Jermaine Jackson, a founding member of the Jackson 5 and older brother to Michael and Janet Jackson, was accused of sexual assault in Los Angeles Superior Court on Dec. 27. The lawsuit alleges Jackson assaulted a woman named Rita Barrett in spring of 1988.
In the suit, Barrett claims she met Jackson through Motown Records founder Berry Gordy (the Jackson 5’s original label), who was engaged in a business relationship with her husband. She claims she had met Jackson while working as “a musician’s contractor, and a member of the Musician’s Union.”
The suit alleges: “In or around the Spring of 1988, Defendant Jackson arrived at Plaintiff’s home unannounced. Defendant Jackson forced himself into Plaintiff’s home, and with force and violence sexually assaulted Plaintiff.”
The suit goes on to allege that Barett told Gordy about the alleged assault the following day: “Mr. Gordy was uniquely situated to both report Defendant Jackson’s acts and to aid Plaintiff during her time of trauma,” the suit states. “Instead, Mr. Gordy withheld and concealed the acts, further perpetuating the coverup and allowing Mr. Gordy, Defendant Jackson, and others in the business relationship to continue to reap profits derived from Mr. Jackson’s work and reputation for years to come. … As a result of the assault, coverup and ratification Defendant Jackson and his reputation remained intact, while Plaintiff was forced to suffer in silence and shame for decades.”
The suit also mentions that soon after the assault, “Motown was sold for great profit,” presumably referring to Gordy’s sale of his ownership stake in Motown Records to MCA Records for $61 million in June of 1988.
First reported by Rolling Stone on Dec. 28, the nine-page filing does not name Gordy as a defendant. It names Jackson and his companies Work Records and Jermaine L. Jackson Music Productions. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
The suit was filed in accordance with California’s Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act. Similar to New York’s Adult Survivors Act — through which lawsuits against Sean Combs, Axl Rose and Jimmy Iovine were recently filed prior to the act's expiry in November — the law allows alleged sexual abuse victims a year in which to file complaints that would have previously fallen outside the statute of limitations.
Q has reached out to Jackson for comment.
Jackson was member of the Jackson 5 (and its earlier incarnation, the Jackson Brothers) until 1975, later rejoining the group in 1983. He also maintained a solo career: though never as successful as brother Michael or sister Janet, he had a number of hits in the 1970s and early ‘80s, including “Daddy’s Home,” “Let’s Get Serious” and “Do What You Do.”