Explosive reaction to Michael Jackson HBO documentary 'Leaving Neverland'; singer's estate fights back in court

The singer's estate is fighting back in court and on YouTube.

ByABC News via GMA logo
March 6, 2019, 9:16 AM

The documentary "Leaving Neverland" has been gathering attention ever since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Now that it's aired on HBO, it's sparking conversation and strong opinions nationwide about the life and the legacy of the late Michael Jackson.

In the controversial film, two men detail alleged child sexual abuse by the iconic singer, who died in 2009 at the age of 50.

"Once the abuse started within that first week, every night that I was with him, there was abuse. While my mother was you know, next door," alleged victim Wade Robson said in an interview that followed the release of the documentary.

Robson, now 36, claims that he was seven when the abuse began.

Wade Robson poses for a portrait at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Jan. 24, 2019, to promote the film, "Leaving Neverland."
Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, FILE

James Safechuck, now 41, said he first met the pop star while shooting a soda commercial at age 10. He claims that after developing a friendship with Jackson, he was also abused by the singer in secret hideaways throughout Neverland Ranch and in hotel rooms while on tour.

"At the same time the sexual relationship is growing, he is working on pushing you away from your parents, pushing you away from everybody else. And it feels like it is just you and him," Safechuck says.

Both idolized Jackson and say during the alleged abuse, the singer befriended their unsuspecting mothers and families, often paying for travel and lavish gifts.

"I was really into jewelry and he would reward me with jewelry for doing sexual acts for him," Safechuck claims.

When sexual misconduct allegations against Jackson surfaced in 1993, both Robson and Safechuck testified on the singer's behalf, saying he never molested or touched them in appropriately. Robson did again in 2005, prior to Jackson's acquittal on child abuse charges, concerning a different minor.

The two men say now that they weren't being truthful during that prior testimony and that becoming fathers years later was the catalyst to share their stories with the world. Both sued the Jackson estate four years after his death in 2009, but the lawsuits were dismissed on technical grounds. They are appealing the decision.

But the Michael Jackson estate is fighting back as well, in court as well as in the court of public opinion -- releasing one of the singer's concerts on YouTube the same night as the documentary's debut.

The estate has also filed a lawsuit against HBO, claiming that "the Jackson Estate will seek all damages proximately caused by HBO’s reprehensible disparagement of Michael Jackson."

The family's attorney Howard Weitzman told ABC News that "HBO ... chose to fund and produce a film where they knew the two subjects had for many years testified under oath and told family, friends and law enforcement that Mr. Jackson did nothing inappropriate to either of them."

The Jackson family also released a statement, which reads in part, "Michael Jackson is our brother and son. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made ... The facts don't lie -- people do. Michael Jackson was and will always be 100 percent innocent of these false allegations."