Jason Francia

jason-francia

Jason Francia in 2005

As discussed in the article The Prosecution’s Hunt For Other Victims despite an extensive and costly investigation, the prosecution still struggled to find corroborating victims to support the Chandlers’ allegations. In 1993 police officers interviewed 40-60 children who had either spent time with Jackson or at his Neverland Ranch. None of the children corroborated the accuser’s story. They all told authorities that they had never been molested by the star and he had never done anything inappropriate to them.

In desperation, the prosecution engaged in questionable tactics, which are detailed in the above mentioned article, but that still did not result in the discovery of more alleged victims, with the exception of one boy: Jason Francia. He was the only young man whom the prosecution was able to put on the stand in support of the Arvizo allegations at Jackson’s 2005 trial as well.

Jason Francia is the son of Blanca Francia, a maid who worked for Jackson between 1986 and 1991 – and who was among those ex-employees of Jackson who made money of these allegations by selling stories to tabloids after the Chandler allegations broke in 1993.

When the police first interviewed Jason Francia in 1993, the only boy claiming abuse by Jackson was the original accuser, Jordan Chandler. The police interviewed dozens of children but could not find any other child willing to corroborate the Chandlers’ claims, despite the investigators engaging in questionable methods. This is how they got to Blanca Francia’s then 13-year-old son, Jason, on November 4, 1993 and then again on March 24, 1994. It was the police who initiated the contact, Blanca and Jason Francia never turned to authorities.

To the police, Jason Francia initially denied that Jackson had ever done anything inappropriate to him. He said: “I’ll just say this out flat. I don’t remember him trying anything with me except for the tickling” [1]. When the police pressured him to “remember” wrongdoings by Jackson, he maintained: “If I don’t remember, I don’t remember” [1].

At Jackson’s 2005 trial, Jason claimed that he initially denied impropriety because of embarrassment. However, audio tapes and the police transcripts of his 1993-94 interviews reveal how investigators pressured and lead him to create  allegations against the star. In a Motion in opposition to the DA’s Motion For Admission Of Alleged Prior Offenses, Jackson’s defense classified these interviews as “textbook examples of improperly suggestive interrogations” [2].

What classify as “improperly suggestive interrogations” in cases like this?

A paper written by Kenneth E. Blackstone, a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners International and an expert of sexual offense investigation explains how interviewing methods can make a child’s testimony tainted and unreliable, leading to false allegations. On page 11-12 of his paper The Fallibility of Forensic Interviewing, Blackstone lists nine factors which raise suspicion of improper interrogations techniques that can lead to false allegations. Those factors are:

  • Absence of spontaneous recall;
  • Interviewer bias against defendant – a preconceived idea of what the child should be disclosing;
  • Repeated leading questions;
  • Multiple interviews;
  • Incessant questioning;
  • Vilification of defendant;
  • Ongoing contact with peers and references to their statements;
  • Use of threats, bribes and cajoling; and
  • Failure to videotape or otherwise document the initial interview sessions. [3]

Eight of those nine factors (1-8) can be observed in the interrogations of Jason Francia.

For example, on November 4, 1993, in a police interview, Francia told investigators he did not remember Jackson ever putting his hand anywhere that made him feel uncomfortable. Detective Vincent Neglia was not satisfied with that answer and made it very clear what answer he would be satisfied with, by suggesting to the boy that his memories were wrong and blatantly suggesting what he should “remember”:

Det. Neglia: Okay, but what I am getting at is that maybe I am not being obvious enough. What I am saying is maybe he put his hands someplace on you where he shouldn’t have. Maybe he put his hands on you someplace that made you feel uncomfortable. And that’s why you are not remembering. It’s like there is a little bit of “Oh, I can’t remember that guy’s name and I don’t remember his last name, and I just don’t remember that. No I don’t want to remember that, no I can’t remember.” It’s a little of bit of a different kind of not remembering, one is because you are choosing not to, and one is that you just can’t call back the uh, the event. And I think of what you doing is tickling and all this stuff, is trying forcing yourself not to remember. And you also kind of got to the one where you’re saying that fourth time at the party you said something like, “That was the time.” What time was it Jason: What was the time?“ [2]

At other times during the interviews investigators lied to the boy and said that other boys, such as Macaulay Culkin, had been molested by Jackson and the only way they could rescue them was if Jason said incriminating things about Jackson.

“Det. Neglia: I realize how hard this is. I realize how painful it is to think of these things you tried so hard not to think about but you are doing fine. And you are also helping the kid that he is bothering now.

Jason Francia: What do you mean he’s bothering?

Det. Birchim: He’s doing the same thing.

Jason Francia: Macaulay Culkin.

Det. Neglia: Only he’s getting a lot more into it. Like your mother pulled you out of there. Macaulay’s mother is not going to pull him out of there. They are feeding him.

Det. Birchim: He’s doing worse stuff.

Det. Neglia: It’s much worse with him.” [2]

They claimed Corey Feldman had drug problems because Jackson molested him:

“Det. Neglia: He’s a junkie now, he gets arrested, he doesn’t act or anything. He gets high. He packs his nose with cocaine and he’s going to die by the time he is 22 years old.

Jason Francia: How old is he?

Det. Neglia: About 21. But that’s the kind of life he is living, and it’s got to do with being exposed to people like this, and having nobody to protect them and to take them out.

Det. Birchim: Like you had your mom.

Det. Neglia: Like your mom pulled you out, and you’re, you’re candid, and you’re (sic) honesty with us is going to help us. To pull the next kid out, it might even be too late for Macauly (sic) already. But these kids that he’s traveling with are on tour right now. Maybe we can pull them out of it… “ [2]

Both Culkin and Feldman stated very firmly to authorities and the public alike that Jackson never molested them and never touched them in an inappropriate way.

The investigators referred to Jackson as a “molester”[1] in their interviews with Francia, even though they did not have any evidence against him. They also used derogatory profanity against Jackson, for example, saying: “he makes great music, he’s a great guy, bullshit” [1]. At one point, after the investigators told Francia what they thought Jackson did to him, the boy said “Well, I’ll have to work on that” [1]. In one of the interviews Francia said: “They [the interrogators] made me come out with a lot more stuff I didn’t want to say. They kept pushing. I wanted to get up and hit them in the head” [1]. In the second interview, on March 24, 1994 Francia indicated he was aware of the fact that another boy (Jordan Chandler) had sued Jackson for money [1].

In his 1993-94 interviews, after initially denying any wrongdoing by Jackson, Jason Francia gave in to the pressure. In 2005, while under cross-examination by Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, he admitted that he said things in those interviews because he “was trying to figure out how to get out of there” [1]:

Remember telling the police, “You guys are pushy”?

Yeah. I remember telling the police that.

Okay. And after they kept pushing you, you finally said, “You know, I think he did tickle me,”right?

No.

Do you remember that? Do you remember at first saying you didn’t know, and then after –

Yeah, I remember saying at first, “I don’t know.”

And after telling the police, “You guys are pushy,” you eventually finally said, “Yes, he tickled me,” right?

I believe that’s how it went.

Okay. You kind of went back and forth during the interview, didn’t you? One second you’d say, “He tickled me,” and the next second you’d say you’re not sure, right?

I was trying to figure out how to get out of there.

I understand. And you remember exactly how you felt in 1993 during the interview, right?

The feeling of, yeah, crying and crappiness. [1]

(Emphasis added.)

It was also revealed that after the police’s first interrogation of Jason Francia in 1993 he was sent for therapy with a counselor by the name of Mike Craft. District Attorney Thomas Sneddon was present at least one time in Craft’s office while Jason was there, though Jason could not explain what communication went on between the two men and why Sneddon was there at all. According to an article in USA Today on February 7, 1994, the therapist Jason Francia was sent to was arranged and paid for by the county Sheriff’s office after the boy’s mother expressed concern that Sheriff Deputies had called and met with her son while she was not present [4].

There had never been charges filed against Jackson based on Jason Francia’s claims, although the prosecution was obviously desperate to find another alleged victim besides Jordan Chandler.

However, Jason’s mother, Blanca Francia, taking a page out of the Chandlers’ playbook, hired civil lawyers and at the end of 1994 threatened Jackson with a civil lawsuit. In actuality, Blanca Francia talked about wanting to sue Jackson for money at least as early as March, 1994 – while the criminal investigation was still ongoing (for details see the later chapter Did the FBI have evidence that Michael Jackson paid off dozens of young boys to silence them after he sexually abused them? under the “Document 2” segment). With the Chandler case behind him and a plan to release a new album in 1995, Jackson settled with the Francias out of court. As testified to during Jackson’s 2005 trial, two settlements were signed with the Francias – one with Blanca and another one with Jason Francia. Reportedly Jackson paid them $2.4 million.

It must be noted that only a criminal trial can send a perpetrator to jail; a civil trial can only result in a monetary award, so, like the Chandler settlement, this was not a case of Jackson buying his way out of a criminal indictment. Two Grand Juries had already decided in the spring of 1994 not to indict Jackson. However, a civil trial could have resulted in a long, drawn out court process with lots of negative publicity for Jackson, which, regardless of the lack of credibility of the allegations and the outcome, would have affected Jackson’s ability to promote a new album, that he planned to release in 1995. To put the $2.4 million he paid out to the Francias into a perspective: Jackson’s record label, Sony Music spent $30 million on the promotion of Jackson’s double album released in 1995, entitled HIStory. The first video of the album, Scream, cost $7 million and a teaser that was shot for the album in Budapest, Hungary cost $4 million. Even if Jackson had won the civil trial against the Francias, it probably would have cost him more than $2.4 million in lawyer fees and lost earnings as it would have put his projects on hold for several years or at least would have heavily compromised them.

The language in both the settlements with Blanca and with Jason Francia emphasized that there was no admission of any wrongdoing on Jackson’s part. The fact that both Jason and Blanca Francia were called to testify at Jackson’s 2005 trial is a clear indication that such settlements of civil lawsuits do not and cannot prohibit anyone testifying at a criminal court. Francia’s allegations were heard in Court during the 2005 proceedings and they were not found credible.

During Jackson’s 2005 trial, Jason alleged the first act of impropriety occurred in 1987, at Jackson’s Century City condo, in Los Angeles, when Jason was about seven years old. According to his story, while his mother was cleaning the condo, he and Jackson watched cartoons on the television and Jackson supposedly started to tickle him which resulted in a “tickle contest” between the two. Jason claimed that while tickling him Jackson’s hand moved down to his crotch and he touched his genital area above his clothes.

A second act of impropriety was described, similar to the first one, occurring in the same place, again while watching cartoons, one and a half years later, this time when Jason was about eight, eight and a half years old. Jason again claimed, while watching cartoons, Jackson moved behind him and began “spooning” him. Jason claimed he started to tickle him and while doing so Jackson again touched his genitalia above his clothes. He claimed the contact with his genital area lasted at least about four, five minutes.

A third act of impropriety was claimed to have happened at Neverland in the arcade when Jason was about ten and a half years old. He claimed while playing a video game, Jackson again started to tickle him and somehow they ended up on the couch in a “spooning” position. Jason claimed that this time Jackson put his hand in his shorts and touched his testicles. He alleged this lasted about three to four minutes. At this point Jason felt the need to voluntarily emphasize: “It took a lot of counseling to get over, just to let you know.” [1] (Note: Jason Francia was put into therapy by the prosecution in 1993/1994, like we mentioned above.)

Jason further alleged that every time Jackson tickled him, the star put a hundred dollar bill in his pants. Jason claimed he never told his mother about the alleged abuse: “I don’t even think to this day she knows”[1], he said on the stand in 2005, even though his mother hired civil lawyers and threatened to sue Jackson over the allegations in 1994.

During the 2005 trial, Jason’s Francia’s testimony was not considered credible by the jury, and the improper police interrogations those led to his allegations were not the only reason. Other than the alleged impropriety, Jason Francia did not seem to know or remember anything on the stand and was caught in several contradictions and lies. At the very least, this young man seemed to have an extremely bad, unreliable and ever-changing memory.

At age of 24, he sat on the stand and claimed he did not know if he ever signed a settlement with Jackson. He claimed he had not heared about the payment his mother received from the tabloid TV show Hard Copy until two days before his testimony and that he never discussed it with his mother.

At first, he claimed he never told his mother he was improperly touched but then admitted he did, claiming he was “mistaken” earlier. He claimed he never told the lawyers who represented him in 1994, Terry Cannon and Kris Kallman, that he was improperly touched, but later on in the testimony he said he did not know if he ever told them, and even later he said he did tell them.

In one of the 1993-94 interrogations Francia claimed that during a tickling episode he blacked-out and because of that he did not remember anything besides the tickling. In 2005, when Mesereau asked him if he had a black-out how could he have told the police that his mother was not in the room, he answered: “I blocked it out. I didn’t blank it out” [1]. Please note, Jackson’s condo was a small apartment and the alleged improprieties occurred while Blanca Francia was present, cleaning up and able to walk in on them at any time.

When the police asked Jason in 1993-94 if anything inappropriate had ever happened to him at Neverland he said “I was around too many people” and when they pressured him about the third account of tickling in the arcade, the incident where he now alleged Jackson put his hand in his pants – at the time initially Jason said he did not know if Jackson touched him inappropriately while tickling him. In actuality, he said he was not sure if Jackson even tickled him at all [1].

Mesereau pointed out that in an interview with the police in October, 2004 Jason claimed that this third tickling incident lasted more than ten seconds but he did not remember how long. At the trial, only a couple of months later, Jason suddenly remembered that it lasted for three to four minutes.

As for the money Jason allegedly received from Jackson after alleged acts of improper touching, when Jason Francia was initially interviewed by the police in 1993-94, he claimed that Jackson promised him money each time he read a book or achieved a good grade, because Francia had difficulties in school and with learning (in 2005 on the stand he admitted he still had problems with reading). This story later somehow evolved into Jackson putting money in his pants after each tickling.

During the trial, when asked if Attorney, Terry Cannon still represented him, Jason said “I don’t think so, no”[1] but later said he did not know if Cannon represented him. Mesereau reminded him that Cannon was present at a meeting Jason had with the prosecutors on December 6, 2004. At that meeting Jason did not want the interview to be tape-recorded. When Mesereau asked him why, at first he claimed to not remember that he made that request. Then when presented with documents that showed he indeed did, he could not testify what his reason was: “I don’t know”[1] and “Tape-recording is weird. I don’t know. No, I don’t” [1]. Documents also showed that he requested Cannon to be present at the interview but Jason said he did not remember why Cannon was there and whether he asked him to be there or not.

During the trial, when asked whether any criminal charges had ever been filed against Jackson based on his claims (there had never been), Jason answered: “I don’t know much. I don’t watch the news.” [1]

Mesereau asked Jason about another meeting which prosecutors held on November 19, 2004 when his mother was interviewed in the DA’s office. Again, Jason first claimed to not know anything about it:  “I don’t know. Me and my mother don’t talk about that stuff much.” [1] However, when Mesereau pointed out to him that he was present at that meeting, Francia all of a sudden remembered: “Now I remember, yes.” [1] In actuality, not only was Jason present, but he too was interviewed by the prosecutors and he asked that the interview not be tape-recorded on that occasion as well. Again, Francia did not remember any of this: he did not remember that an interview by the prosecutors that lasted for about an hour, took place at all, although it happened only a couple of months before his testimony at Jackson’s trial!

So not surprisingly, Jason Francia did not make a good impression on the jury at Jackson’s trial. Jury Foreman, Paul Rodriguez told Nancy Grace in an interview after the verdict.

GRACE: Mr. Rodriguez, did you believe the boy that came in that is now a youth minister* that stated Jackson molested him in the past?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, we got a little problem with that because he had no idea where some of his money came from, and he didn’t want to talk to his mother. And so those kind of things that we kind of didn’t focus on, but it did keep — we kept that in the back of our minds.

GRACE: So would it be safe to say you did not believe him?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, we had a hard time believing him…

[…]

GRACE: Yes. What about the one kid that became a youth minister*, who stated plainly Jackson molested his — fondled his genitals?

RODRIGUEZ: Again, like you said earlier, you know, about his scenario or his testimony, it was hard to buy the whole story, when he acted like he knew nothing about it. I mean, he acted so much like the mother of the other accuser, you know, he just didn’t seem that credible. He didn’t seem to convince us, like we wanted to be convinced. And he just — he was leaving too many little loopholes in his statements. [5]

(* The prosecution and the media constantly tried to make Jason Francia look more credible by emphasizing that he used to be a youth minister.)

It is very telling that Rodriguez put Francia’s testimony on par with that of “the mother of the other accuser”, Janet Arvizo, which was widely regarded, even by pro-prosecution journalists, as a disastrous testimony for the prosecution. [More about the Arvizos in the The 2005 Allegations segment of this document.]

Sources:

[1] Jason Francia’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 4-5, 2005)
https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/court-transcripts.zip

[2] Supplemental Brief In Support Of Opposition To District Attorney’s Motion For Admission Of Alleged Prior Offenses (March 25, 2005)
http://www.sbscpublicaccess.org/docs/ctdocs/032505suppopp1108.pdf

[3] Kenneth E. Blackstone – The Fallibility of Forensic Interviewing
http://www.blackstonepolygraph.com/articles/Fallibility_of_Forensic_Interviewing.pdf – the original link is not active any more, for a secondary link see: https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/fallibility_of_forensic_interviewing.pdf

[4] Officials desperate to nail Michael Jackson (USA Today, February 7, 1994)

[5] Nancy Grace’s interview with jury foreman, Paul Rodriguez (CNN.com, June 13, 2005)
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0506/13/ng.01.html

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