HomeArts & EntertainmentMusicMichael Jackson sexual abuse lawsuits revived by California appeals court

Michael Jackson sexual abuse lawsuits revived by California appeals court

A California appeals court has revived lawsuits from two men who allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them for years when they were boys.

Both men detailed a number of harrowing allegations in the Dan Reed-directed documentary Leaving Neverland in 2019.

On Friday (18 August), a three-judge panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the lawsuits of Wade Robson and James Safechuck should not have been dismissed by a lower court, and that the men can validly claim that the two Jackson-owned corporations that were named as defendants in the cases had a responsibility to protect them.

A new California law that temporarily broadened the scope of sexual abuse cases enabled the appeals court to restore them.

It’s the second time the lawsuits – brought by Robson in 2013 and Safechuck the following year – have been brought back after dismissal.

A judge who dismissed the suits in 2021 found that the corporations, MJJ Productions Inc. and MJJ Ventures Inc., could not be expected to function like the Boy Scouts or a church where a child in their care could expect their protection.

Jackson, who died in 2009, was the sole owner and only shareholder in the companies.

Michael Jackson Accusers Lawsuit


The higher court judges disagreed, writing that “a corporation that facilitates the sexual abuse of children by one of its employees is not excused from an affirmative duty to protect those children merely because it is solely owned by the perpetrator of the abuse.”

They added that “it would be perverse to find no duty based on the corporate defendant having only one shareholder. And so we reverse the judgments entered for the corporations.”

Jonathan Steinsapir, attorney for the Jackson estate, said they were “disappointed”. “Two distinguished trial judges repeatedly dismissed these cases on numerous occasions over the last decade because the law required it,” Steinsapir said in an email to The Associated Press.

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“We remain fully confident that Michael is innocent of these allegations, which are contrary to all credible evidence and independent corroboration, and which were only first made years after Michael‘s death by men motivated solely by money.”

Vince Finaldi, an attorney for Robson and Safechuck, said in an email that they were “pleased but not surprised” that the court overturned the previous judge’s “incorrect rulings in these cases, which were against California law and would have set a dangerous precedent that endangered children throughout state and country. We eagerly look forward to a trial on the merits.”

Steinsapir had argued for the defence in July that it does not make sense that employees would be legally required to stop the behaviour of their boss. “It would require low-level employees to confront their supervisor and call them pedophiles,” Steinsapir said.

(Getty Images)

Holly Boyer, another attorney for Robson and Safechuck, countered that the boys “were left alone in this lion’s den by the defendant’s employees. An affirmative duty to protect and to warn is correct.”

Steinsapir said evidence that has been gathered in the cases, which have not reached trial, showed that the parents had no expectation of Jackson’s employees to act as monitors.

“They were not looking to Michael Jackson’s companies for protection from Michael Jackson,” the lawyer argued said.

But in a concurring opinion issued with Friday’s decision, one of the panelists, Associate Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr, wrote that “to treat Jackson’s wholly-owned instruments as different from Jackson himself is to be mesmerized by abstractions. This is not an alter ego case. This is a same ego case.”

The judges did not rule on the truth of the allegations themselves. That will be the subject of a forthcoming jury trial in Los Angeles. “We trust that the truth will ultimately prevail with Michael‘s vindication yet again,” Steinsapir said Friday.

The lawsuit states that Jackson allegedly sexually abused the child hundreds of times between 1988 and 1992, ending when Safechuck was approaching puberty.

Safechuck alleges that after meeting Jackson when he was nine years old in the late 1980s, the sexual abuse began during a trip to Paris in 1988. He claims that the singer demonstrated masturbation before coaching the minor to perform the act himself.

In Robson’s case, the lawsuit states that the production company introduced the then-five-year-old to the “Billie Jean” singer in 1987, after he won a dancing competition.

Jackson’s alleged abuse of Robson began in 1990 when Robson, aged seven, was staying at the Neverland Ranch with his family for the weekend.

The lawsuit claims that MJJ Productions Inc staff had witnessed Jackson putting his hand on Robson’s crotch and had allegedly discovered the child and the singer’s underwear on the floor beside the bed.

It is also alleged that MJJ Productions Inc security staff joked that the late entertainer didn’t have any girlfriends “because he likes little boys. He likes little white butts.”

Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Additional reporting from The Associated Press

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