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Michael Jackson’s recent hospitalization and illness portends a circus-like trial in the future that may indeed stretch out well beyond a year. Not because Michael is faking sickness. In his mind, his mystery illnesses are real enough. But rather because Michael gets ill whenever he is forced to do something to which he feels a strong aversion.
Michael Jackson, like most superstars, is not used to any kind of criticism. That’s why so many celebrities end up destroying their lives. Criticism is the necessary human correcting mechanism, one that is altogether lacking when one is surrounded by sycophants and pandering courtiers who treat you like a god.
Now, Michael faces the prospect of having to hear not just mild criticism – along the lines of “your latest album really tanked” – but an all-out assault by prosecutors in a courtroom who will attempt to paint him as a monster. It’s no wonder that Michael got ill. It’s enough to make anyone sick.
Which is why the best thing for Michael Jackson at this point in time is a plea bargain where perhaps he could plead guilty to the lesser charges in this case, and go to a rehabilitation clinic. It could well be that prosecutors would welcome a guilty plea, given the ravaging effects of this trial on their resources and indeed on the nation.
By now, Michael’s lawyer should also know that getting rid of this trial as quickly as possible is the best outcome. When Mark Geragos was Michael’s lawyer, he quickly lost control of his client. Anyone who remembers Michael’s antics of jumping up and down on his SUV when coming out of court will remember how embarrassing those actions were – for client and attorney alike. The hope was that Michael’s new attorney, the distinguished Thomas Messereau, would rein in Michael and convince him of the seriousness of the trial. This, he has clearly failed to do.
The moment that Messereau began reading a laundry list of celebrity witnesses – including late-night comics like Jay Leno – I knew that Michael, rather than his lawyers, were running the show. Michael has always believed that the public is as impressed with celebrity as he is, and a parade of powerful celebrities just might remind a jury that this is no ordinary defendant, but the king of pop whom they dare not convict.
But rather than impressing the jury, such silly antics are bound to irritate and alienate them. Mystery illnesses that delay the case, calling marginal witnesses who can scarcely illuminate the details of the case – even as they heighten the media spotlight to the trial – are sure to signify to the jury that this defendant thinks he is not subject to the same rules as you and me.
Which is why I appeal to Mr. Messereau to do the right thing and end this trial. Firstly, even if Michael is found innocent – and I still believe that Michael Jackson is not a molester of children – he has still been found guilty in the court of public opinion. Huge numbers of people will still believe he got off due to high-priced lawyers rather than real innocence. They have simply heard too many allegations from too many people to let Michael off the hook completely. And since Michael has made his entire life dependent on public adulation, being hated by the public is very damaging indeed.
Which is not to say Michael should ever plead guilty to something he did not do. It is to say that what Michael needs most now is not a stamp of approval from a jury, but serious help from spiritual and psychological counselors who can help him get his life back together. Michael may not be a pedophile. But his life is still anything but normal.
If he were to strike a deal with the prosecutors where he could be, say, in a rehabilitation facility for a year, the public would see him at the end of that time as having reinvented himself. Look at all the televangelists who were caught with hookers or stealing money who went back, found Jesus, and were utterly forgiven by their flocks. And why shouldn’t they have been? If their spiritual transformation was sincere, they were new people, born again.
That renewed birth is what Michael Jackson most needs, and even vindication by a jury can’t give that to him. But if Michael were to go to some facility for up to a year, and re-emerge, there exists the possibility he could be rehabilitated in the eyes of the public. And he also just might get the guidance he needs.
The Michael Jackson I once knew possessed qualities of gentility, even humility, which are now almost totally obscured. Something went very wrong in Michael’s life, and he is currently on the path to total destruction.
But it’s not too late. Michael can still rescue himself. Such redemption, however, will certainly not come this time, as it has in the past, with lawyers and medical doctors – the former to get him out of the trouble he repeatedly gets into, and the latter to provide him with the remedies to deal with a reality he can’t seem to handle.