Reynolds is an ordained minister, a columnist for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.” She is a former editor and columnist for USA Today.
After the world watched the slow crumbling life of superstar Michael Jackson, the stage could be set for another tragedy in the life of his elderly mother, resulting from the millions her son left behind.
Unfortunately, if this was a suspected grab for Katherine Jackson’s money, it is not unusual. The National Council on Aging says that 90 percent of elder abuse where seniors are preyed upon -- if this is the case -- is not the work of strangers but the work of close family relatives, a pattern that seems to describe what is happening to the family matriarch. Mrs. Jackson alleges that she was duped, misguided, betrayed and virtually held hostage by family members she trusted. If true, I shudder to think what could happen to her in this deceitful power play over wealth, power and position. In fairness, the allegations have bot been tested or substantiated.
It is not exactly clear yet who the alleged culprits are in this mysterious drama, but it is wishful thinking that all the apparent bad blood will disappear, because there has been persistent feuding over the contents of the King of Pop’s will. He died in June 2009. His will appointed his mother guardian and his children beneficiaries of his estate. The singer’s father, Joe, and eight siblings were not included.
Last week, the war of words escalated. Michael Jackson’s siblings — Janet, Jermaine, Rebbie, Tito and Randy — wrote a letter accusing the estate executors of fraud and saying the will is “fake, flawed and fraudulent.” Randy also stated in an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC “that the executors of Michael’s estate — John Branca and John McClain — were “using the children to try and put pressure on my mom to try and come out and get her to say things in their favor, to kind of clean up their image.”
Branca and McClain countered: “We are acutely concerned about the welfare of Mrs. Jackson, and most particularly with Michael’s minor children. We are concerned that we do what we can to protect them from undue influences, bullying, greed, and other unfortunate circumstances.”
The bitter dispute has led to reports of Janet, Randy and Rebbie Jackson being barred from visiting their mother at the family home at Encino, Calif., near Los Angeles, following a recent angry altercation there. Brothers Jermaine and Tito Jackson have backed down from the public campaign to throw out the will, appealing instead for family unity.
Katherine Jackson’s downward spiral began July 14, when upon preparing for a road trip to New Mexico to watch her son’s concerts, a doctor she thought was acting on the orders of her long-time personal physician told her it was best to fly instead. When she got off the plane, she found she was in Tucson and was taken to a resort.
In a sworn declaration, Jackson suggested she had been held incommunicado: “When I arrived at the resort, I was asked if I could communicate by iPad and I answered, “Yes,” and my iPad was taken. My telephone was not working, and I could not dial out. There were no pictures on the television in my room.”
Little did she know that during her absence that her grandchildren were upset because they could not talk to her. Granddaughter Paris was tweeting her concerns to the world that she wanted her grandmother home at once. Court documents state that Jackson learned that she had been reported missing when a broken TV in her room suddenly powered on and began broadcasting a story about her alleged kidnapping. In addition, she said, “I was also never told that on July 25, my attorney Perry Sanders had flown to Tucson to find out what was going on.” That meeting, however, was not allowed to take place.
In her written statement, she said: “When I asked about my grandchildren, I was informed . . . they were fine. I was never informed that Prince, Paris, Blanket and [grandson] TJ were trying to reach me. At the time, I trusted the people I was with to be honest with me.”
While Jackson was sequestered and word spread that she was missing, California Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff found cause to relieve her of her guardianship. After an investigation by the probate court, however, the judge found that Jackson was doing “a wonderful job” raising her grandchildren and reinstated her as co-guardian with her grandson TJ.
After Jackson returned home July 26, Prince Jackson tweeted a statement, saying, “Although I am happy my grandma was returned, after speaking with her I realized how misguided and how badly she was lied to. I’m really angry and hurt.”
Co-guardian, TJ Jackson, the 34-year-old son of Michael’s brother Tito, delivered a bombshell in a court filing, in which he said he believes his grandmother was induced to go on the Arizona trip by someone pretending to be a doctor.
Fortunately, the Jackson drama evolving around money and power is focusing the press and the public on Katherine Jackson and her grandchildren. For them, constant vigilance might well be their saving grace.
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