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The Neverland 5 Knew Too Much

SANTA MARIA, Calif. – I call them The Neverland Five. They are three of the King of Pop’s former security guards, his former bedroom maid and his former office manager.

The judge in the Michael Jackson child-molestation case will rule in a week whether their testimony – potentially the most explosive of the trial – will be heard by the jury.

The Neverland Five saw up close the way the entertainer lives. They filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in 1994 claiming that they were driven out because they knew too much.

In the suit, they claimed that their problems began with the 1993 case of alleged molestation against their famous boss. They were subpoenaed to testify about what they had observed.

Three of the five were called to testify before a 1994 grand jury investigating the allegations.

Another was called to give a sworn deposition in the case of the first boy who charged Jackson with molestation.

The stories I heard from the Neverland Five were shocking, but they were never vetted for the truth in a trial because the family of the boy agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement from Jackson.

I heard stories all those years ago about a special telephone console in Jackson’s bedroom that allowed him to listen in on all Neverland phone lines, at all times, stories repeated in court just a few days ago.

A member of the Five told me she unwittingly helped with the surveillance, listening in and logging calls, not realizing the goal was to spy on employees.

The Neverland Five told me they observed Jackson taking so many little boys into his private chambers for overnight stays that they lost count. And boys at Neverland became demanding or withdrawn and nearly mute.

Like so much about Jackson’s world, exactly what was said, under oath, in 1993 and 1994 is a mystery.

When Jackson’s world was crumbling under the allegations of molestation in December 1993, his bedroom maid, Adrian McManus, was the first employee ordered to answer questions under oath.

She was deposed by the lawyer for the boy whose family ultimately settled with Jackson.

IN early 1994, more subpoe nas from grand juries in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara went out and a shock wave jolted Neverland when security guards Ralph Chacon, Kassim Abdool and Melanie Bagnall were ordered before the secret panel.

Sandi Domz, the office manager, would later give testimony in the wrongful-termination suit brought by the Neverland Five.

In legal papers, the Five would claim that after they received subpoenas, a Jackson lawyer and a private detective tried to bribe them into revealing what they knew. When the group boldly refused to cooperate, the court papers say, they were told, “You are making a big mistake.”

The Neverland Five told me and a jury of the daily campaign of intimidation which followed and was carried out by an elite band of armed security personnel at Neverland Ranch with the ominous name The Office of Special Security – O.S.S. for short.

The Five claimed in court papers, among other things, that the O.S.S. squad tapped their home phones, pointed guns at their head, loudly announced they would bring in “a hit man from Europe” to get rid of certain staffers, and subjected the women to prolonged verbal sexual harassment.

By the late summer of 1994, each of the Neverland Five left the jobs they had loved. One quit after claiming her desk was ransacked and the others maintain they were fired.

Six months later, they filed a wrongful-termination suit against Jackson and several members of his O.S.S. team.

“In retaliation for cooperating with law-enforcement officials, there began a pattern of intentional, willful and malicious conduct to intimidate them in their role as witnesses,” read a portion of their legal brief.

In court papers and at trial, Jackson’s lawyers labeled two former employees as disgruntled thieves.

At trial, it was shown that the Neverland Five had sold their story of “Terror at the Ranch” to Splash, a tabloid reporting service, and to the television show “Inside Edition.”

In their court battle with Jackson, the judge ruled that the jury would never hear about the subject of Jackson’s child-molestation woes. That was, of course, at the heart of the Neverland Five complaint.

Their position was that they had been forced to get involved in their boss’s scandal, and as a result, they had become targets for retaliation.

They lost the six-month case in front of a jury, and Jackson won his countersuit – a million-dollar-plus judgment against the Neverland Five for the cost of his legal bills.

Before it was over, the judge had also heaped thousands of dollars in fines upon them, which drove them into bankruptcy.

Each of the Five has struggled to get back on their feet and put this past behind them. But now the prosecution has listed all five as potential witnesses in Jackson’s current child-molestation trial.

On March 28, Judge Rodney Melville is expected to announce whether Jackson’s past behavior can be brought before this jury.

 

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