Michael Jackson’s nephews sue tabloid for defamation over sexual abuse claims

Michael Jackson speaks at a 2009 news conference regarding his ill-fated "This Is It" comeback tour. Three of Jackson's nephews filed a lawsuit alleging defamation by an online tabloid.
(Joel Ryan / Associated Press)

Three of Michael Jackson’s nephews sued Radar Online on Wednesday, alleging the tabloid humiliated and defamed them by suggesting their famous uncle sexually abused and later bribed them in an effort to quash a criminal investigation.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Taj, TJ and Taryll Jackson contend that Radar maligned them by claiming the late “King of Pop” used lewd photos of his nephews “to excite young boys.”

The nephews sought a correction from Radar, but the publication declined to issue one, according to the suit, which seeks $100 million in damages.

The nephews were not formally named in Radar’s reports, but the outlet referred to them as members of the band 3T, according to the suit. Taj, TJ and Taryll Jackson -- all sons of Jackson’s brother Tito -- are members of the music group and therefore recognizable to the public, court papers state.


“Radar’s stories were false and defamatory,” according to the 10-page suit filed by attorney Bert Fields. “As a direct and proximate result of the publication of Radar’s libelous stories, each of [the Jackson nephews] has been damaged personally and professionally.”

The suit arises from reports published in late June about the raid on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch during a 2003 sexual abuse investigation.

Radar published what appeared to be case documents as well as pornographic images that were purportedly among items Jackson used to lure children. Radar also relied on an anonymous private investigator who was described as having knowledge of the raids on Jackson’s sprawling compound in Los Olivos, Calif.

The raids led to criminal charges filed against Jackson in Santa Barbara County, where prosecutors alleged he sexually abused a then-13-year old cancer patient. But after seven days of deliberations, a jury acquitted Jackson in 2005 of all charges.

Jackson, who was dogged by allegations of child sexual abuse throughout his career, died in 2009 from a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol, just before his highly publicized comeback tour, “This Is It.”

A spokesperson for American Media Inc., which owns Radar, issued a statement to The Times and denied that their reporting accused Jackson of molesting his nephews.

“The Radar article clearly states that detectives reported that Michael Jackson may have used photos of his nephews ‘to excite young boys,’ ” the spokesperson said. “This theory was, in fact, presented by the prosecution during Michael Jackson’s 2005 criminal trial. Radar looks forward to correcting plaintiffs’ misstatements in a court of law.”

In their lawsuit, Jackson’s nephews claim that the purportedly “sexy” photos of them were from an album cover photo shoot, and they denied that their uncle used photos of any of his family to arouse young boys. The family members also disputed that they accepted compensation to keep quiet about Jackson’s alleged misdeeds, denying that any of the nephews received a “brand new car” to “shut them up,” according to court papers.

Jackson’s nephews allege in the suit that the damage wrought by Radar was compounded by the fact that their reporting was “immediately picked up and repeated by media all over the world,” citing articles published by outlets in New York and Britain.

The nephews sought a correction of Radar’s stories in a July 5 letter, according to the suit. In a reply issued days later, Radar refused to correct its stories, according to the lawsuit.

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