AEG top exec testifies at trial: “wanted to keep things calm”
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Testifying in trial of the negligence/wrongful death lawsuit that Michael Jackson’s family filed against AEG Live, the company’s top executive acknowledged today that he made untrue positive statements regarding the character and background of the physician who was caring for the singer at the time of his death.
However, Brandon Phillips, president and CEO of AEG Live, testified under questioning by Jackson family attorney Brian Panish that he thought what he said about Dr. Conrad Murray in an email to “This Is It” tour director Kenny Ortega five days before the singer’s death was accurate at the time.
“In a highly charged situation like this, I wanted to keep things calm until we had our meeting,” Phillips told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
The meeting to which Phillips referred was a session planned later that day to talk with Murray about Jackson’s physical condition.
Lawyers for 83-year-old Katherine Jackson, who filed the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit in 2010 on behalf of herself and her late son’s three children, allege that AEG Live hired Murray to care for the singer and failed to supervise him properly.
AEG Live attorneys maintain that Jackson hired Murray in 2006 as his personal physician and chose him to be his doctor during his “This Is It” concert series at London’s O2 Arena as part of an independent contractor arrangement.
Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s drug overdose death and sentenced to four years in jail. The doctor gave propofol as a sleep aid to the singer, who died in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009, at age 50, while rehearsing for the 50 sold-out concert dates.
The email Phillips wrote Ortega was in response to the director’s concerns about Jackson having to quit rehearsing early on June 19, 2009, because he was having chills and other physical problems. In the email, Phillips assured Ortega “we check everyone out” when referring to Murray and that the cardiologist did not need the money the assignment of accompanying Jackson on tour would bring.
In reality, Murray was reported to have had extensive money problems at the time.
“I made the assumption based on information I thought I had,” Phillips said under repeated questioning by Panish whether he knew all along the information was false.
Phillips also said he was aware from media reports that Murray was not present with Jackson each night before his death, but was instead at what Panish referred to as “social establishments.”
The media accounts stated that Murray was possibly at strip clubs, but Judge Yvette Palazuelos has forbidden Panish from mentioning that possibility on grounds it could prejudice the defense.