Judge to determine if Katherine Jackson was abducted
Michael Jackson’s mother is on a plane headed back to Los Angeles from a stay in Arizona that has been variously characterized as a relaxing spa vacation and an attempted abduction.
An attorney for Katherine Jackson said her son Randy informed him by phone that the matriarch had boarded a flight Wednesday morning. Lawyer Perry R. Sanders Jr. said that he was eager to speak with the 82-year-old and prepare court filings to reverse a judge’s order earlier Wednesday transferring guardianship of Michael Jackson’s children to a cousin.
“I intend to file paperwork,” Sanders said.
Word of Katherine Jackson’s return to California came moments after the close of an explosive court hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Mitchell Beckloff convened the emergency hearing after T.J. Jackson, son of Tito, requested temporary guardianship over the pop icon’s two sons, 15-year-old Prince and 10-year-old Blanket, and 14-year-old daughter Paris.
Before a courtroom crowded with reporters, T.J. Jackson described a “strange” call from his grandmother overnight that left him concerned about her wellbeing. He said the matriarch paused frequently and used odd word choices.
“I’ve never heard my grandmother talk like that,” he said. “She wasn’t sharp. Some words seemed a little sharp."
The call to the family home in Calabasas was the first contact Katherine Jackson has had with her grandchildren since July 15 when she left L.A. on a trip organized by some of her children, including Janet, Randy and Jermaine. T.J. Jackson’s lawyer later told the judge that Katherine Jackson might have been speaking in code because other people were in the room with her.
Family members filed a missing persons report after her departure, but sheriff’s deputies closed the case last weekend after they located her in Arizona with her daughter Rebbie. Another lawyer who represents her, Sandra Ribera, told the judge that after staying with the grandchildren in Calabasas for several days, she had come to believe her client “is being held or has been held against her will.”
T.J. Jackson filed papers describing the family turmoil, but the judge sealed them from the public because they involved minors.
In an interview with ABC’s "Good Morning America," Randy Jackson said his mother left L.A. “under doctor’s orders.”
“Her health was really bad, and he wanted her to go somewhere where she couldn't be on the phone, and be cut off from the outside world for a few days," he said.
Sanders, Katherine Jackson’s lawyer, said outside court that after repeatedly trying to contact his client, he was told by Randy, Jermaine and Janet to fly to Tucson. He said he arrived by charter plane Tuesday night and was taken by some of the siblings to a remote spa, but he was not allowed to see his client. He said he spoke to Katherine Jackson’s assistant and an employee who told him phones were banned on the spa premises.
In granting T.J. Jackson temporary custody of the children, the judge stressed that Katherine Jackson had done nothing wrong and that he was acting out of concern about “the actions of third parties.”
He said the law required T.J. Jackson to file papers seeking permanent custody but said the process could be delayed if Katherine Jackson returned. A lawyer who represents the singer’s children said she had met with them recently and they supported the temporary guardianship.
“The children’s primary concern is that they get their grandmother back,” said the attorney, Margaret Lodise.
The judge also ordered attorneys to contact Diana Ross, who Michael Jackson named in his will as a back-up guardian for his children.
“I have no idea what Ms. Ross’ position is as to guardianship,” the judge said.
In court, attorneys said they were worried about the safety of the singer’s three children, heirs to his enormous fortune, given two recent occasions when law enforcement was called to the home. On Monday, sheriff’s deputies broke up a fight among family members. On Tuesday night, deputies were called again after a report of paparazzi massed at the gates.
--Harriet Ryan and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Katherine and Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's parents, in February 2010. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images