HBO has called for Michael Jackson‘s $100 million lawsuit against Leaving Neverland to be dismissed.
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The Dan Reed-directed documentary, which divided viewers upon its UK airing earlier this year, focuses on testimony by Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 41, who both claim that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. In the wake of the film being shown, Jackson’s songs were subsequently banned on numerous radio stations around the world.
Ahead of the film’s premiere in March, Jackson’s estate sued the HBO network while protesting the late star’s innocence. The plaintiff alleges that Leaving Neverland constitutes a breach of a non-disparagement clause in an agreement that is 27 years old. It’s said that the deal provided the network with rights to air a Michael Jackson live show around the time of his 1991 album, ‘Dangerous’.
After a federal judge rejected a motion from Jackson’s estate to throw the case to an arbitrator back in May, HBO has now filed the motion for dismissal. They claim that their documentary is protected under the First Amendment and California Code of Civil Procedure.
“HBO’s distribution of this documentary – which recounts the personal stories of two individuals who describe in detail how, as young boys, they were sexually abused for years by Michael Jackson, arguably one of the world’s most famous public figures – constitutes protected activity under the First Amendment and California Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16,” the motion reads.
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The court case’s hearing date has been set for September 19.
HBO previously claimed that the decades-old deal cited by Jackson’s estate had expired, and therefore does not cover the Leaving Neverland film. The broadcasters hit out at legal action set in motion by Jackson’s estate, claiming it was a “transparent effort to bolster their publicity campaign against the documentary”.