LOS ANGELES (AP) - A judge on Wednesday intervened in the turmoil roiling the Jackson family, appointing the son of Tito Jackson to serve as temporary guardian of Michael Jackson's children in the absence of the family matriarch and amid a feud over the pop superstar's estate.
Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff temporarily suspended Katherine Jackson as the children's guardian because she was in Arizona and hadn't spoken with them in several days. He appointed Tito Joe "TJ" Jackson to serve as temporary guardian with the ability to control the hilltop home where the children live and to take on other supervision duties.
Katherine Jackson told ABC News that she was hurt by the court ruling and it was "based on a bunch of lies."
"I am devastated that while I've been away, that my children, my grandchildren, have been taken away from me, and I'm coming home to see about that, also," she said reading from a prepared statement.
She denied the suggestion made in court and in court filings to support TJ Jackson's appointment that she was being held against her will.
"I am here today to let everybody know that I am fine and I am here with my children, and my children would never do a thing to me like that, holding me against my will," she said while her children Randy, Janet and Rebbie were seated next to her. "It's very stupid for people to think that."
Beckloff said there was no evidence that Katherine Jackson had done anything wrong but instead it appeared she was being prevented from fulfilling her role as guardian through the "intentional acts of third parties." He didn't elaborate but made the decision after reading court filings in which TJ Jackson expressed concern that Katherine Jackson was being prevented from returning
He cited a Monday incident in which Janet, Randy and Jermaine Jackson arrived at the children's home and told them they could speak with their grandmother but had to leave with them.
"This was odd and disturbing to me and (the children) and heightened our concern that our grandmother was being prohibited from returning home," TJ Jackson wrote in a sworn statement. The incident turned into a confrontation between two male adults at the house and sheriff's officials say it remains an ongoing battery investigation.
Beckloff listened as attorneys described Katherine Jackson's demeanor as unusual on phone calls placed to the children hours before the hearing.
"His performance in court today breaks my heart," Randy Jackson wrote on Twitter. "He knows his Aunts and Uncles would never hold their mother against her will. That's ABSURD."
TJ Jackson's attorney Charles Shultz also revealed in court filings that the children were forced to miss school Wednesday because of concerns about their security. Shultz wrote in a filing that around 3:30 a.m., a new security team arrived at the Jackson home in suburban Calabasas claiming they had been authorized by Katherine Jackson to take charge.
He wrote that the guards asked about the children's school. "That last inquiry caused the head of security to be concerned and he advised that (the children) stay home from school on Wednesday."
Beckloff ruled the Jackson children could not leave California without court approval.
Katherine Jackson's attorney Perry Sanders Jr. said after the hearing that he spoke with his client as she was driving back to Los Angeles from Tucson, Ariz., where she had been since July 15.
"She sounded absolutely fine, lucid and her normal self," he said.
Sanders plans to ask the court to reinstate Katherine Jackson as guardian of the children when she is back in Los Angeles. He was looking forward to meeting with her in person on Thursday.
The public battle was revealed early Sunday after a relative reported Katherine Jackson missing, but she was later located safely with other family members in Arizona.
Jermaine Jackson has said his mother was following doctor's orders to cut off communications with the children, who range in age from 10 to 15. He didn't provide further details.
Sanders said he was told she had high blood pressure before she left for Arizona.
His co-counsel, Sandra Ribera, expressed concerns during the hearing that Katherine Jackson may have been held against her will. Ribera said one of the singer's children told her a conversation with the 82-year-old woman on Tuesday seemed to be monitored and influenced by others in the room.
Arizona authorities contacted Katherine Jackson on Sunday evening and it was determined she was safe, though her lack of communication with her grandchildren was described by TJ Jackson and others as unusual and unprecedented.
In her statement to ABC News, Katherine Jackson said she didn't want any calls during her vacation and thought she had made appropriate arrangements for her grandchildren.
In addition to concerns about the safety of Jackson's children, some of Michael Jackson's siblings have recently called on the executors of his estate to resign.
Randy Jackson appeared Tuesday on Al Sharpton's MSNBC show PoliticsNation and said he believes his brother's will is a fake and that the executors have engaged in criminal activity.
The estate, which recently reported it saw $475 million in gross earnings since Jackson's death in June 2009, has denied wrongdoing and called the accusations "false and defamatory."
Beckloff, who also oversees financial issues affecting Jackson's estate, was initially reluctant to appoint a temporary guardian but changed his mind after hearing from several attorneys who expressed concern about the family's problems.
He made the ruling after hearing TJ Jackson's description of a "strange" conversation he had with Katherine Jackson on Tuesday evening.
"I've never heard my grandmother talk like that," he said reluctantly. "In every way. The sound in her voice. The pauses."
He said some of her speech sounded slurred and she used words that made him wonder if she was speaking in code.
The children's guardian ad litem, Margaret Lodise, said she spoke with the children and the two oldest, Prince and Paris, supported the appointment of a temporary guardian. Lodise did not ask the youngest son, 10-year-old Blanket, for his views.
Lodise is responsible for overseeing the children's interests in the estate of their father.
Schultz said TJ Jackson didn't want to replace Katherine Jackson as permanent guardian. Still, the judge noted that TJ Jackson would have to petition to become the permanent guardian within 48 hours and added that such a petition might not be heard if Katherine Jackson re-emerges.
Sanders said he would fight any move to have her permanently replaced.
He said he met with Randy and Janet Jackson in Tucson, Ariz., on Tuesday, but he was not allowed to see his client. He said he still hoped the recent events were a misunderstanding, but he described them as "chaos."
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP