AEG says any money paid to Dr. Conrad Murray was meant as a loan to Michael, despite the fact that the doctor's fee was listed as 'production costs,' instead of 'advances,' in the concert budgeting.
In the latest development surrounding Michael Jackson wrongful death trial that pitted the late singer's family against AEG Live, the concert promoter's General Counsel Shawn Trell took a witness stand. It's revealed that a few weeks after the late King of Pop died, the giant company sent an email to MJ's estate demanding $300,000 in refund for Dr. Conrad Murray's fee.
AEG was accused by the Jacksons of failing to conduct a proper investigation before hiring the disgraced doctor who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in MJ's death. The defendant insisted they never hired Murray nor did they pay him a cent because AEG never executed his draft contract. They claimed any money paid to Murray was supposed to be an advance to Michael.
However, the tour budget revealed that Murray's fee was listed as "production costs," which made it the company's responsibility, instead of including it in "advances", which could have supported their claim that it was meant as a loan to Michael. While calling AEG's Chief Financial Officer "a very detailed-oriented guy," Trell admitted the budgeting was an error made by the CFO.
In an effort to prove that Murray worked for AEG, emails sent a month before Michael's death were shown by the Jacksons' attorneys. Murray's contract terms were laid out in the letters, but Trell denied the emails demonstrated an employment relationship, despite his confirmation that director Kenny Ortega was also paid based on an agreement laid out solely in emails, instead of a formal contract.
During the testimony, Trell also reiterated that AEG heard of concerns from people involved in the concert production about Michael's poor condition and "they took it seriously," dismissing claims that they ignored a series of red flags that should have warned them of the singer's frail mental state.
An email from director Kenny Ortega with "trouble at the front" in the subject line was shown. "I honestly don't think he is ready for this based on the continued physical weakening and deepening emotional state," the director voiced his concerns. "There are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behavior."
"I think the very best thing we can do is get a top Psychiatrist in to evaluate him ASAP. It's like there are two people 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 his weakened and troubled state ... I honestly felt if I had encouraged or allowed him on stage last night he could have hurt himself. I believe we need professional guidance in this matter."
Trell said a meeting was held to discuss the matter. At the meeting, MJ allegedly said he would improve and Murray agreed to help. According to witnesses, he did great during the next two days of rehearsals. "Michael and the doctor stressed that he was OK. They had it under control," said Marvin Putnam, AEG's attorney.