Michael Jackson's estate has scored a major win against the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which profiled two young men who accuse Jackson of molesting and raping them when they were minors. After Jackon’s estate sued the cable company over the series, a federal judge has declined HBO's request to throw out the case.
As previously reported, the King of Pop's estate sued HBO after the controversial documentary aired earlier this year. The program profiled James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who claimed the late pop star sexually abused them as boys. Jackson's estate accused the network of violating a non-disparagement agreement from a 1992 concert film during the singer's "Dangerous" tour.
According to Variety, Federal Judge George Wu issued a temporary ruling on Thursday denying HBO's request to dismiss the case. He will reportedly make a final ruling by the end of the month.
In response to the estate's accusations, HBO's attorney Theodore Boutrous claimed they filed the lawsuit in an attempt to censor and silence the highly criticized documentary, which recently was awarded Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special at the 2019 Creative Arts Emmys.
"It was filed to chill speech," Boutrous said, according to Variety. "It was filed to tell the world, 'Don't talk about child sex abuse.'... A company like HBO may be able to fight back and move forward. Others might not be able to do that."
Jackson's estate's attorney, Bryan J. Freedman, issued a statement of his own doubling down on their previous claims.
"HBO has tried everything possible to avoid having a trier of fact adjudicate their wrongdoing," he said. "If HBO believes its actions were proper then there is no reason for them to try and hide behind procedural technicalities to avoid an arbitration or a trial. Whether in an arbitration, federal court, state court or the court of appeal, the estate of Michael Jackson will force HBO to be held accountable for its wrongful conduct. The estate will never stop until justice has been obtained."
According to Variety, John Branca, co-executor of Jackson's estate, further accused HBO of trying to suppress the other side of the story regarding the late singer.
"I've never seen a media organization fight so hard to keep a secret," he said. "We're saying let's get all the facts out there, not just two stories from two accusers with a financial interest."
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