FILE – In this March 5, 2009 file photo, US singer Michael Jackson is shown at a press conference in London, announcing plans to appear at the London O2 Arena in July. Emails displayed in a Los Angeles courtroom on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, show that a lawyer for AEG Live LLC’s parent company described Jackson as a “freak” in an email message on the same day the singer signed a multimillion dollar contract to perform a series of comeback concerts in 2009. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, file)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lawyer for the parent company of AEG Live LLC called Michael Jackson a freak on the day the singer signed a multimillion contract for a series of ill-fated comeback concerts, emails displayed for a jury on Wednesday showed.
The emails were presented by Brian Panish, an attorney for Jackson’s mother in her lawsuit claiming AEG was negligent in hiring the personal physician who was later convicted of killing the pop superstar.
The lawsuit also says AEG pushed Jackson too hard despite signs that he was in poor health.
The emails were sent Jan. 28, 2009, roughly four months before the singer’s death.
In the exchange, AEG Live General Counsel Shawn Trell told his boss that he was going to Jackson’s home to sign contracts for the “This Is It” shows later that year in London.
Ted Fikre, the general counsel for Anschutz Entertainment Group, wrote back in two minutes.
“Does this mean you get to meet the freak?” Fikre replied, according to the emails.
“Apparently. Not sure how I feel about that. Interesting for sure, but kind of creepy,” replied Trell, who had spoken approvingly while testifying on Tuesday about his only meeting with Jackson,
Katherine Jackson was seated in the front row of the courtroom when the emails were displayed, and she passed Trell on her way out at the end of the day. They did not acknowledge each other.
“That email just exemplifies that AEG had no respect for Mr. Jackson.,” Panish said outside of court. “All he was was a vehicle to make money and to promote their concert business to catch up to Live Nation.”
Live Nation is the chief rival of AEG Live.
Jessica Stebbins Bina, a trial defense lawyer for AEG, said the emails were shown merely to embarrass AEG.
“We are four weeks into trial and we have yet to hear one piece of substantive evidence,” said Marvin S. Putnam, an attorney who is leading AEG’s defense.
He said Katherine Jackson’s lawyers have instead opted to attack AEG Live with “side issues and characterizations.”
Panish said after court that he would show more evidence of AEG’s disdain for Jackson.