POSTED: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 11:00pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 11:04pm
CNN — A dancer-choreographer befriended by Michael Jackson when he was a child now calls the late pop icon "a pedophile and a child sexual abuser."
Wade Robson, who is seeking money from Jackson's estate for alleged child sex abuse, talked about his claims Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show.
Wade Robson, now 30, denied in testimony at Jackson's child molestation trial in 2005 that he had been molested by the singer.
Two months after Jackson's death in 2009, Robson said they had "a wonderful relationship" and he called Jackson "a kind human being."
The lawyer for Jackson's estate called the new accusations "outrageous and pathetic."
The accusation came in the form of a creditor's claim against the estate in a Los Angeles probate court this month.
"This is not a case of repressed memory," Robson told "Today's" Matt Lauer. "I never forgot one moment of what Michael did to me, but I was psychologically and emotionally completely unable and unwilling to understand that it was sexual abuse. "
Robson said the abuse started when he was 7-years-old, when he often visited Jackson's Neverland Ranch. It continued until he was 14, he said.
"He performed sexual acts on me and forced me to perform sexual acts on him," Robson said.
Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005, partly based on the testimony of Robson, his sister and his mother.
"It's absurd," said Tom Mesereau, the lawyer who successfully defended Jackson in the trial. "He was one of the strongest witnesses for the defense at Michael Jackson's criminal trial in 2005. He was adamant under oath that he had never been molested at any time."
Robson said his denial to investigators during a 1993 criminal investigation was the result of Jackson's "complete manipulation and brainwashing" of him. He denied Jackson ever offered money to keep him quiet.
"He would call me every day and role play and tell me the same sort of things and also tell me then that if anyone ever thought that we did these things, any of these sexual things, that both of us would go to jail for the rest of our lives," he said.
Robson met Jackson in his native Australia when he was just 5. Jackson invited him for frequent stays at Neverland after Robson and his family moved to Los Angeles two years later. Their visits continued until he was 13, according to court testimony.
"From day one of the abuse, Michael told me that we loved each other and that this was love, that this was an expression of our love. And then you follow that up with 'but if you ever tell anyone what we're doing, both of our lives and our career will be over,'" he told Lauer.
Robson paid tribute to Jackson In an interview with "Entertainment Tonight" to promote his choreography work on the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2009.
"I just had a wonderful relationship," he said. "I learned so much from him, as an artist and as a kind human being, and it's my goal to just try and continue as much as I can in my own little world that legacy.
"We talk so much about him as the pop legend, which is important, but it's nice to remember that he was a man, that he was a father," Robson said. "And that's what it's really about is a father and his children, and he was a wonderful dad."
But it was becoming a father himself two and a half years ago that caused Robson to change his story about Jackson, he said.
He said he "collapsed into two nervous breakdowns, terrifying nervous breakdowns" in his son's first 18 months.
"At that point I had no idea what was wrong with me, what was going on," he said. "During the second one, this thing happened where I started looking at him and imagining him being a victim of the sexual abuse that I was at the hands of Michael. For the first time in my life, I began to realize that my completely numb and unexplored feelings in relationship to what Michael did to me might be a problem and maybe I need to speak to someone about it."
The accusations created a major stir among Jackson fans, many calling Robson a traitor to the man who made his career. They argue his motivation is money from Jackson's estate.
"I understand completely how hard it is to understand this," he said. "That being said, the idea that I would make all of this up and put myself, my wife, my son, my entire family through this extremely stressful and painful experience all for the sake of money is completely incomprehensible."
Jackson estate lawyer Howard Weitzman said last week he was "confident that the court will see this for what it is."
"Mr. Robson's claim is outrageous and pathetic," Weitzman said. "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. "
Robson said the court claim is about healing.
"I've lived in silence and denial for 22 years, and I can't spend another moment in that," he said. "In order to truly heal I have to speak my truth and speak the whole truth. That's one thing you'll never see from me. I'm never going to go away with this for the sake of money. I'm never going to be silenced for money. That's not going to happen."
Lauer asked Robson what comes to mind now when he thinks of Michael Jackson.
"Heartbreak, pain, anger and compassion," he said. "There's no excuse for what he did to me and I believe many others, but he was a troubled man and every effect has its cause. The image that one presents to the world is not the whole explanation of who someone is. Michael Jackson was, yes, an incredibly talented artist with an incredible gift. He was many things. And he was also a pedophile and a child sexual abuser."
The 2005 trial in Santa Barbara County, California, centered on charges that Jackson had molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor who often visited his ranch. He was also charged with plying the boy with alcohol and conspiring to abduct, extort and falsely imprison the child and his family. He was acquitted on all counts.
"I've known Michael for a long time. I've spent many hours talking to him about everything. I trust him. I trust him with my children," Joy Robson, the mother of Wade Robson, testified when called as a prosecution witness.
Robson said she let Wade, who was then 7, and daughter Chantal sleep in Jackson's bedroom from the first visit.