Prosecutor Ron Zonen, Hollywood and Michael Jackson

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, along with District Attorney Tom Sneddon and Gordon Auchincloss, lost the „trial of the century“ against Michael Jackson on June 13, 2005. In 2003, they had filed charges against Michael Jackson, accusing him of kidnapping and threatening a family of four. They had indicted him on charges of false imprisonment, child abduction, extortion and child molestation.

„And none of it makes sense […] „.

Matt Taibbi, journalist and trial observer. 1

„[The prosecutors biggest problem was] they were not objective about their case. They believed things they wanted to believe. They tried to prove theories that were absurd. And they tried to demonize Michael Jackson in a way which looked absolutely ridiculous when you really took a close look at the evidence.“

Thomas Mesereau, trial lawyer for Michael Jackson, Interview with Larry King, 14.06.2005. 2

Had the prosecutors Ron Zonen, Tom Sneddon and Gordon Auchincloss been objective, there would have been no charges against Michael Jackson.

„[…] Nothing was done by the book. It was all done to ruin Michael Jackson and it worked. […]“

Roger Friedman, journalist and trial reporter, 18.04.2004. 3

Attorney Thomas Mesereau: „[The prosecutors] were not objective about this case. They were not objective about their witnesses. They were not objective about the theories they tried to prove, which were unprovable, because they were false. And I think their obsession really hurt them. […] Michael Jackson is not a pedophile. He’s never been a pedophile. The prosecution has spent years trying to put together a story which they hoped they could prove and failed to prove. Michael Jackson is not a pedophile. He’s never molested a child, nor would he ever even conceive of doing such a thing. […] So, there’s a lot of injustice that’s directed at celebrities. They’re bigger targets for prosecutors. They’re bigger targets for sheriffs and police officers. They’re bigger targets for people who want fame and fortune[…] here was a lot that was phony about the prosecution’s side of the table. […]“
Larry King: „Meaning they knew they were doing something that wasn’t right?“
Thomas Mesereau: „I don’t see how they could not have known that. Look at their conspiracy theory, for example. They were trying to say that Michael Jackson had a financial motive to essentially abduct a family and ship them to Brazil. It was the most ridiculous theory I have ever heard of. I don’t know how they did it with a straight face.“

Thomas Mesereau, trial lawyer for Michael Jackson, 14.06.2005. 4

It’s just very tough bringing down a superstar like that.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, 2016. 5

The public prosecutor, according to a 1935 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, is the representative “of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.“

Sneddon Zonen 2005
District Attorney Tom Sneddon and Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen after losing the „trial of the century.“ As a result of a case that never was one. Picture: NBC, Live, 6/14/2005.

About prosecutor Ron Zonen in his charges against Michael Jackson: „arrogant, elitist. They thought they were going to be movie stars.“

„These prosecutors to me were arrogant they were elitist, and they felt there was no way they could lose the case and they were walking on air from the moment I meet them they thought they were going to be movie stars on a world stage […].“

Thomas Mesereau, attorney, October 2012. 7

Prosecutor Ron Zonen was the focus of disciplinary actions in the early 2000s in a U.S. Supreme Court. This prosecutor’s actions are not only unworthy of his profession concerning Michael Jackson.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen in the case against Michael Jackson: „I contemplated doing closing arguments in payamas“

In March 2005, Michael Jackson had initially not appeared for one of his trial days. Judge Melville threatened him with custody. An hour later, Michael Jackson arrived at the court after all. He came directly from the hospital. Michael Jackson had been injured the day before due to a fall and had suffered an injury in his back. When he got out of his car in front of the courthouse, his security guards supported him. He pressed his lips together and wore dark glasses. Jackson, who danced on the moon to float backward, dragged himself across the walkway to the courtroom. While trying to maintain his dignity. He wore a black jacket, white shirt, black shoes. A pair of patterned cloth pants. The media screamed out. „Pajama Day!!!“ they dubbed the outcry that can still be heard today. Pajama Day. 8 Michael Jackson made it through the day. He also endured the next three months until his acquittal. During the time that followed, he wore a supportive back corset under his suits and was accompanied to court by a doctor. 9
Prosecutor Ron Zonen, who had to represent the people in the justice system and not himself in retrospect of these events, commented on this:

prosecutor Ron Zonen against Michael Jackson I contemplated doing closing arguments in pajamas

„I contemplated doing closing arguments in pajamas. That would make a statement. But I was overruled … and I own nothing in silk.“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen 09.12.2005, interview with Louise Palanker. 10

Besides Michael Jackson, prosecutor Ron Zonen wanted Hollywood: „highly inappropriate and disturbing“

At almost the same time, prosecutor Ron Zonen tried the criminal case against Michael Jackson in 2003, he also tried another criminal case against a defendant who goes by the name of Hollywood. Jesse James Hollywood. The judges officially criticized Ron Zonen’s handling of that criminal case as „highly inappropriate and disturbing.“
The year was 2000, summer in Santa Barbara. Kids, drugs, a murder and a fugitive gang leader. For one of the defendants, Zonen demanded the death penalty. However, one who was missing for the completion of the criminal case was the nineteen-year-old gang leader: Jesse James Hollywood. He was the youngest candidate on the FBI’s „Most Wanted“ list. The story of the accused Jesse James Hollywood was considered by Hollywood filmmakers to be worthy of being made into a movie. During the production for the Hollywood screenplay, prosecutor Ron Zonen played in 2003 a momentous role: prosecutor Zonen held his trial against Jesse James Hollywood and at the same time handed over confidential criminal files, police reports, probation files, psychiatric reports, photos of the autopsy, the crime scene, names of witnesses to filmmakers. Prosecutor Ron Zonen opened the confidential criminal files for a Hollywood feature film about defendant Jesse James Hollywood. About a defendant for whom a court verdict had not yet been found.
The film is titled „Alpha Dog.“ It was released in theaters worldwide starting in 2006 and grossed $30 million. It starred Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone. Directed by Nick Cassavates. And in the closing credits, a thank you to Deputy D.A. Ron Zonen. In a criminal case with death penalty and a 20 years old defendant who had not been convicted yet.

Was prosecutor Ron Zonen trying to „burnish his own legacy“ with Michael Jackson and Hollywood?

District Attorney Ron Zonen shared confidential records with Hollywood. Prosecutor Ron Zonen’s actions were illegal and against the law. About Zonen’s behavior, the judges stated:

„[Prosecutor Ron Zonen] helped in the making of Alpha Dog-a motion picture based on the case-by, among other things, giving producers his files. He testified that he agreed to consult in hopes of flushing out Hollywood, who was still a fugitive. But the movie didn’t come out until after Hollywood’s capture, and Hollywood’s attorney, James Blatt, said that besides illegally sharing confidential documents, Zonen sought to “burnish his own legacy” creating a conflict of interest. While the high court didn’t see it that way, [Judge] Wedegar did use harsh words to describe Zonen’s behavior. “We find his acknowledged actions in turning over his case files without so much as an attempt to screen them for confidential information highly inappropriate and disturbing”, Wedegar wrote.“

Chris Meagher, Santa Barbara Independent 15.05.2008. 11

Prosecutor Ron Zonen violated the rights of the defendant

„However, the justices ruled that his participation in the movie constituted an overzealous effort to capture Hollywood, who was still at large when Cassavetes approached Zonen. But Zonen’s efforts proved problematic. First, the movie — which has yet to be released even though Hollywood was captured in 2005 — turned out not to include even a photograph of the real Hollywood. Secondly, Zonen — by his own admission — handed over to the filmmaker’s confidential documents including rap sheets, witness phone numbers, and a psychiatric report. One of the filmmakers, Michael Mehan, discussed the case with Zonen after interviewing the witnesses, potentially violating the defense’s right to discovery of the same evidence to which the prosecutor is privy. Mehan then refused to give a declaration to Hollywood’s defense counsel for fear of putting Zonen in an awkward circumstance, and he also refused to turn over to the court the materials Zonen had given him.“

Martha Sadler, „Off the Case“, Santa Barbara Independent, 17.11.2006. 12

2006.10.: Prosecutor Ron Zonen recused from Jesse James Hollywood murder case

„Defense attorneys had asked for the entire Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office to be removed from the case against Jesse James Hollywood […] An appeals court on Thursday ordered a deputy district attorney removed from a high-profile death penalty case because the prosecutor had shared confidential files with movie producers. […] But the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura said that only Ron Zonen, Santa Barbara County senior deputy district attorney, overstepped his authority when he served as a consultant for the film Alpha Dog, shown at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and based on the Markowitz killing […] Zonen’s „actions allowed ’show business‘ to cast an unseemly shadow over this case,“ wrote Presiding Judge Arthur Gilbert. „The prosecution of criminal cases and entertainment enterprises are best kept separate.“

USA TODAY, 10.05.2006. 13

„We’re very gratified by the court’s decision to recuse Mr. Zonen,” said Hollywood’s attorney James Blatt. “The court made it crystal clear that actions like these by a prosecutor will not be tolerated and, if done, will be removed from the case.“

Attorney James Blatt in USA TODAY, 10.05.2006. 14

The court order to recluse prosecutor Ron Zonen from the Jesse James Hollywood case can be found via this Link to download the decision, a word-document with the title: B188550.DOC. The origin of the decision is from the website
Prosecutor Ron Zonen worked with the Hollywood movie team from March 2003 to March 2005.

„Prosecutors should try their cases in courtrooms, not in the newspapers, television, or in the movies“
The court in its reasoning

Why We Order Recusal of Zonen – California Courts from 05.10.2006, Superior Court County of Santa Barbara, COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION SIX, Source: B188550.DOC,

The judges summarizing the facts regarding the recusal of prosecutor Ron Zonen from the Hollywood case

„Cassavetes declared: „The ‚Alpha Dog‘ movie could have been made without Mr. Zonen’s cooperation, but it would have been made worse. Either I would have had to go around him and do a lot more diligent work, or I would have had to make it up. This particular version could not have been made.“ Zonen took Cassavetes and his assistants to the location where the murder of Markowitz had occurred. Zonen helped Cassavetes contact witnesses. Cassavetes asked Zonen for „his opinions on certain participants in the case.“ Cassavetes „specifically recall[ed] Mr. Zonen describing . . . Ryan Hoyt’s family life and Ryan Hoyt’s mother.“ Zonen „told [Cassavetes] overall he felt that these were a bunch of stoned, dumb guys.“ Cassavetes „[a]t times . . . used Mr. Zonen’s assistance . . . for his opinions of character specifics.“
According to Cassavetes, Zonen „was cooperative“ and never „said ’no‘ to any request [he] made.“ Cassavetes characterized Zonen’s „attitude towards [him] and the creation of the movie as enthusiastic.“ Heather Wahlquist, who assisted in the creation of Alpha Dog, declared that Zonen appeared „to be ’star-struck‘ and eager to assist the film-makers.“ […] Cassavetes „told [Zonen he] was just the writer, that no film was yet made, and that there were no plans whatsoever. [Cassavetes] also informed him that [Cassavetes] was not interested in making a 90[-]minute version of ‚America’s Most Wanted.‘ […] Counsel alleged that the film portrays petitioner „in an extremely inflammatory manner, [as] extremely manipulative, vicious, selfish, and without any redeeming character traits whatsoever. The Jesse James Hollywood Character was described by several of the public movie viewers as a ‚monster.‘ “ At the conclusion of the film, special thanks are given to the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and to Ron Zonen. […] Petitioner’s counsel also declared that Michael Mehas, a researcher and associate producer for Alpha Dog, had refused to speak with him because of Zonen’s interference. According to counsel, Mehas was the „filmmaker who had the greatest amount of contact with . . . Zonen.“
Counsel stated that Mehas had initially provided information about his contacts with Zonen. Mehas „described his access, with permission, to the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office file room where all the case materials were located. [Mehas] stated he was provided access to computer disks, photographs, audio recordings, video recordings, still photographs, law enforcement evaluations, probation reports, and criminal history reports, among other items of evidence. [Mehas] stated these items of evidence were stored in boxes, which he was permitted to remove without supervision from the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office[.]“ The materials received by Mehas included „a psychological report regarding co-defendant Hoyt.“ In addition, Zonen gave Mehas „Zonen’s trial notebook for the prior trial of the co-defendants charged herein. This notebook includes witness statements, prosecutorial impressions, and Mr. Zonen’s handwritten notes. Petitioner’s counsel declared that Mehas’s cooperation with the defense ceased after Zonen telephoned him and „expressed anger that Mr. Mehas had spoken to counsel.“ Zonen „also expressed concern that he would be criminally prosecuted for his conduct, and that the information Mr. Mehas provided could assist in that prosecution. […] Petitioner argued that […] „The pre-trial publicity in which the prosecution engaged cannot be credibly characterized as the dissemination of ‚information necessary to aid in the apprehension‘ of a fugitive . . . ; it serves solely to create an inflammatory and prejudicial depiction of [petitioner] and to aggrandize the prosecution.“ Petitioner requested that the trial court conduct an evidentiary hearing „regarding the full nature and extent of the prosecution’s ‚consultation‘ as well as the specific details regarding improper dissemination of ‚relevant materials.‘ […] The court further stated [on November 1, 2005]: „There’s a suggestion that . . . Mr. Zonen might have been star struck by his association with the filmmakers, or that he took some psychic pleasure in assisting in the production of a movie […]“
[…] The court decided to conduct an evidentiary hearing, but it limited the scope of that hearing to the issue of whether Zonen had improperly influenced Mehas’s decision to stop talking to the defense. The court declared: „Only one movie person has been identified . . . as now being unwilling to talk to the defense, and the timing of that is such that it raises a concern in the Court’s mind.“ „And so it seems to me that a limited evidentiary hearing with Mr. Mehas as a witness is relevant to the question of whether or not there’s been some improper coercion which might in turn reflect a bias that would be legally significant. […] Zonen told Mehas that he planned to write a book as well. Later, however, Zonen said that „he couldn’t do a book, that it would be improper with . . . [petitioner’s] case still outstanding . . . .“
Mehas met with Zonen approximately 10 to 12 times over a two-year period. Mehas would come into Zonen’s office and „pepper him with questions.“ „[Mehas] would give him [Mehas’s] theories of what happened, [Zonen] would give [Mehas] his theories, [and Mehas would] tell [Zonen] why [he] thought [Zonen’s theories were] wrong.“ Mehas considered Zonen to be a „friend.“ There was an understanding between Zonen and Mehas that Mehas would disclose the case materials only to persons working with him on the film. It was also understood that Mehas „wouldn’t talk about any of the stuff [he] got from [Zonen].“ He would not „even tell people that [Zonen] had turned those documents over to [him] . . . .“ […] Petitioner’s counsel asked Mehas for a declaration „as to what transpired between [him] and Mr. Zonen.“ Mehas refused to give a declaration for two reasons. First, Mehas was concerned that he would be „breaching a moral and ethical confidentiality that [he] had personally with [Zonen].“ Mehas stated: „I never wanted to give [counsel] a declaration and never wanted to testify because of my personal, ethical and moral considerations in dealing with a professional attorney on this matter. . . . I was concerned about the information I was getting, and I told [Zonen] that I was going to keep it under my hat.“ The second reason for Mehas’s refusal to give a declaration was that, after his telephone conversations with Zonen, he was concerned that Zonen „was going to be facing criminal prosecution for this matter.“ Zonen’s potential criminal liability was the „foremost factor“ in Mehas’s decision not to give a declaration. It „nailed [his] mouth shut.“ Mehas was concerned that „if [he] cooperated further with the defense in reference to a declaration that it might harm Mr. Zonen.“ He was also „concerned about [himself] . . . at that point.“ Mehas interviewed approximately eight witnesses and made notes and tapes of the interviews. Both before and after the interviews, Mehas discussed the witnesses with Zonen. Mehas told Zonen that he would keep these discussions confidential. Mehas did not disclose to Zonen the information he had obtained during the witness interviews: „I wouldn’t tell [Zonen] I had a conversation with a witness and then relay that information to him. I didn’t give him that information.“ Mehas refused to turn over to the defense his notes and tapes of witness interviews „[b]ecause that is my work product and is going into my book and that’s the only place it’s going to come out at.“ […] At the conclusion of Mehas’s testimony, the trial court factually found that there was an understanding between Zonen and Mehas that Mehas was not to disseminate the materials received from Zonen to third persons. It also found that there was an understanding that Mehas was not to „talk about getting the materials from Mr. Zonen.“ […]

The judges in their reasons regarding the removal of prosecutor Ron Zonen from the Hollywood case

Where a prosecutor seeks the ultimate penalty, the prosecutor should be held to the highest standards of the legal profession. […] Zonen has potentially infected the jury pool with his views on the strength of the People’s case. Prosecutors should try their cases in courtrooms, not in the newspapers, television, or in the movies. As far as we know, no prosecutor has ever been a consultant (even without pay) to a film director on a pending criminal case that he or she is prosecuting. To say that Zonen went too far in his attempt to apprehend petitioner is an understatement. […] We are aware of no authority allowing a public prosecutor to give away, even temporarily, public property, especially when that property contains highly sensitive confidential information in a pending case. […]
Perhaps realizing that he had gone too far in cooperating with the filmmakers, Zonen attempted to keep such cooperation secret. The trial court found that Zonen had an understanding with one of the filmmakers, Mehas, that he (Mehas) was not to tell anyone that he was getting materials from Zonen.
Zonen’s conduct may have also created some evidentiary issues which cannot be ignored even at this juncture. For example, by disclosing his „work product“ to third parties, he may have waived the right to confidentiality of his impressions of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. […] our considered judgment is that justice would not be served if Zonen remains as the trial prosecutor. Phrased otherwise, in this situation, there is a likelihood that petitioner will not receive fair treatment if Zonen remains as the trial prosecutor. […]
However appalling the crime for which defendant was charged, he, like anyone charged with a criminal offense, is entitled to a fair trial with all its attendant constitutional and statutory safeguards. This includes not having to face a prosecutor who has a conflict making it unlikely that the defendant will receive fair treatment „during all portions“ of his trial. (People v. Eubanks (1996) 14 Cal.4th 580, 592.).
The mere recital of the undisputed facts in the majority opinion lead to the ineluctable conclusion that the conflict here is so egregious that the defendant’s right to a fair trial is severely compromised. Moreover, the prosecutor’s alliance with a third party to whom he divulged his detailed work product and other documents in violation of the law, will so taint the trial that his recusal is mandated. […] His actions allowed „show business“ to cast an unseemly shadow over this case. The prosecution of criminal cases and entertainment enterprises are best kept separate.

Why We Order Recusal of Zonen – California Courts from 05.10.2006, Superior Court County of Santa Barbara, COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION SIX, Source: B188550.DOC,

2008: The reclused prosecutor Ron Zonen or „Off the Case“

It also presented trouble for the prosecution, as Ron Zonen, a veteran deputy district attorney who prosecuted the others involved in the kidnapping and murder, aided in the making of Alpha Dog by giving producers his files. Zonen explained he had done so because he hoped more publicity would help flush Hollywood out of hiding, but Blatt argued that Zonen and the entire Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office should be thrown off the case as a result of the collaboration. The matter ultimately went to the state Supreme Court, which, in October 2008, ruled that Zonen shouldn’t be removed from the case, despite “highly inappropriate and disturbing” behavior. Still, DA Christie Stanley ultimately decided to replace Zonen with Lynn to eliminate any potential problems.“

Chris Meagher, Santa Barbara Independent 2009. 15

The judges ruled that prosecutor Ron Zonen overstepped his authority and showed „overzealous efforts“ in his work. They disapproved the way prosecutor Ron Zonen handled his case, saying that prosecutors should try their cases in court and not in the media. Attorney James Blatt accused Ron Zonen of breaking the law.

[…] „[Hollywood’s attorney James Blatt] described Zonen as being “seduced by the aphrodisiac of fame”[…]

Chris Meagher in „Did Prosecutors Go Too Far in the Jesse James Hollywood Case? – Supreme Court Goes Hollywood“, 03.04.2008. 16

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, Michael Jackson and Hollywood: „global exposure through major motion picture“, „creation of a false scenario through mass media“

So when [Hollywood-director Nick Cassavates] had contacted [Ron Zonen] him with possibly helping him with the movie, he was all for it because, at that point, he figured it was a great way to gain global exposure through a major motion picture. […] These guys were demonized in the five years that Hollywood was missing. A false scenario was created by law enforcement officials, including the prosecutors’ office through the mass media. I told [Hollywood’s attorney James Blatt] that I would like to help him and I needed to talk to Zonen first. I called up Zonen and told him about Blatt, and Zonen was very angry with me. I felt as though I had somehow violated his confidence.: [Zonen] wanted to bring the death penalty to Hollywood. But [I felt like] these are human beings who deserve a chance, who deserve life, who deserve respect, who deserve compassion, and that’s kind of where I come from. He also told me he was potentially facing criminal prosecution because in giving me the stuff and working with me on the movie and my book, he may have violated the law. So, on the one hand, if I cooperate with Blatt and testify, I could play a big part in saving a life, but my testimony could also be used to bring criminal charges against Zonen and the office. So I refused to testify.“

Santa Barbara Independent, 17.04.2008. 17

Prosecutor Ron Zonen as a „movie star“ and the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005

District Attorney Ron Zonen provided confidential files to filmmakers in Hollywood. As a result, Zonen had his name in the credits of a Hollywood movie. In 2003, Ron Zonen tried the „trial of the century“ against Michael Jackson. With a case that never was one.

„I had studied the prosecutors how they were behaving from the moment I met them, I felt they were just, Hybris was everywhere. They just felt they could never lose this case. They were to be movie stars around the world that they won.[…]“

Thomas Mesereau, trial lawyer for Michael Jackson 2005. 18

Prosecutor Ron Zonen and a Hollywood-movie as his opening statement

In January 2006, the Hollywood production supported by Zonen premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The attorney for the defendant, whose trial had not yet started and sentence had not yet been passed, was unable to prevent the release.

„It’s not just Universal’s movie – it’s the district attorney’s movie,” Blatt said. “It destroys the presumption of innocence.“

James Blatt, trial lawyer for Jesse James Hollywood. 19

James Blatt, the defense attorney for Jesse James Hollywood not only wanted to remove prosecutor Zonen from the case.

„That prosecutor has forfeited his right to try the case. It creates an appearance of impropriety and it cheapens the criminal justice

Attorney James Blatt, January 2007. 20 

Blatt was convinced the entire DA’s office knew about Ron Zonen’s activities. (Perhaps aided and assisted?). The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office, according to the latest research, consisted until 2006 of, among others, Chief District Attorney Thomas Sneddon and one of his deputies Ron Zonen.

„A false scenario was created by law enforcement officials, including the prosecutors’ office through the mass media.“

Attorney James Blatt in Santa Barbara Independent, 17.04.2008. 21

Prosecutor Ron Zonen: „bumbling amateur“, wanted to be portrayed in the film by „somebody really handsome“

About the allegations made against prosecutor Ron Zonen in connection with Hollywood, the Los Angeles Times wrote about Zonen in 2007:

„[…] In affidavits, prosecutor Zonen comes across as a bumbling amateur, joking that he wanted to be portrayed in the film by „somebody really handsome“ and so star-struck that he jeopardizes the very case he hoped to leave as his legacy. […] „I saw this as the last opportunity to get the kind of widespread publicity necessary to locate defendant Hollywood and bring him to justice,“ he stated. Ultimately, the state court of appeals wrote that his action „allowed ’show business‘ to cast an unseemly shadow over this case.“

Los Angeles Times, 07.07.2007. 22

The judges did not focus on Ron Zonen’s appearance.

Judges‘ criticism regarding prosecutor Ron Zonen’s work ethic: „overzealous“, no „fair treatment for defendant, „disciplinary proceedings““

The judges of the Court of Appeals criticized Zonen and made it clear that prosecutors must hold themselves to the highest standard of behavior, especially in death penalty proceedings.

„[…]The court also said that prosecutors in death penalty cases, such as Jesse James Hollywood’s, must be held to the highest standards of behavior. […] In October, the 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division 6, ruled that the defendants were unlikely to receive fair trials at the hands of these prosecutors and ordered the prosecutors recused from the cases. Instead of merely reassigning the cases to different attorneys, the DA’s office is fighting for the honor of its prosecutors […]. The court also said that prosecutors in death penalty cases, such as Hollywood’s, must be held to the highest standards of behavior. …. James Blatt, Hollywood’s attorney, argued that the rest of the office must have been aware of Zonen’s activities, and therefore the other prosecutors share Zonen’s willingness to treat Hollywood unfairly. […] Zonen’s actions might make him subject to disciplinary action, Franklin acknowledged. However, the Court of Appeal did not discuss whether what it termed Zonen’s „overzealousness” constituted a conflict of interest. […]“

Martha Sadler – Unlawful Fiction?, 15.02.2007. 23

Prosecutor Zonen who „represents justice“ should also „do justice“

Attorney Sanger defended Michael Jackson against charges brought by prosecutor Ron Zonen and Tom Sneddon in the 2005 trial. Sanger was also involved in the trial of Jesse James Hollywood.

„Perhaps Sanger said it best, in a nice summation of the reason the separate parties had gathered in court Tuesday: “We want people representing justice to do justice.”

SANTA BARBARA Independent: Did Prosecutors Go Too Far in the Jesse James Hollywood Case?, 2008.04.03. 24,

[…] Joshua Lynn, a deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara County, said […] he would be the lead prosecutor. „Ron Zonen is not on the case. We had to make sure we could proceed,“ Lynn said. „Legally, he would be permitted to be involved, but he is not a party to the case any longer.“ […] all.“

Los Angeles Times, 2008. 25

On prosecutor Ron Zonen and his charges against Michael Jackson: „mean-spirited prosecution“, „attracted to the celebrity part“

Looking back at the 2005 trial filed against Michael Jackson by prosecutor Ron Zonen and Tom Sneddon, defense attorney Mesereau stated:

“I am convinced that the prosecutors were very, very attracted to the idea of convicting the world’s greatest celebrity. I’m convinced they were far more attracted to that than destroying a black person. These are three white prosecutors, OK? However, racism can exist on a unconscious or subconscious level as well as a conscious level. […] it was the celebrity part that was most attracted to them. It was the celebrity part that was going to get them significant advantages as the prosecutors who took down Michael Jackson, the world’s greatest known entertainer.” […] this was a very mean-spirited prosecution that had to attack everything about him: his sexuality, his finances, his music, his attire, they were willing to do anything.““ 

Thomas Mesereau, attorney, 29.11.2005. 26

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, „seduced by the aphrodisiac of fame.“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, Hollywood and Michael Jackson or how criminal cases are carried out in the media

Prosecutor Ron Zonen was from March 2003 on the closest advisor for the Hollywood film production, which was intended to influence and manipulate public opinion. Also a close advisor for the film team was the defendant’s father, Jack Hollywood. What an alliance.
In 2003, the prosecution arrested Michael Jackson. The arrest in handcuffs became a media event. The starting point for accusations of kidnapping, false imprisonment and child abuse made against Michael Jackson was the TV show „Living with Michael Jackson“ by Martin Bashir. This film production literally became the „prosecutor’s opening statement“ in the 2005 criminal trial against Michael Jackson.
In 2004 Martin Bashir produced another TV-Show about Michael Jackson: „Michael Jackson’s Secret World“. This TV program was convenient to influence the jury pool in the criminal case against Jackson in favor of the indictment filed by prosecutors Tom Sneddon and Ron Zonen. In 2004, screenwriter Evan Chandler published EVAN’s Story under his brother Raymond’s name, a decade after Chandler’s child abuse allegations against Michael Jackson. The Chandler allegations became the focus of the world’s media just in time for the start of the trial against Michael Jackson. Chandler’s book was created by a „writing service“ with film experience in search of movie material. Chandler’s book titled ALL THAT GLITTERS and the Hollywood movie with assistance from prosecutor Ron Zonen: both publication resulted in manipulation of a future jury in the trial against Michael Jackson and Jesse Hollywood. That’s a lot of movie-stuff that happened around the criminal proceedings by prosecutor Ron Zonen.

Robert Matas of the national Canadian newspaper, “The Globe and Mail” attended a closed-door meeting of the National District Attorney‘s Association in Vancouver yesterday. There Sneddon lashed out at the media and offered some advice on how he‘s kept some people involved in the case from talking to the press. According to Matas, Sneddon said—quote—“We sent letters to some people saying we intended to call them as witnesses in order to keep them off TV. And Sneddon even said, we were able to get some lawyers, if not off, at least more restrained.” […] And he said he wanted the gag order to apply not just to the defense lawyers, but to the people that are involved on the defense team. The witnesses and anyone else who‘s going to comment with inside information, with the evidence, the contents that he wouldn‘t be able to respond to.

Dan Abrams, Reporter MSNBC, 21.07.2021. 27

In 2004, Raymond Chandler got a chance to make appearances on American TV with Evan Chandler’s version of the 1993 allegations against Michael Jackson. Chandler’s appearances influenced the public and the jury before the trial against Michael Jackson had begun.

At the same time, the prosecution threatened Jackson’s friends and associates with charges of „conspiracy“ resulting in kidnapping, extortion, false imprisonment and child molestation. As a result, they were prevented from appearing in the media to say positive things about Michael Jackson.
Raymond Chandler, however, had free rein.
Raymond Chandler appeared on Court-TV in 2004, a program associated with reporter Diane Dimond. Court-TV was considered an “ extension of the prosecutor’s office.“ Court-TV was linked to the website „The Smoking Gun.“ Were Chandler’s media events even sponsored by the prosecution?
Beginning in 2004, the grand jury proceedings in the case against Michael Jackson were underway. Michael Jackson’s accusers, Janet and Gavin and Star Arvizo testified before the grand jury without being cross-examined. Without any defense on the part of the defendant. The jury of the subsequent criminal proceedings must reach a verdict uninfluenced. The transcripts of the testimonies in front of the grand jury are part of the prosecutors‘ files and must be kept confidential. In the case against Michael Jackson, the grand jury transcripts were published on the internet on Feb. 15, 2005, shortly before the start of the trial. On the website „The Smoking Gun“. 1903 pages. 28 This was in violation of the law. The transcripts caused a media uproar and, without being questioned, shaped public opinion and thus the jury in the trial against Michael Jackson.
Someone also published on „The Smoking Gun“ prior to Jackson’s trial the 1993 Jordan Chandler allegations which had never come to trial in a proper court of law. Also published was the January 1994 settlement from the Chandler/Jackson civil case. 29 Someone had done a great job of preparing his criminal case against Michael Jackson in 2004. The public and the jury were manipulated – as in Ron Zonen’s criminal case against Jesse James Hollywood – before the defendants had even set a foot in the courtroom. They still failed to convict Michael Jackson. The question remains: Who were they?

The promise of fame or fortune from a high-profile case creates problems. The media try to seduce attorneys into thinking they are allies, provided their desire for inside information is satisfied. But these cases are never won or lost in the media, only in the courtroom. The most important audience is 13 people: the judge and jurors.“

Thomas Mesereau, attorney for Michael Jackson. 30

Documents related to the case against Jesse James Hollywood and prosecutor Ron Zonen can be found here:

Jesse James Hollywood Case. (Link leads to the website of Hollywood criminal defense attorney called James Blatt)

The judge to the „overheated“ prosecutor Ron Zonen in the case against Michael Jackson: „Go down two degrees“

„[Judge Rodney] Melville continues to be a favorite with the press as he tries to keep what could be a kangaroo court on track. He deftly handled the overheated Zonen when the prosecutor’s overzealousness with Geragos got out of hand. „Go down two degrees,“ Melville said. „I ride horses. When they’re too hot, we like to let the head relax. Relax a minute.“

Roger Friedman, Journalist and trial observer, 14.05.2005. 31

„A kangaroo court is a court that ignores recognized standards of law or justice […] „, Wikipedia.

When the prosecutor has an affair with a witness for his charges: Ron Zonen and witness Louise Palanker

During the 2005 trial of Michael Jackson, prosecutor Ron Zonen had an affair with his own witness, Louise Palanker. Palanker maintained an intense relationship with the Arvizos. Among Louise Palanker’s gifts to the Arvizos in 2000 were checks for $20 000.

Liebesbriefe Love Letters Louise Palanker Gavin Arvizo Janet Arvizo Star Arvizo Michael Jackson DA Staatsanwalt Ron Zonen 2003

Thank you, Louise, my Sweetie Wheezy,” with a heart over the “Louise.” […] “I think of you every second of my life and pray for your every night, every morning. I love you.“ […] “our darling Louise, Wheezy” […] „Once I see you my day is wunderful Louise I miss you. I love you. Every Day I want to be with you“ […] „I will go to your house […]

The love letters from Gavin Arvizo, Star and Davellin to Louise Palanker „Weezy“. Excerpt from the brief filed by attorneys Mesereau pp. dated 04.02.2005 , source. 020405oppdamlieplidoefam.pdf, Exhibit G 32

„I didn’t remember which one I married after the trial. There were a lot of options […]“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, 11.2019. [/efn_note] Prosecutor Ron Zonen, Louise Palanker: „The Jackson Trial & Contemporary Media“ minute 10:38, [/efn_note]

In 2019, prosecutor Ron Zonen described himself in one of his interviews about Michael Jackson as:

“ […] talented handsome prosecutor […]“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen, 07.11.2019. 33

Just weeks after Michael Jackson’s acquittal, prosecutor Ron Zonen gave an interview to comedian Louise Palanker. Louise Palanker posted the following questions in preparation for the interview:

We’ve got prosecuter Ron Zonen in the studio today so I’m trying to come up with questions for him that won’t make me look stupid. So far I’ve got: 1) Who do you think will win on the reality show „Shall We Dance“? 2) What’s your favorite Michael Jackson song? 3) When you were prosecuting Michael Jackson, did you happen to get his autograph? 3b: If you got his autograph, can I buy it off you? 4) What kind of car do you drive? 5) Do defense attorneys generally buy better cars than prosecutors on account of the fact that their clients can afford to pay the big bucks? 5b Do you get jealous if your colleagues have nicer cars? 6) What’s your address and home phone number? 7) If you were to guesstimate, how many times do you think you’ve yelled out, „OBJECTION, YOUR HONOR!!!“

Louise Palanker in the announcement of her podcast featuring an interview with prosecutor Ron Zonen on Sept. 10, 2005. 34

2019: Prosecutor Ron Zonen and the „Trial of the Century“ with files on Michael Jackson? „burdensome, gone, shredded“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen discussing the files from his trial against Michael Jackson, which Zonen lost together with prosecutors Tom Sneddon and Gordon Auchincloss on June 13, 2005: shredded and thrown away. From the „talented, handsome prosecutor.“

Louise Palanker: „I finish up by telling you that for some goddamn reason and the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office have destroyed the Michael Jackson file now that means that no scholars can ever go back and study this trial or study the way the investigation unfolded everything has been destroyed.“,
Ex-prosecutor Ron Zonen: „It was that talented handsome prosecutor who happens to be married to the woman to my right for now who actually supervised the closed-down of that case but there’s a reason for it there was of course a reason forward we needed the room I mean it was taking up an entire office worth of space all those boxes he’s dead we’re not prosecuting him again okay and that material and the trial and everything about it is all public it’s all been turned over to one source after another […] yeah it’s shredded it’s everything shredded everything is shredded and everything is gone and none of its digitized and well some of it is digitized I mean some of it is digitized I’m I need a budget on the spot but what is that why did that happen just because he’s dead and he was taking up space there will never be another Michael Jackson prosecution and we were getting hit with the Freedom of Information requests and reporters and journalists constantly contacting us and to go through a hundred thousand pages of material to respond to those requests was simply burdensome you’re not a big office you know and to live the legacy of Michael Jackson wasn’t necessarily something that we wanted to do forever. We tried the case it went on for months and months we did a tremendous amount of investigation he wasn’t convicted he was acquitted“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen 07.11.2019. 35

„To deal with the trial itself, because at this point as we’re getting …close to the start of trial, we had accumulated something close to 100,000 pages of discovery.“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen. 36

Prosecutor Ron Zonen justified the destroying of criminal files concerning Michael Jackson because the office had received too many requests for information about the files and they were „not responsible for the legacy of Michael Jackson.“
Prosecutor’s office destroys files about historic trial of a historic public figure?
The DA’s office is destroying the files about the trial they lost, about an indictment they should never have filed?
The DA’s office is destroying the pictures of the 1993 strip search of Michael Jackson? Would the prosecution have kept the pictures of the defendant if they could have used them to prove he was guilty in 1993?
Would prosecutor Ron Zonen have preserved the files about Michael Jackson if he had won the case?
Even in the U.S., the prosecutor’s office might be the file-keeping authority. And there are deadlines for the preservation and, at some point, destruction of files. But for historically valuable trials like the „trial of the century“ against Michael Jackson, exemption regulations surly apply. (If trials like these don’t have historical value, which do?)
So, according to prosecutor Ron Zonen, the public is left with no investigative files from the prosecutor’s office, no investigative files with rulings and memos that are of interest regarding the trial. What we are left with now are the words of Ron Zonen, who has driven this „trial of the century“ against the wall as a prosecutor. The word of Ron Zonen, who for years has blamed others for his failure and has taken no responsibility for his case, which never was a case.

„[…] because the mother of the child, frankly, was uncontrollable. She was uncontrollable. She was somewhat, frankly, unstable. She was a person who could say or do anything at any particular time. She was a very difficult person for anyone to control. We dealt with significant issues with her during the course of the trial, and of course she was the principal feature for the defense. Essentially, when the trial came along that it was really nothing more than a shakedown in an effort to extort money. […] .“

Prosecutor Ron Zonen 04.11.2010, after losing his case against Michael Jackson in 2005. 37, 38

„Ron Zonen described the Jackson jury as inferior to those he usually dealt with in Santa Barbara County. The length of the trial meant that those who led full lives, people with important jobs and those who ran businesses, could not make the expected six-month commitment. “So we were left with the unemployed, the underemployed, and the retired,” Zonen said. “It certainly wasn’t a jury that was as educated or accomplished as I’m used to seeing.” Mesereau accused Zonen of calling the jurors “idiots” and retorted that the panel included a civil engineer, a man with a master’s degree in mathematics, and a retired school principal. “I thought it was a very intelligent jury,” Mesereau said. “They paid good attention, took excellent notes, and deliberated for almost nine days.”

Attorney Thomas Mesereau in Randall Sullivan. 39

Related Articles:

Home » PaRt of History. Beiträge » PaRt of History: Michael Jackson Allegations » Prosecutor Ron Zonen, Hollywood and Michael Jackson


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  3. Roger Friedman’s Showbiz 411- Hollywood to the Hudson, Michael Jackson: 10 Years Since The Court Acquittal That Eventually Killed Him, quoted article from 12.06.2015: „Tom Sneddon essentially killed Michael Jackson. If Sneddon had really been objective and had investigated the Arvizo’s properly, the case would not have come to trial. But he turned it into a circus from day 1 […].„,
  4. Rechtsanwalt Thomas Mesereau, Verteidiger Michael Jackson am 14.06.2005 im Interview mit Larry King, Transcript CNN LARRY KING LIVE, Michael Jackson’s Attorney Speaks Out About Trial, Aired June 14, 2005 – 21:00,,
  5. Zonen, Ron in Weezy and The Swish episode 014 – (016) – Prosecutor Ron Zonen gives the witness in the case against Michael Jackson Louise Palanker („Weezy“) an interview for her show about the trial. Palanker and Zonen later get married. 2005.12.08., retrieved on 2017.09.18., minute 54.10, via under WeezyAndTheSwishEpisode016
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  11. Meagher, Chris, SANTA BARBARA Independent, Ruling Vindicates S.B. Prosecutors, Judges – Fictional Works Didn’t Create Conflict of Interest, 2008.05.15., 2017.09.21.,
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  29. The Smoking Gun, „Michael Jackson’s $15 Million Payoff/Agreed to pay $15 million to settle boy’s 1993 sex abuse claim“, 2004.06.16., retrieved 2017.02.09, Settlment,
  30. Thomas Mesereau, Rechtsanwalt, Look At Me, Daily Journal, 12.01.2007,
  31. Roger Friedman, Journalist, 14.05.2005 in „Neverland Romance for Accuser’s Sister?“, Roger Friedman
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  33. Prosectuor Ron Zonen, Louise Palanker, Diane Dimond, 07.11.2019 in „The Jackson Trial & Contemporary Media“ on YouTube Minute 21:08:
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  39. Randal Sullivan, Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson, Atlantic Books. Kindle-Version.

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