LaToya Jackson Returns and Defends Michael

ByABC News

Jan. 21, 2005 — -- In a family from which the public has come to expect the unexpected, LaToya Jackson has always delivered. Through the years her every move seemed to generate scandal and controversy.

She appeared willing to do just about anything to cash in on her famous name, from posing for "Playboy" to hosting soft-core porn films -- to the shock and dismay of her family and friends.

"This was not the LaToya that my family knew, was not the LaToya that friends knew," LaToya Jackson told "20/20. "It was not the LaToya that's LaToya."

That woman was the creation of one man, she said: her former manager and husband, Jack Gordon.

She said Gordon dominated and controlled her for roughly a decade with threats, lies and routine beatings.

"When he hit me, the first time I was in shock," said LaToya. "I just recalled my ear ringing, just ringing so hard."

She has since divorced Gordon and is working on reviving her singing career with a soon-to-be-released CD called "Starting Over." She spoke to "20/20" in great detail about life as a Jackson, her allegedly violent marriage and her past antics which made her a Jackson family outcast. In 1993 when her brother Michael first faced child molestation accusations, LaToya supported the claims of his young accuser by condemning her brother's behavior with children.

Michael Jackson is currently awaiting trial on child molestation charges in an unrelated case. He has pleaded not guilty, and LaToya told "20/20" her brother is innocent.

Her earlier public condemnation, she said, was just one of the many things Jack Gordon forced her to do.

LaToya Jackson was born into one of the world's most famous musical families as the middle of nine children. She's two years older than Michael and as a young girl she was a homebody. She lived with her parents, Katherine and Joe, until she was almost 30.

Looking back, LaToya, now 48, said that cloistered childhood left her ill-prepared to face the real world.

In 1980 LaToya launched a solo singing career. By the mid-'80s Gordon was working for her father. Soon he began to help Joe Jackson manage his daughter's career.

Latoya said Gordon also soon took charge of her life. As Katherine Jackson described it, LaToya went on a business trip to Japan with Gordon and they "never came back."

LaToya said Gordon took her passport, transferred her bank accounts into his name, dictated when and where she worked and monitored her every phone call. For the next 10 years, she said, she lived with Gordon throughout Europe and the United States against her will and always in fear.

She said Gordon, 20 years her senior, forced her to marry him, with the odd promise that she could have an annulment in six months.

When she asked for the annulment, she said he "reached over and he grabbed me and said, 'I own you, don't you understand, you're mine,'" said LaToya. "And he took my head, and he started banging it on the corner of the table in the room."

Days later a photograph of her badly beaten face appeared in the press. Gordon reportedly said his wife had been attacked in their hotel in Rome. In 1993 he was arrested for beating LaToya with a chair. He told authorities he was defending himself from his wife, who he said held a knife. LaToya never pressed charges.

Gordon denies beating LaToya and told "20/20" her allegations about him are not only "unbelievable" but they are "just not true." In fact, he has adamantly denied ever holding her prisoner or preventing her from traveling alone during their time together.

But LaToya insists his violence was the cause for her most outrageous behavior -- including the infamous "Playboy" photo shoots that shocked her family. She said her apparent willingness to pose nude was part of her then-husband's plan to sexually exploit her for millions of dollars. She said she complied out of fear.

After appearing on two top-selling "Playboy" covers, LaToya moved on to expose her family. Eleven years ago, she and Gordon faced a media frenzy in Tel Aviv when she condemned her brother Michael, accusing him of molesting children. She proclaimed she would not be a "silent collaborator" to Michael's "crimes."

Those comments, were orchestrated by Gordon, she said, who forced her to read from a script, threatening harm if she didn't.

"Would I do this on my own? Absolutely not … I love my brother," she said. "Michael is one of the sweetest persons on this earth. You have no idea. He is so misunderstood."

She believes he continues to spend time with boys because he thinks he's not doing anything wrong.

"It's been quite difficult, having this great love for children, because people take it the wrong way and the results are upon us today, as we can see," said LaToya.

Michael Jackson is accused of molesting a now-15-year-old boy who is also a cancer survivor. Jackson's accuser and his family lived for a time at the singer's Neverland ranch. The pop star has denied any wrongdoing.

Katherine Jackson told "20/20" Michael is "innocent" and that the boy and his family are "lying." She further defended her son by adding he helped nurse his accuser back to health "This kid was sick. He was dying, why would he molest him?" said Katherine.

As the Jacksons rally to support Michael in the fight of his life, LaToya is reminded of what she calls her own life and death struggle to free herself from Jack Gordon. She said she knew she had to escape when in 1989, he began making arrangements for her to star in her first hardcore pornographic film. At that point LaToya said she finally found the courage to reach out for help, and called her younger brother Randy.

She said he flew from California to New York City to help her escape Gordon. Once she left New York, she arrived in Las Vegas where she filed for divorce and sued Gordon in civil court claiming years of abuse -- claims he continues to deny.

Today LaToya is back in the Jackson family fold and working on the release of her first CD in nearly a decade. "Starting Over," she said, is in many ways her autobiography set to music. The first single has already done well on the dance charts. The CD is set for release in early May.

LaToya is the only Jackson sibling who has never received a gold record. In fact, her vocal abilities have often been criticized. She's hopeful her latest project will change that. Meanwhile, whatever happens professionally, LaToya said she is happy to be free from the fears and struggles that once engulfed her.

"I'm a lot stronger than I use to be and I am very proud of it," she said. "I'm very happy at who I am today."

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