Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck got approval from a California appeals court Friday to take their abuse claims to a trial.
In a 3-0 ruling, the appellate court found that Jackson’s companies can be held accountable for Jackson’s alleged misconduct, reversing a lower court decision.
“Plaintiffs had every right to expect defendants to protect them from the entirely foreseeable danger of being left alone with Jackson,” the justices wrote.
The allegations were detailed in the 2019 HBO documentary series “Leaving Neverland,” in which they claimed that the pop sensation sexually abused them when they were children.
Jackson died in 2009. The pair first attempted to bring their case to court in 2013 and 2014, but the lawsuits were dismissed due to the statute of limitations. But when California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law in 2020 that extended the statute for child sexual abuse allegations, Robson and Safechuck got another chance. While their cases were dismissed again in 2021, now three appellate court judges have ruled in favor of Robson and Safechuck to see the case go in front of a jury in the lower courts.
Robson, now 46 years old, alleges that Jackson began sexually abusing him when he was 7 years old during his first visit to Neverland in 1990.
Safechuck, 40, alleges his abuse by Jackson began in Paris in 1988 when he was 10 years old. “In Jackson’s hotel room in Paris, Jackson told [Safechuck] he ‘was going to change [his] life by showing him how to masturbate,’” the opinion states, citing the allegations. “Jackson demonstrated on himself, and then made [Safechuck] try.”
The document continues, “From 1988 through 1992, Jackson abused plaintiff hundreds of times in various locations. Jackson performed a ‘marriage’ with plaintiff with a ring and a signed document to pretend they got married. He also trained [Safechuck] to exchange ‘declarations of love’ with him, and [Safechuck] developed a significant emotional attachment to Jackson.”
Mariano Quindoy, an estate manager who worked at Neverland during the time of the alleged abuse, claims to have witnessed “several incidents of suspicious activity” while working at the Jackson ranch. This included “finding Jackson’s and plaintiff’s underwear lying next to Jackson’s bed. He also saw Jackson put his hand down the front of plaintiff’s shorts while the two were in the jacuzzi. Mr. Quindoy heard gossip among the Neverland staff that Jackson was ‘having an affair’ with plaintiff and they were sleeping together,” it says in the legal document. Quindoy also stated that Norma Staikos, former executive director of MJJ Productions, once told Quindoy and his wife to “never to leave children alone with Jackson.”
The defense has argued that Jackson’s two companies — MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures — were solely owned by Jackson, and thus had no authority to supervise him or manage his conduct.
In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice John Wiley Jr., dispatched with that argument, saying that for practical purposes, “Jackson’s corporations were Jackson. They did his bidding and his alone.”
“The question in this case is whether Michael Jackson, as puppetmaster of his two wholly-owned corporations, could have taken cost-effective steps to avoid the harm the plaintiffs allege he inflicted upon them,” Wiley continued. “The answer is yes. Jackson could have restrained himself. From a social standpoint, this harm avoidance would have been costless. It merely required law abiding self-control, which the law expects of every person.”
Jonathan Steinsapir, attorney for Jackson’s estate, said in a statement to People magazine, which first reported the news of the new trial, “We are disappointed with the Court’s decision. Two distinguished trial judges repeatedly dismissed these cases on numerous occasions over the last decade because the law required it. 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. We trust that the truth will ultimately prevail with Michael’s vindication yet again. Michael Jackson himself said, ‘lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.’”