Deceased pop star Michael Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges back in 2005, but the conversation about these allegations isn't over. On Mar. 3 and 4, HBO will air Leaving Neverland, a film documenting the allegations of two men who claim Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. One of the men in Leaving Neverland is James Safechuck, who first met Jackson on the set of a Pepsi commercial when he was 10.
In the documentary, Safechuck, along with fellow accuser Wade Robson, alleges years of sexual abuse from Jackson. Ahead of the release of the film, Safechuck told USA Today that he believes Jackson preyed on young boys who came from unstable families. "He has a way of sensing weakness in families," he said. "He has a really good sense of people and can read people really well. First, I think he's physically attracted to the kid, and then he reads the family and just knows how to work it."
After appearing in the commercial with Jackson, Safechuck went on the Bad Tour with the singer and even appeared on stage doing the moonwalk during the Los Angeles stop, as reported by The Daily Beast.
Unlike Robson, who is a popular choreographer who has worked with Britney Spears and *NSYNC, Safechuck didn't pursue a career in the public eye. The Daily Beast reported that when he filed a lawsuit alleging abuse against Jackson's estate in 2014, he was working as a computer programmer, living in California, and was married with two children. Aside from what will be told in the documentary about his current life, there isn't much else out there.
Safechuck's 2014 lawsuit ended up being dismissed in 2017, reports USA Today, as did a similar one filed by Robson in 2013. (The dismissals did not rule on the credibility of the allegations, however.) In fact, it was Robson's legal action that made Safechuck decide to see a psychiatrist and come forward with allegations himself, according to the New York Daily News.
Safechuck has a young son now, as does Robson. Safechuck told USA Today of his son reaching the age he was at the time the alleged abuse began, "I have been preparing with a therapist for it many years, seeing him at that age, because you’re really looking at a mirror of yourself. How am I going to deal with that? But I think I’m in as good a place as I can be to not be triggered by it, and enjoy my experience with him as its own experience." He continued, "It can’t help but make you more protective and conscious of who they’re hanging out with, and what they’re doing. Hopefully this film will do that for other people."
Safechuck had been planning to keep his claims a secret, but sees how Jackson's death could have had an effect on him changing his mind. He told CBS in a recent interview (via The Hollywood Reporter), "Would I have taken this to my grave? I certainly planned on doing that. I had no expectations of ever telling anyone. If he was still alive, maybe I would have taken it to my grave."
Leaving Neverland has already drawn much criticism from Jackson fans, and also from some members of his family. Three of Jackson's brothers have spoken out against the film, and the singer's estate has also sued HBO for $100 million, claiming the film breaches a non-disparagement clause in a 1992 contract, according to the BBC. HBO's response statement reads, "Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged."
As viewers watch and stream the documentary, the discussion surrounding Jackson, Safechuck, Robson, and the way Jackson is remembered is not going to die down any time soon.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.