MARCH 15--Michael Jackson "doesn't really qualify as a pedophile. He's really just this regressed 10-year-old."
That was the surprising evaluation offered to police by Dr. Stanley Katz, the Los Angeles psychologist who interviewed the singer's teenage accuser and the boy's brother--and who is expected to soon testify as a government witness at Jackson's molestation trial.
In a taped June 2003 telephone interview, Katz, 55, gave a Santa Barbara sheriff's investigator his "off the record" opinion of the 46-year-old entertainer. Jackson, Katz told Det. Paul Zelis, "is a guy that's like a 10-year-old child. And, you know, he's doing what a 10-year-old would do with his little buddies. You know, they're gonna jack off, watch movies, drink wine, you know. And, you know, he doesn't even really qualify as a pedophile. He's really just this regressed 10-year-old."
"Yeah, yeah, I agree," replied Zelis.
According to Katz, he twice interviewed Jackson's alleged victim and the teenager's younger brother in his Beverly Hills office, once on May 29, 2003 and again the following month. During those interviews, the younger boy spoke openly of Jackson's alleged illicit behavior, while the older boy broke down when Katz asked whether he had ever been molested by the performer.
It was during these sessions that the older boy surprisingly revealed that he was aware that Jackson had faced prior child abuse allegations (a criminal probe evaporated after an eight-figure civil settlement was struck in 1994 with accuser Jordan Chandler and his family).
Katz told Zelis that it took a lot of time to get the older boy to trust him, noting that he was aided by the child's mother, who "had to really spell out" that the psychologist was "helping us, working for us." Katz told Zelis that he assured the child he was doing the right thing by relating his experiences at Neverland Ranch. "We talked all about how courageous this was," Katz told Zelis, "and I said to him, 'You know, you don't want Jackson to do these things to kids again, do you?'"
Katz recalled that the boy responded, "Well, Jordy Chandler did not stop him."
The child's reference to Jackson's original accuser will likely be seized upon by defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, who has argued that the current molestation allegations are a sham, part of a extortion scheme that has similarities to the 1993 case (while denying the original allegations, Jackson has said he paid more than $20 million to settle the case because he feared prolonged litigation would affect his career).
A Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department report of Zelis's June 2003 interview with Katz, which The Smoking Gun has reviewed, does not address how the boy knew of the Chandler case or whether he had discussed the 1993 matter with his mother, whom Mesereau has branded the grifting mastermind of her children's abuse tales. The woman has claimed that she first learned that her son was molested by Jackson on September 30, 2003, when several investigators, including District Attorney Tom Sneddon, broke the news to her during a meeting at an L.A. hotel.
The lawyer for the current accuser's family is Larry Feldman, the Century City litigator who represented Chandler and filed a sexual battery lawsuit against Jackson in September 1993. Testifying last year before the Jackson grand jury, Feldman said that he had a "sixth sense" that the older boy wasn't telling him what "really happened" with Jackson. So, Feldman testified, he sent the boy and his family to Katz, a child abuse specialist, for further interviews. Feldman also testified that he had retained Katz during the 1993 case, but that he never got around to using the psychologist "because the case ultimately settled about four or five months into the litigation."
While the accuser and his mother have repeatedly denied ever contemplating a lawsuit against Jackson, Katz left a different impression during his debriefing by Zelis. The child psychologist noted that "Mr. Feldman actually referred these kids to me. Because they had come to him in this lawsuit." After remarking that he was left with the impression that the accuser and his brother were not fabricating their claims, Katz said, "Now there's a lawsuit that Feldman's gonna file. And I don't get the idea that they're [the brothers] doing this for money. Whether mother's motive is to do it for money, I can't tell you. I mean, certainly they're, they're kind of a poor family."
"I don't think they see the financial motive here because when I sat down with [the accuser]," Katz continued, "I said,'...look, if you go ahead with the civil lawsuit your family will get money if you win.'" When he told the boy that his identity could become public via such a legal proceeding, Katz said, "he sat there and started crying. So I don't feel like you know, from [the boy]'s point of view at all, this is something he wants to do. I think he feels really caught."
Katz told Zelis that he found the accuser and his siblings credible, though "it's a very bizarre story, to be honest with you."