January 17, 2017  

AEG's Exec Says No Background Check on Michael Jackson's Doctor

May 22, 2013 (4:40 am) GMT
Shawn Trell also uses the opportunity of returning to the witness stand to clarify his statement about Kenny Ortega contract and the tour budget that included doctor's fees as 'production costs.'
Michael Jackson

As wrongful death trial which put Dr. Conrad Murray's employment status as a central issue continued, more details of what happened in the days leading to the late King of Pop's untimely death were revealed in court. AEG Live's General Counsel Shawn Trell was back on the witness stand after giving his testimony the day before.

Trell told jurors the company didn't conduct legal or financial checks on Michael's doctor. "Did anyone from AEG ever at any time interview Dr. Murray?" the Jacksons' lawyer Brian Panish asked him, to which he replied, "No." Trell said they only looked into the background of their employees in financial roles but didn't do it to anyone who worked as an independent contractor like Conrad.

Panish then showed an email written by AEG's President and CEO Randy Phillips to Kenny Ortega who had expressed his concern about Michael's frail condition. The director said, "There are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behavior," adding, "I think the very best thing we can do is get a top Psychiatrist in to evaluate him ASAP," but the executive told him not to worry.

"I had a lengthy conversation with Dr. Murray, who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more. He said that Michael is not only physically equipped to perform and, that discouraging him to, will hasten his decline instead of stopping it," Phillips said. "This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig so he [is] totally unbiased and ethical."

"Sir, you never checked out one single thing about Dr. Murray - you've already told me that, correct?" Panish confronted Trell with the content of Phillips' email. Trell answered, "As of the date of the email, that would've been correct." This prompted Panish to call Phillips' statement "a flat out lie" and asked Trell if he agreed with it or if it signified how AEG did business.

Trell said what was written in the email was inaccurate and he didn't know what Phillips thought he knew when he wrote the message. "I know this statement is not accurate, but you'd have to speak with Mr. Phillips about what he thought or meant in saying it," Trell said. "I don't know where Randy's understanding or impression comes from."

Trell additionally recanted his testimony about the company's deal with Kenny Ortega. He previously said that Ortega was paid only based on an agreement laid out solely in emails, but now he's clarified that the director did have a contract that included three pages of legal text and several pages of emails laying out the terms of their agreement. He said his memory had been "refreshed."

Trell also cleared up his statement about AEG's tour budgeting that listed Murray's fees as "production costs," which meant it was the company's responsibilities. He previously called the entry CFO Frederick Webking's error, saying any money paid to the doctor was meant as a loan to Michael which meant that it should have listed as "advances," instead of "production costs."

"You testified you were somewhat confused (by the inclusion of the $300,000)?" AEG defense lawyer Jessica Stebbins Bina asked Trell while showing the budgetary list on screen. "Do you see there's something in parentheses?" she asked, zooming in to a footnote from Webking saying Murray's contract was never signed, so its terms were not enforceable.

"Is Mr. Webking asking the estate to pay?" Stebbins Bina asked, to which Trell said, "No," dismissing the previous suggestion that AEG demanded a refund for the $300,000 the company paid to Murray. "Did Mr. Webking make a mistake as you thought yesterday?" she asked. "No," Trell replied. "He did not." He said the CFO was just being "thorough" by including the $300,000 as a budgeted cost.

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