By Jeff Gottlieb
4:41 PM EDT, June 4, 2013
The AEG Live executive who negotiated the salary for Michael Jackson's doctor said Tuesday he knew of no document that said his company's payments to Conrad Murray were actually part of a loan to the pop singer.
The testimony is critical in a wrongful death case in which a central question is whether it was concert promoter AEG or Jackson himself who paid and controlled Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering the singer the fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol.
Jackson's mother and three children say in their lawsuit that it was AEG Live, while the company says that any money it was supposed to pay Murray was actually just part of a multimillion-dollar advance to Jackson.
Paul Gongaware, on the stand for the sixth day, said he didn't know what Murray assumed about who was paying him. Murray, who is now serving a jail sentence, has said he will invoke the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination if called to testify.
The jury was shown an email from Timm Woolley, the AEG accountant on Jackson's "This Is It" concert series in London, sent Murray June 6, 2009, 19 days before the pop idol's death.
“I am sorry for the long delay in getting this to you, but I hope that, with your input and comments, we can dispose of the agreement quickly and arrange for payment of the May & June fee instalment,” Woolley wrote.
Gongaware testified that although he made the deal with Murray, and that the contract was emailed to him in 2009, Tuesday's court appearance was the first time he had seen it.
According to earlier testimony by Shawn Trell, AEG Live's senior vice president and legal counsel, neither Jackson not his representatives were involved in the negotiations with Murray and never saw the contract drafts.
Gongaware repeated his contention as he has through his testimony, that “he was working for Michael Jackson. He wasn’t working for us.”
The contract shown to the jury said it was between AEG Live and Murray. The contract also said Murray was to "Perform the Services reasonably requested by Producer," AEG.
Trell testified earlier that this was one of several mistakes in a draft that would have been cleaned up in the final version.
Murray signed the contract shortly before Jackson died. An AEG representative never signed it.
Gongaware was also asked about a key email he wrote that has come up several other times during the trial. Talking about Murray, he wrote, “We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary. We want him to understand what is expected of him.”
Panish asked, “Do you have any idea why you might have written that AEG is paying his salary?"
"No," replied Gongaware. "I mean, I was mistaken there. We weren’t going to pay his salary. We would have advanced the money on Michael’s instructions.”
Gongaware said he also made a deal with actor and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno to serve as Jackson's trainer.
When he said he didn't know if Ferrigno had been paid, Panish replied, “So you stiffed Lou Ferrigno? You didn’t pay the Incredible Hulk?”
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