A corporate lawyer for concert giant AEG Live today revised his testimony and said the tour director of Michael Jackson’s ill-fated 'This Is It' concerts had a signed contract.
AEG Live general counsel Shawn Trell told jurors that he had forgotten that Kenny Ortega was working under a signed contract.
He told the panel yesterday that Ortega was working under an agreement reached through a series of emails, not a formalised contract.
Mr Ortega’s contract was not shown to jurors. The choreographer and director might testify later in the civil trial.
Mr Trell testified as a witness for AEG Live and is considered the most knowledgeable person on numerous issues, including contracts and Jackson’s health.
He said he was reminded of Mr Ortega’s contract by AEG trial lawyers last night.
Jackson’s mother has sued AEG, claiming it was negligent in hiring Conrad Murray, the doctor who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jackson.
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, or bears any responsibility for the singer’s death.
Attorney Brian Panish, who represents Katherine Jackson, yesterday compared Mr Ortega’s emails to messages between the promoter and the singer’s personal physician laying out how he would be compensated.
Mr Trell has said the situations of Mr Ortega and Murray were not similar, and the emails to Murray did not demonstrate an employment relationship – a key element of the case.
Mr 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.
Mr Trell testified that five days before Jackson’s death, top AEG executives were informed the singer was in poor health.
By that point, Mr 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,” Mr Ortega wrote to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips.
Jackson’s symptoms were reminiscent of behaviour that led to the cancellation of an HBO concert earlier in the decade, Mr Ortega wrote.