June 26, 2009— -- Michael Jackson, who died Thursday at the age of 50 from cardiac arrest, was beloved as a music icon around the world. But there was another aspect of the entertainer's legend; for all the acclaim and adulation, the "King of Pop" had a controversial side.
Jackson twice faced serious allegations of child abuse, allegations he always strenuously denied. A multimillion dollar settlement was reached in the first case in 1993, and Jackson was found not guilty in a circus of a criminal trial in 2005. But that ordeal left him deeply in debt and under suspicion for the remaining years of his life. Many felt he had been convicted in the court of public opinion.
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The 12-year-old boy who accused Jackson of molestation settled for millions of dollars in a civil suit and refused to testify, so Santa Barbara County, Calif., prosecutors dropped the 1993 case. And Jackson went on a national television to declare his innocence.
"I am not guilty of these allegations, but if I am guilty of anything, it is of giving all that I have to give to help children all over the world," he said in 1993.
"The public knows about two major molestation cases, but throughout his career Michael Jackson was sued countless times; he became a real target," said legal analyst Dana Cole.
Jackson escaped prison when the charges were dropped, but his mug shot was taken and published worldwide, and he spent time in jail awaiting trial. His image suffered terribly.
"It concerned him," his former spokesperson Raymone Bain told ABC News Thursday. "But he decided to move on. In life there are going to be people who will believe whatever they want to believe."
In a 1995 interview, Jackson told ABC's Diane Sawyer that he "never, ever" had sexual contact with young boys. "I could never harm a child or anyone," he said. "It's not in my heart."
He said he was advised to settle the case.
"I talked to my lawyers and I said, 'Can you guarantee me that justice will prevail?'" he told Sawyer. "And they said, 'Michael, we cannot guarantee that a judge or a jury will do anything.'"
At that point, he said, he decided to settle the case. "I was outraged so what I said, I have got to do something to get out from under this nightmare."
"It just isn't fair what they put me through," he told Sawyer. "There isn't one piece of information that says that I did this -- nothing, nothing, nothing."
'Living With Michael Jackson'
In the documentary "Living With Michael Jackson," the pop icon talked with Martin Bashir about having innocent sleepovers with children at his ranch. A boy who appeared in the documentary later accused Jackson of molestation.
During that trial in 2005, Jackson famously woke up late one day and wore his pajamas to court, covering them with a borrowed sport coat. He was threatened with contempt more than once -- the judge also did not appreciate Jackson's impromptu on-top-of-the-SUV concert in front of the courthouse.
But when it counted, the Santa Barbara County jury did not believe the young boy who testified that Jackson plied him with wine from a coke can and molested him in the star's bedroom deep inside the Neverland Ranch.
A jury of eight women and four men acquitted Jackson of molestation, attempted molestation, plying minors with liquor, and conspiracy stemming from an alleged attempt to hold the accuser and his family hostage at Neverland after the documentary aired. Jackson's defense argued the alleged victim and his family made up the allegations in an attempt to get money.
"I think we all just looked at the evidence and pretty much agreed," one juror said at the time.
Jackson did not testify, and he openly wept when the verdict was read.
"He got little sleep, but he always felt at the end of the day the jury would come back and do the right thing, which they did," Bain said.
The man who made $65 million from one record contract with Sony was in terrible financial shape at the end of his life. There were reports he could not pay the staff at Neverland and defaulted on a $24 million loan on the property.
Even at the end of his life, Jackson was mired in litigation.
The huge concert series he hoped would make his comeback and fill his nearly empty pockets was in jeopardy. A group of promoters sued to stop the tour, claiming Jackson had signed to do a reunion concert with other members of the Jackson family first and could not perform anywhere until finishing that commitment.