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“Does this mean you get to meet the freak?”: Jacksons v AEG update

By | Published on Friday 24 May 2013

Michael Jackson

An email exchange in which a senior AEG exec referred to the late Michael Jackson as “the freak” was amongst the evidence shown in court this week as AEG Live General Counsel Shawn Trell continued to give testimony.

The Jackson family, of course, are trying to show that AEG Live should be held liable for the 2009 death of the late king of pop because it hired and put pressure on the doctor who was convicted for causing the death of the singer through negligent treatment, Conrad Murray. AEG says that Jackson hired and managed Murray, and that it had no control over the treatment he was dishing out.

Earlier this week, Trell admitted that Murray’s fees were listed in the budgets for Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ venture as a production expense, rather than as an advance to the singer, which contradicted AEG’s past claims regards how the doctor was paid. He also conceded that AEG hadn’t done any background checks into Murray, despite the firm’s President Randy Phillips assuring concerned ‘This Is It’ production team members that they had shortly before Jackson’s death. His colleagues had made mistakes in both cases, Trell said.

In more recent testimony, lawyers for the Jackson family showed an email exchange between Trell and his counterpart at parent company AEG, Ted Fikre. In the emails, from January 2009, Trell tells Fikre that he is due to meet Jackson to get contracts for the ‘This Is It’ project signed.

“Does this mean you get to meet the freak?”, Fikre wrote back to Trell. “Apparently”, the AEG Live attorney responded. “Not sure how I feel about that. Interesting for sure, but kind of creepy”.

In court earlier this week Trell actually spoke positively of his subsequent meeting with Jackson, but that email exchange was, said the Jackson family’s legal team, evidence that AEG executives held the singer in contempt despite going into business with him in 2009.

Jackson lawyer Brian Panish said outside the courtroom: “That email just exemplifies that AEG had no respect for Mr Jackson. All he was was a vehicle to make money and to promote their concert business to catch up to Live Nation”.

AEG’s legal team have, unsurprisingly, played down the significance of the email exchange between two of its in-house lawyers. Resisting the temptation to point out that the use of words like “freak” in reference to Jackson wasn’t exactly uncommon in early 2009, they say that the Jackson team have simply brought the emails to trial to embarrass their client.

Arguing that the correspondence does nothing to prove the Jackson family’s contention that AEG managed and put pressure on Murray, the lawyer leading the live firm’s defence, Marvin S Putnam, told reporters: “We are four weeks into trial and we have yet to hear one piece of substantive evidence”.