Michael Jackson’s estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO on Thursday over plans to air a documentary that accuses the late singer of sexually abusing two young boys.
The 53-page lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that HBO was violating “non-disparagement” agreement by airing “Leaving Neverland,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
“Michael Jackson is innocent. Period,” the suit says. “In 2005, Michael Jackson was subjected to a trial — where rules of evidence and law were applied before a neutral judge and jury and where both sides were heard –, and he was exonerated by a sophisticated jury.”
“Ten years after his passing, there are still those out to profit from his enormous worldwide success and take advantage of his eccentricities,” it adds.
The four-hour, two-part documentary is set to be aired next month. It includes the testimonies of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say the King of Pop sexually abused them when they were seven and ten.
In a statement, HBO said it planned to broadcast the documentary as scheduled.
“Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged,” the statement sent to AFP reads. “HBO will move forward with the airing of ‘Leaving Neverland,’ the two-part documentary on March 3rd and 4th.
“This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
According to the lawsuit, HBO signed non-disparagement provisions that prevent the streaming service from harming Jackson’s reputation, in order to air a concert in Bucharest from Jackson’s “Dangerous” world tour in 1992.
“In violation of both basic norms of documentary journalism and the explicit terms of the agreement, HBO has disparaged Jackson’s legacy by airing a one-sided hit piece against Jackson based exclusively on the false accounts of two proven, serial perjurers,” the suit states.
The suit requests the court to compel HBO to take part in a non-confidential arbitration that could cost the company $100 million if found liable.
The King of Pop, who died on June 25, 2009, after being administered with an overdose of propofol, has been surrounded by allegations of sexual assault and child sex abuse during his entire career.
Jackson was acquitted on 2005 from a sexual assault charge, and he also paid a $15 million court settlement in 1994 over allegations involving another child. /apr