Recently you might have seen two Radar Online articles reporting the recent developments in Robson v. MJ Estate case. You might also have realized the extremely biased headlines and questionable choice of words in those articles. This post is going to cover the recent developments as well as the biased reporting about those developments.
Do you wonder what is going on in Robson v. MJ Estate civil case? They are having a dispute about interrogatories and request for admissions (RFAs). California Civil Code of procedure says a party can serve 35 interrogatories and 35 RFAs. Robson has served 143 interrogatories and 93 RFAs. If you do the math that’s more than 4 times the allowed interrogatories and more than 2.5 times the allowed RFAs. Estate wants to answer 35 interrogatories and 35 RFAs – as the law requires them to do. Robson lawyers on the other hand want them to answer it all. There have been discussions among the parties and they have agreed that Estate will answer 35+8 (43) interrogatories instead of the original 143 sent. However they cannot agree about RFAs. Robson lawyers want all 93 where as Estate lawyers want it to limit it to the first 35 RFAs. In order to send more than 35 RFAs, lawyers need to justify the need for the extra items. Estate argues Robson side wasn’t able to justify why they sent so many questions while Robson lawyers disagree with that. Motions have been filed about it, a hearing is set for November 6th and the judge will rule about this dispute sometime soon.
Overall I personally would classify this as a minor issue as such disputes are very common (as far as I can see from other cases related to MJ). For example you might remember Katherine Jackson v. AEG case where such disputes happened quite often. AEG filing motion to compel to get more detailed answers to their interrogatories and asking a court to order Katherine to sit for a deposition or Jackson lawyers arguing they weren’t provided all documents and their attempts to get the computer of Dileo and so on. So it happens and it’s common. In high stakes lawsuits parties doesn’t seem to be much cooperative and that’s why we see motions and hearings about it. Like I said a Judge would rule on this soon and given how the Judge previously allowed Robson’s discovery requests, personally I wouldn’t be surprised if the judge allows the extra RFAs. Overall the situation is much ado about nothing in my opinion.
Before I go on and address the biased media reporting, allow me to share a very important piece of information. You might know that Robson v. MJ Estate is ongoing on two courts – civil and probate. Estate has already responded to RFAs in the probate case. Let me repeat in all caps ESTATE HAVE RESPONDED TO ALL RFAs IN THE PROBATE CASE. They even offered Robson lawyers to use probate RFAs in the civil case.
What’s disturbing to me (and to other fans as far as I can see) is the extremely biased reporting about these developments. Contents of the first Radar Online article are mostly fine and factual, although the dispute is used to repeat Robson’s very specific sexual abuse claims from previous court documents. Unnecessary in my opinion but I guess the article wouldn’t have been interesting if it didn’t have the list of the alleged sexual abuse acts. The main issue is with the first article is the headline – “Silencing the Victim? Michael Jackson Lawyers Ask Judge To Limit Questions About Anal Rape In Wade Robson Sex Abuse Lawsuit”.
Robson is referred to as “the victim”, what happened to innocent until proven guilty or at least allowing the accused to have their day in court? Robson is at best is an ALLEGED victim at the moment. Furthermore Robson is an alleged victim with serious credibility issues due to his changing stories – as pointed out by MJ Estate in their motion.
Then Estate’s motion to answer only 35 RFAs is portrayed as “silencing the victim”. Why? Body of the article mention court rules allowing a plaintiff to send just 35 RFAs to a defendant, unless they can justify needing more responses. There’s a reason for those court rules and Estate is in their RIGHT to only want to answer 35 RFAs. Why does the author of the article expect Estate to roll over and die or ignore the 35 RFA rule? If Robson can convince a judge that the extra RFAs are required, Estate will be ordered to answer them. Until then Estate is in their legal RIGHT to want the 35 RFA rule to be upheld and ask a court to determine if Robson has justified his request. It’s not “silencing” anyone so therefore we have a very misleading headline. Also remember that the RFAs from probate case have already been answered.
The last part of the headline “Ask Judge To Limit Questions About Anal Rape” isn’t exactly true either. Estate asked the Judge to limit the RFAs to 35, the first 35. At no time they go into any specifics or ask the Judge to specifically limit anal rape questions.
Second article is problematic in regards to both the headline as well as the contents. “Michael Jackson Lawyers ‘Stonewalling’ Questions about Jacko Hush Money In Sex Abuse Lawsuit, Wade Robson Lawyers Argue”. Both headline and the article use the dreaded “Jacko” to refer to MJ. I don’t think I need to explain why it’s problematic. Settlements are referred to as “Hush Money” – obviously very biased word choices. The settlements didn’t have any admittance of guilt and couldn’t and didn’t stop anyone from testifying if they wanted. (Jason Francia had a settlement with MJ but he still testified during the criminal trial.)
Then the article suffers from blatant mistakes. Both headline and the article claims Estate isn’t going to answer the questions about people who have sued or asserted claims of childhood sexual abuse or with whom Jackson has “entered into agreements to settle claims” or “paid consideration for” sex abuse claims. However this is simply incorrect. Those topics are covered in the 8 additional interrogatories Estate has already agreed to answer. "Hush money" (as Radar Online calls it) questions are items 38,39,42 and 43 below.
Both the additional interrogatories and the fact that Estate agreed to answer them is mentioned in the documents.
Therefore Estate cannot be “stonewalling questions about hush money” when they have already agreed to answer them. Even more so, remember they have already answered them in the probate case. The fact that they already answered these questions can be seen at email exchanges among the lawyers. Estate lawyer says “only person we are aware that filed a lawsuit against MJ relating to childhood sexual abuse is Jordan Chandler”. Robson lawyer replies “with regard to the proposed amended special interrogatory No.36 above, concerning claims against MJ, Executors supplemental response to this SAME special interrogatory in the PROBATE action included Jordan Chandler, Gavin Arvizo and Jason Francia”. So we can all see that the SAME questions were asked and answered in the PROBATE case and Robson lawyer is referring to the answers.
Just for fun and because I can, here’s another Robson lawyer’s declaration that Estate answered "virtually all of the same" RFAs at probate case. So much for the Radar Online's baseless claims that these are the questions Estate are "reluctant to answer".
So I ask you how can Estate be “stonewalling questions about hush money” when not only they agreed to answer them in the civil case but also already answered them in the probate case?
The second article also states that Robson lawyers will ask the Judge to force Estate lawyers to acknowledge if Robson was an employee of MJ’s company. I fail to see how the author came to this conclusion given that Estate lawyers have already stated that they would answer questions about Wade Robson’s visa and Joy Robson’s employment in their supplemental responses. Why do they need to be “forced” when they already said they would provide answers to those topics?
It’s true that Robson lawyers are accusing Estate of “stonewalling” and this negative term makes its way to the both article headline and the body. However none of Estate accusations about Robson side is included in the articles. Estate has referred to Robson discovery requests as “abusive”, “unwarranted”, “improper” and “unreasonable”. However you won’t see these mentioned in either one of the Radar Online articles. Those articles would act like Robson’s requests are all proper and Robson lawyers are all angels while Estate is being the evil party. A balanced article would have included each party’s accusations towards each other, not side with one party. Or at least do not include the accusations from either party and just stick to the facts of the dispute.
Why the one sided reporting? One of my twitter followers called it “clickbait”. Basically media put “anal rape” in their headline, they get clicks. If they portray MJ as a perpetrator without even allowing him a trial, they get clicks. The more negative they can portray MJ, they get more clicks. The more they anger the MJ fans, they also get more people commenting etc. In the process, they don’t care about balanced reporting; they don’t care about the deceased person or his minor children. It’s a shame. To me personally what was most disappointing that these articles came from a journalist who seemed to love and respect MJ. But it is what it is. Rather than focusing on the media, I choose to trust my fellow MJ fans to correct any misinformation and vindicate MJ.