Thursday, June 28, 2007


Biased District Attorneys

When I first read about the Duke scandal, I was sure that the new DA in Durham, Mike Nifong, had evidence to justify a trial. I was sure that three Duke Lacrosse players would be serving time behind bars for violating a woman. Even as Nifong’s tactics first came under fire, I defended Nifong, and told people that crimes are not created by District Attorneys. DAs prosecute people using real evidence and witness statements. Of course, now that Mike Nifong has been tried for professional misconduct, for hiding exculpatory evidence, now that Nifong has been disbarred, I had to seriously rethink the power we give to District Attorneys across America.

We all know that old saying, “A District Attorney can indict a ham sandwich.” A District Attorney presents one side to a grand jury, and then can lead ordinary citizens down a path to an indictment. Is that justice in our country? As a crime writer and journalist for 25 years, I have attended many high profile trials, and I know the lengths that DA Tom Sneddon went to – in order to convince a jury that Michael Jackson was guilty of three things: Lewd acts upon a child; Serving alcohol to a child; and Conspiracy to hold that child (and his family) hostage at Neverland.

When I covered the case for FOX news, I, like most other media folks, was convinced that Jackson was guilty on all counts – even though the trial had not yet started. Most media folks covering the Jackson trial wanted DA Sneddon to be right. Why? Because putting Jackson behind bars would be a media bonanza – it would make Paris Hilton’s stint in jail seem like the “bubble gum” that it is. Jackson behind bars would create a billion dollar tabloid industry, with a story-a-day about Jackson’s suicide watches, his visitors, his family, and his “crazed” fans. Ratings and dollars seemed to be motivating the media, and the truth behind DA Sneddon’s allegations – just like the truth behind DA Nifong’s allegations – was not the focus of any news reports.

On the day that Michael Jackson was released from the Santa Maria courtroom, exonerated by a jury of all 14 charges against him, I noticed that the media in the room went numb. On that day, I looked at DA Sneddon for the first time and realized that, just like Mike Nifong, he’d become “the emperor who had no clothes.”

But instead of being held accountable for a five-month trial and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars, DA Sneddon was secretly applauded by the law enforcement community surrounding him. Law enforcement seemed happy that Jackson’ reputation was ruined. Media didn’t report that, like Mike Nifong, it was Tom Sneddon who created a conspiracy to put Jackson behind bars. Unlike Mike Nifong, Tom Sneddon was never held to account for the public ordeal.

People spoke “behind-the-scenes” about the bias the Santa Barbara DA had against the King of Pop. People whispered about DA Sneddon’s alleged vendetta against the pop star. In my opinion, DA Sneddon, like DA Nifong, should have been brought up on charges for professional misconduct, or at the very least, should have been outed by the media for his bogus accusations.

Looking back on my coverage of the Jackson trial for FOX News, I realize I was following the “pack mentality” of the media – a dangerous trend. It wasn’t until I went back to Santa Maria, to review the evidence alone in the courthouse basement a year later, that I realized that Jackson’s accuser, when taped by police, was cunning and deceitful in his original police interview. DA Tom Sneddon appeared to have an agenda, and law enforcement stood behind him, hopeful that they would imprison the King of Pop, or, at the very least, ruin his reputation forever.

It became clear that the Santa Barbara DA had no real evidence. He only had the words of a child who, on the stand, admitted he lied under oath on previous occasions. In fact, trial testimony would prove that, long before they met Jackson, the accuser and his family had filed a case alleging sexual molestation, involving JC Penney guards and their mom. The idea that Michael Jackson was brought to face criminal charges based on the statements of admitted liars, based on the words of a family of proven grifters -- suddenly seemed ludicrous.

To this day, no one in the media has called DA Tom Sneddon out on the carpet. As for the Duke Lacrosse players, even though Mike Nifong has been dethroned, how do these young men regain their reputations after being subject to such public spectacle? How do people redeem themselves after being powerless, at the hands of a biased DA? At least the Duke Lacrosse players now have the media on their side, but will they ever be able to live normal lives, without constantly being reminded of this scandal?

Even though we now know that the Duke players were “set up” by DA Nifong, doubts and suspicions will linger in everyone’s minds about what improprieties went on that night in their frat house. Similarly, though Michael Jackson was completely exonerated, two years later, people have doubts about the “Not Guilty” verdicts in June of 2005. Many people believe Jackson was found “Not Guilty” because of a star-crazed jury and because of Jackson’s “star power.” Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I allege that, just as in the case against the Duke Lacrosse players, the case against Jackson was trumped up. Why? Because some District Attorneys want to make a “name” for themselves. District Attorneys, we now know, hope that notoriety will help them win an election. People need to realize that a biased DA can perpetuate untold damage on any one of us.

I think it’s time that people ask themselves, “Do DA’s have too much power? Should their offices be subject to more public scrutiny?” I use the case of the Duke Lacrosse players and the case of Michael Jackson to prove that District Attorneys can accuse anyone of anything, without having hard evidence, and these powerful individuals have no real “check system” in place to keep them honest. Instead, they have the media at their heels, ready to pounce on anyone assumed to be guilty before standing trial. What ever happened to “innocent before proven guilty” in this country?

–Aphrodite Jones, author of
Michael Jackson Conspiracy

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The media tries to win by tearing Michael down

The media wants to pretend that the book, Michael Jackson Conspiracy, isn't for real. I will appear on FOX this Thursday and expect to be put in the hot seat by Bill O'Reilly who will certainly attack the veracity of the book. I hope that people watching will realize that Michael Jackson has been a victim of the media for many years. And more importantly, I hope viewers will get the message that the media STILL wants to build their ratings by tearing Michael (and other celebs) down. This trend includes the trashing (or ignoring) of my new book, which by the way, Nancy Grace has refused to acknowledge -- period. I find that particularly ironic, since Nancy Grace launched her own CNN show on Michael's back -- using the Jackson trial as the original content for her blabber.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

'People only heard sound bites'

To all you bloggers out there:

This is my first blog – ever. And I must admit, it’s a bit scary for me, because I primarily write for book readers and, sometimes, for magazine and newspaper readers. Writing this, my first blog entry, feels like I’m writing into thin air. I have no idea who will read this, or who will respond, or what blogging is really about. This concept is new to me. All I know is that I have a new book that has people buzzing – it exposes the media bias surrounding Michael Jackson. In it, I use trial evidence to show people how slanted news coverage can be.

Speaking of that, I was on FOX News with Geraldo Sunday night and had a few seconds to talk about this new book, Michael Jackson Conspiracy, and just as I was getting into a discussion about the media bias against Michael Jackson, the camera went to Mark Fuhrman, who trashed Jackson all the way. What stunned me was that Fuhrman seemed to have no clue about what he was saying. For one thing, Furman wasn’t ever at the Jackson trial, nor had he bothered to do “catch up” homework about my book. Furthermore, he seemed to admit that he had a slanted view about the trumped up charges against Michael, and felt Michael was guilty, regardless of the jury verdicts. I was shocked to realize that here I was, trying to set the record straight about the Michael Jackson trial. And meanwhile, Fuhrman decided that, for his part, he was going to give the public more disinformation about Michael Jackson.

One thing that I found curious: Furman said that “most mothers lie” on the stand. Hmmmm. Well, in the 2005 case against Jackson, the mother of the accuser lied so often, about everything under the sun, and it was proven that she defrauded the California taxpayers by taking welfare while having received a $152,000 settlement from the J.C. Penney Corp. As some people know, that $152,000 was granted to her after she filed a suit that alleged she was sexually molested and assaulted by a group of J.C. Penney guards in a J.C. Penney parking lot. Her two sons – both of the Jackson accusers – backed this “mother” up, swearing they witnessed a sexual and physical attack on Janet Arvizo in the J.C. Penney parking lot. Janet Arvizo later admitted to defense attorney Tom Mesereau, from the witness stand, that she claimed that a J.C. Penney guard twisted one of her nipples “10 to 25 times.”

One of her sons, Star Arvizo, said that he witnessed his mother putting her breast back into her bra after the supposed “parking lot attack.” The other son, Gavin Arvizo, claimed he saw his mother being assaulted by J.C. Penney guards, but Janet Arvizo had no visible marks on her body on the day of the incident. According to Mesereau’s research, Janet Arvizo’s “bruises” appeared some time later – conveniently when she went to a civil attorney to squeeze money out of J.C. Penney.

From my perspective, Michael Jackson was a target for this family of grifters, and Tom Mesereau proved that in court time and time again. But the media would never report it. I was guilty of that kind of slanted reportage – because back then I had “guilty” in my head before I listened to the evidence. Looking back, I reported the same things that other media people seemed to focus on. In my view, everyone followed a pack – like a herd of sheep. Even after the “NOT GUILTY” verdicts, no one bothered to say they were wrong. No one wanted to show the defense side of the story – not at all.

I decided to write this book, Michael Jackson Conspiracy, about a year after the trial was over. I had been given access to the evidence in Santa Maria, and as I sat in the courthouse basement looking at everything – it dawned on me that this accuser, Gavin Arvizo, was not being truthful in his initial police interview. I re-wound the tape a few times and kept looking at one thing. The police asked Gavin if he knew what an ejaculation was. Gavin was 13 at the time, and he looked at the police and Gavin paused, then said he didn’t know what it was. So I turned to the court clerk, who was monitoring me, and I asked her, “What do you think of this?”

The clerk said a 13-year-old boy knows what ejaculation is, and she laughed in a nervous way. Then I rewound the video tape again. I looked at how this accuser answered other questions. For instance, the police asked Gavin if he knew right from wrong. Gavin said, “Yes.” Then the police asked Gavin to give an example of doing something that was wrong. And suddenly – Gavin stopped dead. The kid had no examples to give. The police had to give him ideas, like, “Is killing someone wrong?” And the kid said, “Yeah.” It was like the police were spoon-feeding him information, calling Gavin “buddy,” and figuring out ways to get Gavin to give them answers they were fishing for.

But what really struck me as odd was the careful way that Gavin was responding. It was like he had been schooled or trained in this kind of thing.

In my career, I have written really gut-wrenching books about tragic murders. Some of my books have been true stories about how teenagers have killed people. I have always approached the impact of crime on children in a serious way. I would not make light of it or be dismissive of it, if I thought a crime had been committed against a child. Yet, as I was reviewing the evidence during my research for Michael Jackson Conspiracy, I noted that things were not adding up.

I wonder if Michael would have ever tried to help this family if he’d been told about their background. I highly doubt it. I still feel it’s sickening that these people had managed to manipulate so many stars, getting them into their corner – George Lopez and Chris Tucker among them. The Arvizo clan even reached out to Jay Leno, who later testified that Gavin sounded “scripted” over the phone. That was the exact word Leno used: “scripted.” In fact, Leno was so put-off by Gavin’s calls, he made a request to have the calls stop. The woman who set up the original phone calls, an LA comic, told Leno that Gavin “writes things down before he says them” – trying to make excuses for the boy, telling Leno she thought Gavin was reading from a paper because the kid was practicing for a career in comedy and acting.

Of course, there are so many details like this that were never reported in the mainstream news. People only heard sound bites, and most of the coverage was hype-oriented, not content-oriented. After my appearance on Geraldo last night, I realized that the interview with Fuhrman still sounded like baseless hype. The whole purpose of my book is to create a lesson out of the damage perpetuated by baseless hype in the news. Yet, two years after the media was exposed for its unfounded hype and for forecasting a false outcome in Michael Jackson’s trial, Mark Fuhrman, as a representative of FOX News, was acting as if there had been no lesson to learn.

Okay, well – I can go on forever, but I’m going to stop here for now before I get even more heated up about this. Some fan sites have asked me to answer questions and I will be happy to do that. Please contact me at

Keep the faith! And tell people that the MEZ and I will be doing only one public book signing together. We will be at the Brookins AME Church, 4831 S Gramercy Place, Los Angeles, California, 90062. Hope to see people in LA next Monday night, June 11, from 7pm - 9pm.

Peace and Love!