International pop star Michael Jackson slept in his own bed Monday night. We trust he resisted the urge to have some young boy keep him company. After all, Jackson could well be in a prison cell today -- had the jury in his child molestation trial believed his accusers.
But as jurors said after Monday's innocent verdict was read in the Santa Maria, Calif., courthouse, the 15-year-old boy, a cancer survivor who found his way into Jackson's heart, and his mother were seen as con artists. They had no qualms about using their friendship with the singer to get rich, jurors concluded.
While Jackson, his family, friends and legions of fans can claim victory, the fact remains that charges would never had been filed had prosecutors not believed that something illegal was going on at Neverland. After all, they had Jackson's own words to confirm their suspicions that young boys were the victims of the 46-year-old entertainer's sexual desires.
"[The] most loving thing you do is share your bed with someone," Jackson said in the now famous Martin Bashir television documentary that prompted law enforcement officials to pursue the allegations made by the accuser and his mother. In the documentary, Jackson admitted that he often had children sleep in his bed when they were overnight guests at Neverland, but he denied there was any contact of a sexual nature. He claimed that he slept on the floor next to the bed.
But given that veteran District Attorney Thomas Sneddon Jr. has had Jackson in his cross hairs since 1994 -- Sneddon was denied the opportunity to file molestation charges that year after the accuser reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the entertainer and stopped cooperating with authorities -- it was no surprise that he launched his latest attack.
Yes, he failed to make the charges stick, but testimony during the long trial from several individuals clearly established that Michael Jackson, for reasons only long-term psychological counseling would uncover, is out of touch with reality. It's a reality that says adult males do not reach out to young boys and girls for companionship, do not treat their own children like curio pieces, and do not live in a fantasy world. It's also a reality that says an adult male who butchers his own appearance through expensive plastic surgery to become someone else cannot be trusted to know right from wrong.
Jackson's acquittal was by no means vindication of his freaky lifestyle. And so the question: Is there anything he can do to change his image, which he must do if his career is to have any chance of resurrection?
Yes, there is. He can make over Neverland by adopting a set of rules to govern what goes on at the estate. The preamble to the rules should read as follows: "I will never again entertain children without their parents or some other adults being present at all times, and my bedroom will be off-limits to all but my own children."
It's not enough for Jackson's lawyers, Thomas Mesereau Jr. and Susan Yu, to offer such a pledge on his behalf. It must come from him.
And to help the pop star shed his reputation for being a pervert, we would suggest that parents who are inclined to give their children the Neverland experience find some other form of entertainment for them.