Business News Jacksons v AEG Timeline Legal Live Business

“In retrospect, that’s not 100% true”: Jacksons v AEG Update

By | Published on Wednesday 5 June 2013

Michael Jackson

The AEG executive most publicly associated with Michael Jackson’s ill-fated ‘This Is It’ live venture took to the witness stand yesterday, as his employer continues to fight claims by the Jackson family that it should be held liable for the death of the late king of pop as the paymaster of Dr Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter for causing Jackson’s death in 2009 due to negligent treatment. AEG counters that Jackson himself hired and managed the doctor.

AEG Live President Randy Phillips, more used to speaking in public than the other AEG execs who have so far given testimony, quickly got down to business, accusing the Jackson family (and specifically the singer’s mother and children, who are the plaintiffs in the case) of trying to extort money out of the live giant. AEG simply wasn’t liable for the actions of the doctor Jackson himself selected, he said.

Early on Phillips admitted that he hadn’t spent much time reviewing email correspondence relating to the ‘This Is It’ project from spring 2009 (and, until two weeks ago, no time) because his legal team “felt it would be better if I went in without preparation”.

Commentators speculated that that advice was given to allow AEG bosses to honestly plead ignorance when embarrassing emails were pulled out by the Jacksons’ legal team. And it probably explains why AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware said “I don’t recall” so many times during his testimony that some jurors started to laugh when he delivered the line for the umpteenth time. Such advice might be good legal tactics, but it also helps Team Jackson in their attempt to portray AEG executives as shady corporates with no real compassion for their talent – creating a PR challenge even if the company wins in court.

Though at least Phillips’ testimony promises to be more fun. He was soon arguing with the Jackson family’s key attorney Brian Panish about one point or another. According to CNN, Panish, aware that he’d already been admonished by the judge for too readily arguing with the witnesses, told the AEG exec “please don’t argue with me, because then I will argue back and get in trouble”. To which Phillips responded: “Then that’s an incentive for me”.

Although the questioning of Phillips only briefly got underway in yesterday’s court proceedings, there was time for Panish to ask about that email from June 2009 that has been raised multiple times before, in which the AEG President tells ‘This Is It’ director Kenny Ortega not to worry about Jackson’s ailing health, because he’d had reassurances from Murray and “this doctor is extremely successful – we check everyone out”.

But those colleagues of Phillips that have already testified have made it clear that, in fact, AEG did not check out anything about Murray before he was appointed Jackson’s personal medic. Gongaware said earlier this week “it wasn’t my place to say who [Jackson’s] doctor was going to be”, adding: “I just expect doctors to be ethical – the financial side of their life shouldn’t affect their medical judgment”.

So what did Phillips mean in June 2009? The AEG exec admitted in court yesterday that his email was “in retrospect, not 100% true”. But, he added, he told Ortega that Murray had been checked out, because that’s what he thought at the time, because that’s what he’d been told. Phillips: “I wrote in the email that I thought at the time he had been checked out, because that’s what I was told. There’s what I thought at the time versus what I learned afterwards”.

The case continues.

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