explainer

Wade Robson: The Australian at the centre of a shocking new Michael Jackson documentary.

In 2005, Australian man Wade Robson sat on the witness stand in a Los Angeles courtroom. His mentor Michael Jackson, a man known to the world as The King of Pop, was on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

As someone who’d experienced a close relationship with Michael Jackson as a child, whose family had spent holidays at his Neverland ranch, the up-and-coming choreographer was asked whether he’d ever been touched sexually by the superstar.

“Never,” he replied, bluntly. “I wouldn’t stand for it.”

Michael Jackson walked away from that courtroom a free man, acquitted of all charges against him. But in 2013, four years after the superstar’s death, Wade Robson’s crucial testimony in that case unravelled. A man who had twice told a judge – and the world – he was Jackson’s ally, named himself as a victim.

Wade Robson’s story is now the subject of the documentary, Leaving Neverland; a four-hour, two part series that explores his allegations along with those of James Safechuck. The content is reportedly so distressing, that after its one-off screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January, mental health professionals were made available to viewers.

Robson says the project is an essential part of coming to terms with his trauma and seeking the justice he believes he and countless others were denied. He states in the film, “I want to speak the truth as loud as I spoke the lie.”

How Wade Robson met Michael Jackson.

Wade was just two years old when his mother introduced him to Michael Jackson’s music. It was a video. The Making of Thriller.

According to a court document cited by the Los Angles Times, “Over the next few years, his fascination with [Jackson] and dancing and being like him grew into an obsession. [Jackson] became ‘God’ to him.”

In November 1987, five-year-old Wade Robson got a chance to meet his hero, when he won an Australia-wide dance competition in which contestants tried to mimic Michael Jackson’s signature moves. The performer invited him to share the stage at his Brisbane concert and a few years later, when the boy and his family went on holiday to California, they were invited to stay at Neverland in Santa Barbara.

According to court documents, Robson, then aged seven, and his 10-year-old sister spent the first night sleeping alongside Jackson in his bed. The second, it was just him.

That’s when the alleged abuse began.

wade robson
Wade in 2008. Image: Getty.

Wade Robson's allegations.

In 2016, Wade Robson filed a lawsuit against MJJ Productions and MJJ Venture claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Michael Jackson multiple times over the course of seven years, which began during that first stay at Neverland and continued after his family moved to the United States when he was eight. He named the companies as Jackson's "co-conspirators, alter egos, aiders, abettors and agents for the childhood sexual abuse”.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the complaint, Wade Robson alleged Michael Jackson's sexual acts included masturbation, oral sex, French kissing, naked showers, but that he was warned to keep it all to himself.

“We can never tell anyone what we are doing,” Robson alleges Jackson told him that first night, according to The Los Angeles Times. “People are ignorant and they would never understand that we love each other and this is how we show it. If anyone were to ever find out, our lives and careers would be over.”

In 1993, at the age of 11, he even testified in favour of Jackson in the first sexual assault suit was brought against the singer. The case settled out of court, after Jackson agreed to pay the family of the 13-year-old alleged victim a US$23 million settlement.

However, the complaint alleges that when Robson was 14, Jackson attempted to rape him, and urged him to dispose of his blood-stained underwear, The Sun reported. It also claims that Jackson lost interest in Robson when he reached puberty.

'Michael Jackson molested me.'

For years, Wade Robson kept silent. Meanwhile, his career went from strength to strength. At the age of just 16 he was hired to work on Britney Spears' tour, and ultimately went on to choreograph music video and live performances for her, as well as several for Justin Timberlake's pop band N*SYNC.

He was even given his own talent search show, The Wade Robson Project, and later served as a panellist and choreographer on the US version of So You Think You Can Dance?, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Choreography.

It wasn't until after his wife, Amanda Rodriguez, had given birth to their first child, that Robson began to recall what happened to him as a boy. As he wrote on his blog, he was in the grips of a 'nervous breakdown' in 2012 when the memories he'd dismissed and "compartmentalised" returned.

"I began to have visual flashes of my son experiencing something that I had experienced as a child," he wrote. "Something that I had never spoken about to anyone in my life, had actually passionately denied over and over and had always tried to just not think about."

With the help of therapy, he was able to say the words: "Michael Jackson molested me."

The Jackson family's response.

Wade Robson first filed a civil child molestation case against Michael Jackson's estate in 2013, which was rejected two years later. In 2016, he turned his suit toward MJJ Productions and MJJ Venture. That, too, was ruled against by a judge the following year: “Without control over Michael Jackson, the corporate defendants could not impose ‘reasonable safeguards’ or take ‘reasonable steps’ to ‘avoid acts of unlawful sexual conduct in the future’ by Michael Jackson," the ruling read, according to The Telegraph.

Since the release of the film, which is due to air on US station HBO and British public broadcaster Channel 4 in March, the Jackson family have condemned Robson and James Safechuck's claims.

"People have always loved to go after Michael. He was an easy target because he was unique," they said in a statement.

"But the truth is on our side. Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don’t lie, people do. Michael Jackson was and always will be 100 per cent innocent of these false allegations."

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. You click, we help. Shooting star illustration.

Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

Thanks for helping!

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. Girl with pigtails sitting at desk writing in notebook. Row of four books.
Three hands holding books
00:00 / ???