LOS ANGELES (KABC) — An AEG executive who’s considered a key figure in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial faced another round of tough questioning Wednesday.
The man who allegedly hired Dr. Conrad Murray told the court he wasn’t worried about Jackson getting adequate health care.
Accusations fly in the negligence lawsuit against concert producer AEG filed by Michael Jackson’s family.
Emails to and from AEG co-CEO Paul Gongaware were displayed for jurors.
One message came from “This Is It” concert documentary director Kenny Ortega about Jackson being late or absent for rehearsals. Gongaware responds with a request for a face-to-face meeting with Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray.
“We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want him to understand what is expected of him,” Gongaware says in the email.
The statement is evidence that AEG hired Murray, according to the plaintiffs. It is the centerpiece of their lawsuit.
For 30 minutes Gongaware rebuffed questions about that email. Repeatedly, he testified, “I don’t know”; “I don’t remember writing it.” His only concession was, “I was going through hundreds of emails. If I knew lawyers would be picking apart everything, I would have been more careful.”
Further emails show that as the opening of “This Is It” drew near, Ortega writes that Jackson needs nourishment, physical therapy. “We have 20 days, we can’t let him slip.”
Gongaware responds: “We’re on it.”
Ortega says, “Super, not a minute too soon.”
Days later another email was headlined “Trouble on the front.” It warned gongaware that “We might be getting beyond damage control here.
Yet on the stand Gongaware testified that no physical therapist or nutritionist was ever hired. He said he thought Ortega was exaggerating Jackson’s health concerns.
He said Jackson didn’t like to rehearse, that previously Jackson didn’t rehearse before the “HIStory” tour either. But when the lights went up, Jackson was “on,” he stated.
AEG’s position is that Jackson did not die from poor health or pressure — rather that it was Dr. Murray’s decision to secretly administer an intravenous sedative. AEG says in court documents that Murray’s conduct was not foreseeable.
Gongaware returns to the stand Thursday. There will be more questioning from the plaintiffs before the defense takes over.