A choreographer and television personality who was a key witness in Michael Jackson's successful defence against child molestation charges is seeking permission to file a claim against the singer's estate alleging the pop superstar sexually abused him as a child, court records and an attorney said.
Wade Robson was abused by Jackson during a seven-year period, the choreographer's attorney, Henry Gradstein, wrote in a statement Wednesday. The attorney said Robson, 30, suffered a breakdown last year but has not stated how much his client is seeking to recoup from Jackson's estate if a judge permits him to pursue his abuse allegations.
Details on Robson's accusations were filed under seal.
The molestation allegations have been fiercely denied by an attorney for Jackson's estate and the singer's criminal defence attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr.
"Mr. Robson was one of my strongest witnesses in Michael Jackson's criminal trial," Mesereau said. "I called him to the stand at the beginning of the defence case and he was adamant that he had never been improperly touched or molested. This makes no sense."
Robson was the first defence witness during the 2005 trial that ended with Jackson's acquittal on molestation charges. He also spoke favourably about Jackson after the singer's death in June 2009.
"Last year, on a career trajectory that was off the charts, [Robson] collapsed under the stress and sexual trauma of what had happened to him for seven years as a child," Gradstein wrote in a statement that referred to Jackson as a sexual predator.
"There are significant legal issues involved in this case that have the potential to impact lives beyond just our client," he wrote.
Gradstein said he could not discuss specifics of the case, but he cited Robson's recent breakdown as the choreographer's reason for reversing his previous statements about Jackson. "As a result, he started intensive treatment which ultimately led to his ability to come forward," Gradstein said.
Robson, an Australian-born choreographer, has appeared on the Fox series So You Think You Can Dance and worked with Britney Spears and other stars.
Previously testified under oath
"Mr. Robson's claim is outrageous and pathetic," Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman wrote in a statement. "This is a young man who has testified at least twice under oath over the past 20 years and said in numerous interviews that Michael Jackson never did anything inappropriate to him or with him. Now, nearly four years after Michael has passed this sad and less than credible claim has been made. We are confident that the court will see this for what it is."
Gradstein filed a motion seeking permission to file a late creditor's claim against Jackson's estate on May 1, nearly four years after the singer's death, court records show. Most of the documents are sealed pending a June court hearing, but a summary of the documents states the choreographer includes a declaration from a psychiatrist and an "Unfiled Complaint for Childhood Sexual Abuse."
The period for filing claims against Jackson's estate has long since passed, but a California civil statute allows victims of abuse to file a lawsuit within three years of discovering "that psychological injury or illness ... was caused by the sexual abuse."
The judge overseeing Jackson's massive probate case will have to determine whether Robson's claim can go forward.
Gradstein's statement did not address any specifics about when or where Jackson's alleged molestation occurred, but the choreographer testified extensively in 2005 about the time he spent with Jackson.
"Wade Robson, in addition to being one of the most talented people on the planet, is one of the kindest, most gentle, decent and introspective human beings one will ever meet. He is the loving father of a young son and happily married," Gradstein wrote in a statement first obtained by celebrity website TMZ.
His claim was filed nearly eight years to the day after Robson testified Jackson never inappropriately touched him. He was 22 at the time he testified, telling jurors in Jackson's criminal case that he met Jackson when he was 5 years old and had spent the night at Jackson's Neverland Ranch more than 20 times, sleeping in the singer's bedroom on most visits.
During the trial, Robson bristled at testimony by other witnesses that they had seen Jackson molest him. "I'm very mad about it," he told jurors. "It's not true and they put my name through the dirt. I'm really not happy about it."
Accusation comes during civil trial
The claims come as Jackson's mother, who supported her son throughout the molestation trial in Santa Maria, Calif., is in a Los Angeles courtroom pursuing a negligent hiring case against the promoter of Jackson's planned series of comeback concerts.
Katherine Jackson has not addressed Robson's allegations, and her attorney, Perry Sander Jr., said Mesereau was the appropriate person to comment on the molestation claims.
Marvin S. Putnam, an attorney for concert promoter AEG Live LLC, said he wasn't familiar with the specifics of Robson's claims but doubted it would come up in the civil trial filed by Jackson's mother. "I don't see how it has anything to do with our case," he said.