Michael Jackson fans have sent the hashtag "MJinnocent" trending today after a judge dismissed a long-running lawsuit against the late singer's production companies.
A judge ruled on Monday that MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures had no legal obligation to protect boys from sexual abuse, the result of a lawsuit filed by Wade Robson in 2013 alleging Jackson's estate had facilitated horrific abuse against him and others.
Robson is one of the subjects of the shocking 2019 HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, in which he alleged Jackson sexually abused him for seven years from when he was seven years old.
In the ruling handed down on Monday, Judge Mark A. Young said the Jackson estate had no ability to control the singer's actions given Jackson wholly owned his companies.
Robson's lawsuit was first dismissed on statute of limitations grounds, but was revived in 2020 after amendments to state law giving plaintiffs in child sex abuse cases more time to take legal action.
Young dismissed a similar case brought by James Safechuck, who also appeared in Leaving Neverland, on the same grounds last October. That case is now on appeal.
Robson's lawyer has also expressed his intention to appeal this week's decision.
"If allowed to stand, the decision would set a dangerous precedent that would leave thousands of children working in the entertainment industry vulnerable to sexual abuse by persons in places of power," lawyer Vince Finaldi said in a statement, Variety reports.
"The children of our state deserve protection, and we will not stop fighting until we (ensure) that every child is safe."
Responding to the judge's ruling, a number of Jackson's diehard fans as well as his nephew Taj Jackson, who is not a direct beneficiary of his estate, took to Twitter in support of the accused paedophile, sending the hashtag "#MJinnocent" trending.
Jackson's lawyers have long denied widespread abuse claims, and have separately accused HBO of violating a non-disparagement agreement by broadcasting Leaving Neverland.
In response, HBO has suggested Jackson's estate is seeking to stifle child sex abuse claims.
Michael Jackson's estate sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement in response to the latest twist in the claims today: "Wade Robson has spent the last eight years pursuing frivolous claims in different lawsuits against Michael Jackson's estate and companies associated with it.
"Robson has taken nearly three dozen depositions and inspected and presented hundreds of thousands of documents trying to prove his claims, yet a Judge has once again ruled that Robson's claims have no merit whatsoever, that no trial is necessary and that his latest case is dismissed."
SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact Safe to Talk confidentially:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• For more info or to web chat visit www.safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.