By Alan Duke, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) — A cache of e-mails believed lost when Michael Jackson’s last manager’s laptop disappeared could become key evidence in the wrongful death trial against AEG Live.
Lawyers for Michael Jackson’s mother and three children don’t know what they’ll find in Frank DiLeo’s e-mails, but they are hoping it will support their contention that DiLeo was beholden to the concert promoter and not to Jackson.
Jackson changed managers twice in the last three months of his life. In late March 2009, he hired Leonard Rowe — one of his father’s friends — to replace Tohme Tohme, the manager who initially negotiated the deal with AEG for his “This Is It” tour.
Jackson lawyers argue that AEG Live forced Jackson to take DiLeo, who had worked for him off and on for decades, as his manager in May 2009 because they did not want to work with Rowe.
Their contention is part of their larger argument that AEG Live executives were liable for Jackson’s death because they hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
AEG counters that it was Jackson who chose and hired Murray, not them. AEG lawyers argue that Jackson was responsible for his own death and that drug addiction led to his bad decisions.
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The coroner ruled his death, which came near the end of preparations for a series of comeback concerts, was caused by an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol that Murray was using to treat Jackson’s insomnia.
AEG Live contends its executives had no way of knowing the doctor was using propofol in the privacy of Jackson’s bedroom.
The Jacksons are seeking billions of dollars in damages, equal to what Michael Jackson might have earned if he had not died on June 25, 2009. The Los Angeles trial began three weeks ago and is expected to continue into July.
The lawsuit contends AEG Live ignored warning signs about Jackson’s health in his last weeks, and instead of getting him help they pressured Jackson and Murray to have him at rehearsals. DiLeo would have been part of that pressure, they contend.
“Get him a bucket of chicken,” DiLeo said on June 19, 2009, in reply to concerns about Jackson’s weight loss, makeup artist Karen Faye testified last week. “It was such a cold response, it broke my heart,” Faye said through tears.
The next day — June 20, 2009 — DiLeo left a voice mail on Murray’s cell phone. “I’m sure you’re aware he had an episode last night. He’s sick. Today’s Saturday. Tomorrow, I’m on my way back. I’m not going to continue my trip. I think you need to get a blood test on him. We got to see what he’s doing?”
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DiLeo’s e-mails were recovered after what the judge called “a lot of red tape and kind of cloudiness,” that included the AEG’s lawyers also representing the estate of DiLeo, who died in 2011, in fighting the Jacksons’ subpoena for them.
“Because (DiLeo’s widow) didn’t have litigation counsel, we’re representing her for the limited purposes of responding to that subpoena,” AEG’s lead lawyer, Marvin Putnam, told the judge.
Soon after an Ohio court ordered DiLeo’s estate to give his laptop and e-mails to the Jackson lawyers, the AEG lawyers — in their other capacity representing the DiLeo estate — reported that they could not locate the computer or e-mails.
Jackson lawyers, however, learned that the DiLeo estate’s previous lawyer — Pennsylvania lawyer David Regoli — kept a copy of the e-mail files. For the past several weeks, however, the AEG lawyers argued he had no authority to provide them to the Jacksons’ lawyers for use in the case against AEG.
But in a phone call to the court this week, Regoli said he advised DiLeo’s widow, Linda DiLeo, that “in my opinion, it was a conflict” for AEG’s lawyers — from the Los Angeles firm O’Melveny and Myers — to represent her in the matter.
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“She said that she never signed anything with O’Melveny and Myers to authorize them to represent her, and as of this moment they are not representing her anymore,” Regoli said.
Linda DiLeo then rehired Regoli, which allows him to send the e-mails on to the Jacksons — after removing any that are personal or not relevant to the case.
“I think I can give the court my assurances that I’ll go through the documents that I have and I’ll go through the e-mails, and anything that is related to the subpoena, I would obviously turn over,” Regoli said.
As for the missing laptop, there was a simple explanation. Linda DiLeo “had told me her daughter had given it to a friend who needed a computer,” Regoli said. “It wasn’t a very new computer.”
While the Jackson lawyers wanted to explore how AEG’s lawyers came to represent the DiLeo estate in Ohio, the judge declined exploring the matter.
“All we know right now they’re not representing her, and that’s enough for us,” Judge Yvette Palazuelos said.
The trial’s fourth week starts Monday morning with AEG’s chief counsel, Shawn Trell, on the witness stand. Jackson lawyers are expected to grill him about the contract negotiations with Michael Jackson and Murray.
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By Alan Duke, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) — AEG Live filed an insurance claim to recover losses from Michael Jackson’s death the same day he died, according to a lawyer for Jackson’s family.
That revelation may not relate to the heart of the wrongful death lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s last concert promoter, but Jackson lawyers hope it could sway jurors to see AEG Live executives as motivated by money over the pop icon’s needs.
It is one of many points Jackson lawyers will try to make Monday when they call AEG Live’s top lawyer to the witness stand as the trial’s fourth week begins in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Jackson’s mother and three children contend AEG Live is liable in the singer’s death because its executives negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The promoters ignored a series of red flags that should have warned them Jackson was in danger as he was pressured to get ready for his comeback concerts, the Jackson lawsuit claims.
AEG Live lawyers counter that it was Jackson who chose, hired and supervised Murray, and that he was responsible for his own bad decisions. Its executives could not be expected to know Murray was using the surgical anesthetic propofol, the drug the coroner ruled killed him, to treat his insomnia, they argue.
Jackson lead lawyer Brian Panish will question AEG Live general counsel Shawn Trell about his company’s negotiations with Murray to be Jackson’s personal physician for his “This Is It” shows in London.
The doctor signed the contract prepared by AEG lawyers and sent it back to the company a day before Jackson’s death. The company argues it was not an executed contract because their executives and Michael Jackson never signed it.
The Jackson lawyers argue that e-mails, budget documents and the fact that the doctor was already working for two months showed a binding agreement between AEG and Murray.
Panish, speaking outside of the courtroom Friday, said he would also ask Trell about AEG’s insurance claim, which he said his team recently discovered was filed with Lloyds of London on June 25, 2009, hours after Jackson was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center.
A Lloyds of London underwriter later sued AEG, claiming the company failed to disclose information about the pop star’s health and drug use. AEG dropped its claim for a $17.5 million insurance policy last year.
Monday’s court will start with AEG Live controller Julie Hollander completing her testimony about the company’s budgeting, which she acknowledged included $1.5 million approved to pay Murray. The doctor’s costs were listed as production costs, expenses that AEG is responsible for paying, and not as an advance, which Jackson would ultimately be responsible for giving back to the company, she testified.
The controller’s testimony appears to contradict the argument AEG lead lawyer Marvin Putnam made in a CNN interview days before the trial began.
AEG Live’s role with Murray was only to “forward” money owed to him by Jackson, just as a patient would use their “MasterCard,” Putnam said. “If you go to your doctor and you pay with a credit card, obviously MasterCard in that instance, depending on your credit card, is providing the money to that doctor for services until you pay it back. Now, are you telling them MasterCard in some measure in that instance, did MasterCard hire the doctor or did you? Well, clearly you did. I think the analogy works in this instance.”
Jackson lawyers played video testimony of one of AEG’s own expert witnesses Friday — 25-year veteran tour manager Marty Hom.
The opinion Hom submitted for AEG concluded he saw no red flags that should have alerted the promoter that something was wrong with Murray.
He was asked if AEG Live should have realized something was wrong when Murray initially asked for $5 million a year to work as Jackson’s personal physician. “That raised a red flag because of the enormous sum of money,” Hom testified.
Hom acknowledged he had not seen many of the documents and depositions in the case, and AEG was considering him for a job as the Rollings Stones tour manager at the same time he was asked to testify.