At the Michael Jackson trial a found cache of e-mails that were believed to be lost when Jackson’s last manager’s laptop disappeared could be key evidence in the wrongful death trial against AEG Live.
Lawyers for Michael Jackson’s mother and three children don’t have any idea just what they will find in manager Frank DiLeo’s e-mails. The legal team are hoping that they it support their allegations that DiLeo was more tied to the concert promoter and not to Jackson.
The last three months of the dead singer’s life saw him change his manager twice. Late in March 2009 he hired a friend of his father’s to replace his, then, current manager Tohme Tohme. Tohme was the man who initially negotiated the deal with AEG for his This Is It tour.
Jackson’s lawyers argue that AEG Live forced the late performer to take on DiLeo, who had worked for him intermittently for years. Jackson hired him in May 2009 because they, AEG, did not want to work with Rowe.
The legal team believe this action 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 has countered that it was Jackson who chose and hired Murray and that they had nothing to do with it. AEG lawyers are arguing that Jackson was responsible for his own death and that his drug addiction led to his bad decisions.
The coroner had ruled Jackson’s death, which occurred in the run up to a series of comeback concerts, was caused by an overdose of the surgical anaesthetic Propofol that Murray was using to treat Jackson’s insomnia.
AEG also contend that their executives had no way of knowing the doctor was using Propofol in the privacy of Jackson’s bedroom.
The Jackson estate is seeking billions of dollars in damages, amounts equal to what Michael could have earned had he not died on June 25, 2009. The Los Angeles trial began three weeks ago and is expected to continue into July.
The lawsuit alleges AEG Live ignored the warning signs about Jackson’s health in his last weeks and instead of helping him they pressured the singer and Murray to make sure that he attended rehearsals for the show. The lawsuit also maintains that DiLeo would have supported that pressure.
In testimony at the trial last week, makeup artist Karen Faye testified that in response to concerns about Jacksons weight loss that Dileo stated on the 19th of June 2009, “Get him a bucket of chicken.” Faye cried as she added, “It was such a cold response, it broke my heart.”
On June 20, 2009, the day after the chicken remark, Dileo left a voice mail on Murray’s cell phone that said, “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?”
The Dileo e-mails were recovered after what the judge called “a lot of red tape and kind of cloudiness.” Red tape that included the AEG’s lawyers also representing the estate of DiLeo, who died in 2011, while also fighting against the Jacksons’ subpoena for them.
AEG’s lead lawyer, Marvin Putnam, told the judge. “Because (DiLeo’s widow) didn’t have litigation counsel, we’re representing her for the limited purposes of responding to that subpoena.”
Not long after an Ohio court ordered DiLeo’s estate to give his laptop and e-mails to the Jackson lawyers, the AEG lawyers as the representatives of the DiLeo estate, reported that they could not locate the computer or e-mails.
Jackson’s lawyers had learned that the DiLeo estate’s previous lawyer, Pennsylvania lawyer David Regoli, had kept a copy of the e-mails. The AEG lawyers had argued that Regoli had no authority to provide them to Jacksons’ lawyers for use in the case against AEG.
Regoli told the court in a phone call this week that he had 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.
Regoli also said, “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.”
Linda DiLeo then rehired Regoli, which allowed him to send the e-mails on to the Jacksons legal team after removing any personal items that were not relevant to the case. Regoli said, “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 revealed that Linda Dileo, “had told me her daughter had given it to a friend who needed a computer. It wasn’t a very new computer.”
The Jackson lawyers wanted to explore how AEG’s lawyers actually wound up representing the DiLeo estate in Ohio, but the judge declined exploring the matter.
Judge Yvette Palazuelos explained, “All we know right now they’re not representing her, and that’s enough for us.”
Monday morning will see the fourth week of the trial that will start with AEG’s chief counsel, Shawn Trell, on the witness stand.
The Jackson lawyers are expected to question him about the contract negotiations with Michael Jackson and Murray.
By Michael Smith