Here is an update on James Safechuck Jr’s action against the Estate of Michael Jackson. He is suing the Estate for damages relating to childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson between the ages of 10 and 14.
James filed his claim more than five years after Jackson’s death, and the Estate contends that this was far too late according to the rules of probate (see Estate’s Demurrer). However, on James’ side, and what he is relying on, is the Doctrine of Equitable Estoppel.
Estoppel deals with the situation where someone has coerced an injured party, with threats or promises, not to file a lawsuit for those injuries. It provides a mechanism to file a time barred lawsuit after the applicable time has passed.
In this case, James is alleging that Jackson manipulated and indoctrinated him into keeping the abuse a secret, thus preventing James from reporting it to anyone. It was only after James had therapy that he connected his anxiety and panic to the abuse (or “love”, as Jackson put it to him at the time) he suffered.
Equitable estoppel extends the doctrine into fairness. In other words, the argument is that the Estate has benefited greatly because James was silent for so long, and the silence was due to Jackson’s threats that “their lives would be over if the truth ever came out” about his and James’ “love”. In this case Jackson before his death, and the Estate subsequent to his death, have received income and profits which they would not have received had the truth been known about Jackson.
This means, at it’s most basic level, why should Jackson’s Estate, executors, heirs and beneficiaries be entitled to money that was earned as a result of Jackson’s molestation of James as a boy being kept a secret? It’s very simple, they shouldn’t. It is money earned under false pretenses.
So while the Estate says James waited far too long to file a claim, James asserts that he could not have possibly filed earlier due to his belief in what Jackson had told him.
Also interesting in James’ reply to the Estate’s demurrer is a further peek into how Jackson operated in his pursuit of boys- something we have discussed on other pages of this site. The reply states that Jackson’s modus operandi
was to carefully seduce his victims and their families by exposing them to an exciting and glamorous lifestyle which they found irresistible, and manipulate them into believing that he simply wanted to be “friends” with his target. In Safechuck’s case, Jackson ingratiated himself with Safechuck’s family by inviting them for dinner at his home, buying them expensive gifts, and taking them on exotic vacations. Having won Safechuck’s parents’ trust, Jackson began grooming Safechuck for the sexual abuse by encouraging him to become a “miniature version” of Jackson, and intensifying the emotional connection between them. Then, once Safechuck had begun to idolize and trust him completely, Jackson initiated Safechuck into his deviant world of childhood sexual abuse by teaching him how to masturbate. Thus began a long process of indoctrination through which Jackson successfully brainwashed Safechuck into believing that the ever-escalating acts of abuse were “his idea,” and a normal way for two people to show their love for each other.
Those who have read the resources on this site, as well as the court transcripts of Jackson’s 2005 trial, will realize that this once again shows not just the depressingly familiar methods that Jackson employed, but those that most acquaintance molesters rely on – grooming the family and grooming the child.
The next hearing on James’ claim is on the 16th of December at 8.30am – let’s hope he gets an early Christmas present.