AEG Attorney: Kenny Ortega Worked Without Contract on Jackson Concert
Michael Jackson's doctor was not the only person working on the singer's ill-fated "This Is It" tour without a fully executed contract, a corporate attorney for concert promoter AEG Live LLC testified Monday.
The tour's director Kenny Ortega was being paid based on an agreement laid out solely in emails, AEG General Counsel Shawn Trell told jurors.
Jackson's mother is trying to show AEG was negligent in hiring Conrad Murray, the doctor who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's June 2009 death.
Katherine Jackson claims AEG failed to properly investigate Murray before hiring him to serve as her son's tour physician, and that the company missed or ignored red flags about the singer's health before his death. AEG denies it hired Murray.
In court, attorneys for Katherine Jackson displayed emails sent a month before the death of her son in which Murray's contract terms were laid out.
Trell said those emails did not demonstrate an employment relationship — a key element of the case that will be decided by a jury of six men and six women.
Trell acknowledged, however, that Ortega was paid for his work on the shows despite working under terms laid out only in a series of emails.
"Kenny Ortega is different from Conrad Murray," Trell testified.
Michael Jackson died before signing a $150,000 a month contract for Murray to serve as his doctor on the "This Is It" tour. AEG's attorneys say Jackson's signature was required to finalize Murrays' contract.
An email displayed in court showed Murray's contract terms. Other documents indicated AEG budgeted $300,000 to pay Murray for his work with Jackson in May and June of 2009.
Another email said executive Paul Gongaware informed others that Murray would be "full time" on the tour by mid-May.
Plaintiff's attorney Brian Panish asked Trell to agree with a statement that Murray was working for AEG.
"I would totally disagree with that statement," Trell said, noting that Ortega and Murray were considered independent contractors.
Trell was the second AEG executive to testify in the trial, which is entering its fourth week. AEG attorneys have yet to question him.
He also testified that the company obtained an insurance policy that covered the possible cancellation of some of the "This Is It" shows after a physician evaluated the singer.
Trell testified that five days before Jackson's death, top AEG executives were informed the singer was in poor health. By that point, Ortega had sent executives an email titled "Trouble at the front" detailing Jackson's problems.
"There are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety, and obsessive-like behavior," Ortega wrote to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips. Jackson's symptoms were reminiscent of behavior that led to the cancellation of an HBO concert earlier in the decade, Ortega wrote.