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AEG Live CEO: Michael Jackson lawsuit is extortion attempt

June 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial, the head of AEG Live testified Tuesday that he thought the lawsuit targeting the tour production company was a shakedown and an extortion attempt.

CEO Randy Phillips said the company bears no responsibility for Jackson's 2009 death. Phillips is the highest-ranking AEG executive to testify in the case, now in its sixth week. His statements came after a final day of testimony from another AEG executive, Paul Gongaware.

What Gongaware knew about Jackson's well-being has been probed for six days as the AEG executive battles the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Katherine Jackson.

Gongaware testified about two incidents regarding Jackson's health. He said AEG staff told him that Jackson appeared to have the flu for several days in the month before the show was supposed to begin. Yet Gongware said that when Jackson returned to the stage, the star seemed fine.

At a meeting before that, Gongaware said Jackson's speech seemed slurred following a trip to a dermatologist. The question from the Jackson attorney: "Did you do anything to investigate?" Gongaware said Jackson was at his doctors, so he didn't see a need to investigate.

Katherine Jackson's lawsuit alleges that Gongaware and AEG Live hired Conrad Murray, the doctor who was linked to Jackson's death from a propofol overdose, a sedative he used to treat Jackson's insomnia.

On Tuesday, part of AEG's independent contractor agreement drawn up for Murray was highlighted: "Section 4.1 Perform the Services reasonably requested by Producer."

The plaintiffs accuse AEG of pressuring Jackson and Murray to the point that Jackson couldn't sleep and resorted to extreme treatments. The plaintiffs again showed an email from Gongaware to others at AEG, saying to remind the doctor that it is AEG, not Jackson, who is paying his salary.

Gongaware testified that the email was erroneous and that Jackson would actually pay the salary using money advanced to him by AEG. But did Murray know that? The Jackson attorney elicited testimony from Gongaware that, as far as he knew, no such clarification was offered to Murray.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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