Determined to focus attention on what she called "the real issues," attorney Gloria Allred on Thursday spoke for the first time on behalf of the boy who has accused superstar Michael Jackson of molesting him, saying the 13-year-old is "courageous" and "wants to have his day in court."
At a news conference at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Allred said she had been retained at the request of both parents to represent their son, whose allegations of sexual abuse prompted a criminal investigation last month. Describing herself as the child's spokeswoman, she decried what she called "a concerted effort to deflect attention away from what happened between Michael Jackson and the child."
"We will not allow mudslinging or smoke screens to divert attention from the real issues in this case," she said. "Do his assorted wise men and front men think that Mr. Jackson should be above the law?"
Allred's comments came one day after Jackson's representatives released a tape they said bolstered their contention that the entertainer was the victim of an extortion attempt. Recorded on Aug. 17, the same day the boy alleged to authorities that Jackson had sexually abused him, the taped telephone conversation is between Anthony Pellicano, Jackson's investigator, and a man Pellicano identified to reporters as Barry K. Rothman, then the lawyer of the boy's father.
On the tape, Rothman says the father has rejected Pellicano's offer of a $350,000 movie development deal--an offer Pellicano claims he made to set up the father on an extortion charge. "Make me a better offer," Rothman says to Pellicano.
Allred refused to discuss allegations of extortion Thursday, saying that she represented only the child. "Whatever has happened between or among adults should not affect the rights of this child to be safe, to be protected and to have his day in court," she said.
Of the recent public relations offensive launched by Jackson aides, Allred said: "There has been a feeding frenzy with the media getting their food only from one side of the table."
Allred said the boy has "fully cooperated" with authorities, participating in extensive interviews and providing "specific details" of the alleged abuse. She refused to elaborate but said the child is eager for the district attorney to "take appropriate action."
"My client wants . . . the truth to come out. He is ready, he is willing, he is able to testify," Allred said.
"Many people love and trust Michael Jackson," she said. "Our client loved him and trusted him as well. . . . Unfortunately, that trust has been destroyed."
In case files obtained by The Times, the boy told a social worker that his relationship with Jackson began with affectionate cuddling. He said he often slept in the same bed with Jackson--a practice two other boys have said in televised interviews was common with Jackson. Allred's client told investigators that Jackson allegedly used that sleeping arrangement to engage him in fondling and oral copulation.
Allred said that among the many questions that must be answered in the case is: "Why is Michael Jackson, an adult, repeatedly sleeping in the same bed with a young boy?"
Asked whether she planned to file a civil suit on behalf of the boy, Allred said: "I am reserving and preserving all options for the child and not ruling anything in or out."
To this point, public comments from the family of the alleged victim have been limited and sometimes confused.
Private investigator Ernie Rizzo had claimed to speak on behalf of the boy's father. But the father's current lawyer, Richard G. Hirsch, reiterated Thursday that Rizzo does not have any connection to the case.
"He's vacationing in California and (Rizzo) is free to say anything he likes, just like any other tourist," Hirsch said. "But that's all he is, a tourist."
Hirsch would not comment on the status of the investigation or on the role Allred is playing in the case. But he did say that the father and his son have spoken on several occasions to investigators and added that both of the boy's parents--who have been divorced since 1985 and who recently wrangled over custody of the child--are standing with their son.
"They are united behind their child," Hirsch said.
As Allred spoke on behalf of the alleged victim, Jackson had a day off from performing as he traveled from Singapore to Taiwan, where a luxury suite at the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel awaited his arrival today. He is being accompanied by actress Elizabeth Taylor, who joined Jackson in Singapore to help him celebrate his 35th birthday.
Meanwhile, Jackson's sister, LaToya, was interviewed in London by NBC's "Today Show." She has long been at odds with other members of the family and has accused her father of abusing her as a child.
Other members of the Jackson family have flatly denied that Michael Jackson is guilty of sexually molesting the 13-year-old boy, but LaToya was less adamant.