One of the two men at the heart of the new documentary film, “Leaving Neverland,” a controversial movie breathing new life into past child molestation accusations against late "King of Pop" Michael Jackson, played a big role during the star’s 2004-2005 child molestation trial.
The movie focuses on two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who knew Jackson in the 90s when they were children and later, after the singer's 2009 death, came forward with abuse allegations against the singer. But at various points in previous years they defended the singer when other alleged victims came forward.
Investigations into molestation allegations began against Jackson in 1993 after Jordan "Jordy" Chandler, then 12, claimed that “Thriller” singer molested him repeatedly, according to the lawsuit obtained and published by the Smoking Gun in 2003.
Both Robson and Safechuck gave witness statements in defense of Jackson at the time, saying he'd never done anything inappropriate with them, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, they later claimed that they were coached on what to say by Jackson’s lawyers. Chandler’s family and Jackson settled out of court but it would not be the last time allegations against Jackson were made.
In 2003, the documentary “Living with Michael Jackson” aired in the United States, a film that documented Jackson’s friendship with a young cancer patient named Gavin Arvizo, then 13. In that documentary, Jackson talked openly sleeping in the same bed with Arvizo, claiming it was nothing sexual. He and the child held hands while speaking to the film’s director.
"It’s very loving, that’s what the world needs now,” Jackson said about sleeping with boys. “It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in … It’s very charming, it’s very sweet.”
Additionally, he said in the documentary that he loves being around children all the time.
"Why can't you share your bed?"
The film sparked an investigation and that year Jackson was charged with partaking in lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 based on allegations Arvizo would subsequently make that Jackson molested him. During Jackson's 2005 trial, Robson, then 23, again testified in his defense. He testified that yes, he had slept in Jackson’s room but maintained that he was never molested by the singer, according to the Associated Press.
“Has Mr. Jackson ever molested you?” Jackson’s attorney asked him.
“Absolutely not. And I can tell you right now that if he had, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Wade replied on the stand, according to the Daily Beast.
“Has Mr. Jackson ever touched you in a sexual way?” he was then asked.
“Never. I wouldn’t stand for it,” he replied.
It’s testimony that Robson now regrets.
Watch The Jury Speaks: Michael Jackson on Oxygen, Saturday, March 9 at 9/8c
“I wish that I could have helped Gavin Arvizo receive some justice ... for what happened to him,” he recently said on "CBS This Morning."
Robson's career, meanwhile, had taken off. He did choreography work Britney Spears and 'N Sync and even had his own reality show on MTV entitled “The Wade Robson Project.” But, inside he said he was suffering. In 2011, he quit a $30-million project after suffering from stress and anxiety, according to a complaint he filed in 2013, cited by the Los Angeles Times. He said it was “the first of his two nervous breakdowns.” After his second breakdown, which he said occurred the next year, he said he began talking to a mental health professional about the alleged abuse he endured at the hands of Jackson. He also claimed he had compartmentalized the trauma when he testified in favor of Jackson.
In 2013, Robson filed a lawsuit against the Jackson estate claiming that he was in fact sexually abused by Jackson. Safechuck filed a similar lawsuit in 2014.
Robson's complaint claims that if it weren't for the "psychological injury, illness and damage caused by the childhood sexual abuse “would have continued on as one of the most successful talents in the entertainment industry.”
Back at the time of the trial, Safechuck claimed that Jackson called him to tell him to testify on his behalf at the trial. Safechuck said when he declined to do so that Jackson “got angry and threatened him,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Safechuck claimed that Jackson even said he would go after him “for perjury” regarding his statements made in 1993 if he didn't testify.
Still, Safechuck did not testify. But, he didn't come out to defend Arvizo either.
Jackson was acquitted at the conclusion of the trial.
Safechuck started speaking out about what he claims happened to him at the hands of Jackson only after he had a son in 2010.
He “began to worry that he himself would have pedophilic urges,” Safechuck's complaint made in 2014, cited by the Los Angeles Times, claims. He began talking to a psychiatrist about the molestation allegations in 2013 and he said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and depressive disorder as a result.
Both lawsuits by Safechuck and Robson were dismissed by the courts.
The Jackson estate vehemently denies the allegations put forth in the documentary. In a statement they have called it “another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” in addition to being “just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations.”
His estate is also attempting to sue HBO with a $100 million for disparagement, citing a 1992 contract with the entertainer, according to Reuters.
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