it broke early this week, and their task at controlling information has been made even harder by the willingness of some media outlets to pay for information. (The Times does not pay for information.)

Police and Children's Services officials have clamped down on their employees. Some county officials are fearful that the improper release of the report detailing the 13-year-old's allegations of sexual abuse could subject the county to a lawsuit.

"There is a fear that the county will now be subject to a lawsuit over the issue of confidentiality in the case," said one source at the department.

As investigators continue to probe the accusations that Jackson molested one or more children, sources said they spent Friday canvassing more witnesses, interviewing children close to the entertainer and meeting with parents of possible victims.

Weitzman, who said he is in daily contact with police, declined to discuss the progress of the probe, except to say that "they are conducting a very thorough investigation."

One of those interviewed was Victor Gutierrez, a Southern California free-lance journalist who has been working on a book about Jackson for several years. Gutierrez spoke to LAPD officers for two hours Thursday and was interviewed again Friday.

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