Orléans, France | AFP | Michael Jackson fan clubs moved to sue two alleged victims of the late singer in a French court on Thursday over their claims in the hit HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland”.
The legal action in the French city of Orleans targets James Safechuck, 41, and Wade Robson, 36, who recount how their idol molested them as boys at his Neverland Ranch in California.
They are the key figures in the hit two-part documentary, which made headlines around the world when it was released by HBO in March, and broke streaming records.
The fan clubs — Michael Jackson Community, the MJ Street and On The Line — have filed a suit in France using defamation laws that make it an offence to wrongly sully the image of a dead person.
US or British laws do not provide such protection.
The French lawyer representing the fan clubs, Emmanuel Ludot, said: “The image of the departed has been damaged, as well as the community of fans of Michael Jackson.”
Safechuck and Robson have snubbed the court action and did not send legal representation to Thursday’s proceedings, which lasted only 10 minutes.
But a statement from Jackson’s estate backed the French legal efforts, which are in addition to a suit filed against HBO in the US by the Jackson family seeking damages of $100 million (88 million euros).
“The Estate is in full support of Mr Ludot’s efforts on behalf of Michael and his beloved fans in France and across the globe that the truth shall ultimately prevail,” John Branca, a co-executor of the Estate of Michael Jackson, said in a statement.
“We remain hopeful that a victory in France will soon fuel a movement in the United States to finally explore changes in the law to afford defamation protection for the deceased,” it added.
The court in Orleans is set to deliver its verdict on October 9 providing the plaintiffs can prove that a summons to attend the court has been delivered to Safechuck and Robson.
The fan clubs are seeking symbolic damages of one euro each.