A “smoking gun” email that allegedly links concert promoter AEG Live to the 2009 death of Michael Jackson was revealed this week in connection with the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother and children.
The exchange between AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware and Jackson’s “This Is It” show director Kenny Ortega suggests that Dr. Conrad Murray might have been pressured into forcing an exhausted Jackson into performing over fear of losing his $150,000-a-month job as Jackson’s personal physician, according to CNN.
Jackson died June 25, 2009, just two weeks before the scheduled start of his 50-date comeback concerts at the AEG-owned O2 Arena in London.
Addressing concerns that Jackson had missed rehearsal, Gongaware’s email read: “We want to remind [Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.” Jackson lawyers are arguing that the email is evidence of AEG’s involvement in the singer’s sudden death.
Jackson’s children Prince Michael, Paris and Blanket, along with their grandmother Katherine, claim that AEG Live’s pressure on Murray led to an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, which the doctor had used to help the pop icon rest for his rehearsals. (Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in November 2011 and is serving his four-year prison sentence.) The new trial is set to begin next month and includes Jackson’s eldest son Prince, 16, and Murray -- who did not testify at his own trial -- on the witness list.
"Now that the court has ruled that there is evidence that it was foreseeable that AEG's actions resulted in Michael Jackson's death, the Jackson family feels vindicated from the public smear campaign that AEG has waged against them," CNN quotes Jackson lawyer Kevin Boyle. "The truth about what happened to Michael, which AEG has tried to keep hidden from the public since the day Michael died, is finally emerging. We look forward to the trial where the rest of the story will come to light."
In addition to Gongaware’s email, additional email exchanges between AEG officials are also being used as evidence. In one note from Ortega to AEG Live president Randy Phillips, Ortega expresses concern over Jackson’s condition. “It is like there are two people in there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him, the other in this weakened and troubled state. I believe we need professional guidance in this matter.”Phillips responded with praise for Murray. “This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig, so he is totally unbiased and ethical.”
And while AEG Live claims to have no liability in Jackson’s death because Murray was not its employee, Jackson lawyers point to another email as evidence that Phillips was directly involved with pushing Murray to get Jackson to his rehearsals. A correspondence sent by AEG Live tour accountant Timm Woolley to an insurance broker two days before Jackson’s death read, “Randy Phillips and Dr. Murray are responsible for MJ rehearsal and attendance schedule.”
In a brief statement released last year, AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam said, “Defendants did not hire Dr. Murray, nor were they responsible for the death of Michael Jackson.”