ED GORDON, host:
The prosecutors in Michael Jackson's trial are expected to rest their case this week. Last week Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife, surprised the district attorney by testifying that the singer has been manipulated by opportunistic vultures in his inner circle who want to make millions from his troubles. Commentator Rochelle Riley has been a Jackson fan for years and says that in this case, Jackson shouldn't be the only defendant on trial.
The circus--that is, the Michael Jackson child molestation trial--continues in Santa Maria, California, and I still can't help but feel that there are too few defendants. Former employees have been testifying about what they claim has gone on through the years. A former house manager claims to have seen young boys drunk at the house. A former housekeeper admits she accepted money after agreeing to let her son sleep with Jackson. If witnesses are to be believed, Jackson and the Neverland Ranch became Caligula and Rome. Caligula, the son of Germanicus, called Little Boots, was known for his erratic behavior, debauchery, sexual parties and for lavishing his horse with jewelry. Michael, the son of Joseph, called the King of Pop, is known for his erratic behavior, absurd kiddie parties and for lavishing his monkey with attention.
This has been a sad debacle to watch, to read about, to believe is even happening, especially for the part of me, the longtime Jackson fan, who wanted to marry him when he was a young black boy of 11. I had remained a fan of his music even as he turned into a middle-aged white guy trying to become Diana Ross but settling for being Elizabeth Taylor. Now I am a parent looking at a man who can no longer be allowed to believe that he is Peter Pan, never understanding that a man in his 40s cannot sleep with young boys in his bed or wander into court in pajamas and wonder why he's there.
But my next question is not grounded in my former fandom. It stems from the behavior of those who would endanger the welfare of their children. Why aren't the boys' parents on trial? When Jackson reached a settlement with the first family to accuse him, I thought the singer may have been snookered. But after a subsequent payoff, I knew that my child would never visit Neverland. Where there's smoke, there could be fire, and eventually it seemed that Neverland was burning up. But instead of pulling children away from the fire, some parents ignored the blaze or, worse, took their kids to see the flames. Any parent who would take a child to Neverland to visit a grown man who has expressed a fondness for children, who has been accused of sexual abuse and who has paid off families for making such accusations, well, they should be investigated and possibly prosecuted themselves.
If Jackson is found guilty, every parent who took a child to a Neverland shrouded by clouds needs to face the music, too. If Jackson did abuse kids and couldn't stop himself, parents could have stopped it. They could and should have kept their children away from a man who still sees himself as a boy; indeed, a very troubled boy who still won't grow up.
GORDON: Rochelle Riley is a columnist with The Detroit Free Press and author of the book "Life Lessons."
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