Michael Jackson sex abuse accusers can sue singer’s companies, appeals court rules

'We look forward to sharing the facts of the terrible abuse of James Safechuck and Wade Robson with a jury,' said their attorney

Kate Ng
Saturday 04 January 2020 15:09
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Two men who allege they were sexual abused by Michael Jackson when they were children can pursue claims against two of the late singer’s companies, a California court has ruled.

Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who appeared in a 2019 documentary titled Leaving Neverland, claimed they were abused by Jackson while staying at his Neverland ranch from the ages of seven and 10.

Jackson’s family have denied the claims, describing the documentary as a “public lynching” and “tabloid character assassination”.

The singer, who died in 2009, was acquitted at a 2005 trial on charges of abusing a different boy, who was 13.

Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck filed the lawsuits in 2014 but were dismissed by a lower court because California’s statute of limitations required claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed before an accuser’s 26th birthday.

That changed on 1 January, when a new law extending the timeframe up to a person’s 40th birthday came into effect.

The court said it was not ruling on the truth of the allegations but said the accusations contained “a disturbing years-long pattern of child sexual abuse” by the late singer.

Vince Finaldi, the lawyer for the two men, said after the ruling: “We are pleased that the court has recognised the strong protections California has put into place for sexual abuse victims under the state’s new law extending the statute of limitations.

“We look forward to sharing the facts of the terrible abuse of James Safechuck and Wade Robson with a jury.”

Attorney Howard Weitzman, who represents the Jackson estate, said he was confident both lawsuits would be dismissed.

“The Court of Appeal’s ruling merely revived lawsuits against Michael Jackson’s companies, which absurdly claim that Michael’s employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened,” he said.

The Jackson estate filed a $100m lawsuit against HBO last February over the release of Leaving Neverland, which the premium cable network sought to dismiss.

However, a court denied HBO’s motion to dismiss the case and the Jackson estate reportedly had plans to take the case towards public arbitration.

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