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Key witness in Jackson molestation trial now claims he was abused by singer

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LOS ANGELES -- A choreographer and television personality who was a key witness in Michael Jackson's successful defence against child molestation charges is seeking permission to file a claim against the singer's estate alleging the pop superstar sexually abused him as a child, court records and an attorney said.

Wade Robson, 30, was abused by Jackson during a seven-year period, the choreographer's attorney, Henry Gradstein, wrote in a statement Wednesday. The attorney has not stated how much his client is seeking to recoup from Jackson's estate if a judge permits him to pursue his allegations.

Details on Robson's accusations were filed under seal, pending a June court hearing.

The allegations have been fiercely denied by an attorney for Jackson's estate and the singer's criminal defence attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr.

"Mr. Robson was one of my strongest witnesses in Michael Jackson's criminal trial," Mesereau said. "I called him to the stand at the beginning of the defence case and he was adamant that he had never been improperly touched or molested."

Robson was the first defence witness during the 2005 trial that ended with Jackson's acquittal. He also spoke favourably about Jackson after the singer's death in June 2009.

"Last year, on a career trajectory that was off the charts, (Robson) collapsed under the stress and sexual trauma of what had happened to him for seven years as a child," Gradstein wrote.

Gradstein said he could not discuss specifics of the case, but he cited a recent breakdown as the choreographer's reason for reversing his previous statements about Jackson. "As a result, he started intensive treatment which ultimately led to his ability to come forward," Gradstein said.

Robson has appeared on the Fox series So You Think You Can Dance and worked with Britney Spears and other stars.

"Mr. Robson's claim is outrageous and pathetic," Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman wrote in a statement. "This is a young man who has testified at least twice under oath over the past 20 years and said in numerous interviews that Michael Jackson never did anything inappropriate to him or with him. Now, nearly four years after Michael has passed this sad and less than credible claim has been made."

Gradstein filed a motion seeking permission to file a late creditor's claim against Jackson's estate on May 1, nearly four years after the singer's death, court records show.

The period for filing claims against Jackson's estate has long passed, but a California civil statute allows victims of abuse to file a lawsuit within three years of discovering "that psychological injury or illness... was caused by the sexual abuse."

The judge overseeing Jackson's massive probate case will have to determine whether Robson's claim can go forward.

His claim was filed nearly eight years to the day after Robson testified Jackson never inappropriately touched him. He was 22 at the time he testified, telling jurors that he met Jackson when he was five years old and had spent the night at Jackson's Neverland Ranch more than 20 times, sleeping in the singer's bedroom on most visits.

During the trial, Robson bristled at testimony by other witnesses that they had seen Jackson molest him. "I'm very mad about it," he told jurors. "It's not true and they put my name through the dirt. I'm really not happy about it."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2013 D3

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