By Corina Knoll
2:49 PM EDT, May 28, 2013
A high-ranking AEG executive testified Tuesday that he had known for years that Michael Jackson was taking painkillers but wasn’t aware he was abusing them until the pop singer abruptly canceled his Dangerous world tour in the early 1990s to enter rehab.
Paul Gongaware, the co-chief executive of AEG Live’s touring division Concerts West, testified that although he was the manager of the Dangerous tour and knew Jackson was being given painkillers, he didn’t know how serious the problem was until the singer made a public announcement during the tour about his decision to check into rehab.
Gongaware is a defendant along with AEG in a wrongful death suit filed by Jackson’s mother and three children that accuses the concert promotion company of negligently hiring and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray, who gave the singer a fatal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol and is now serving jail time for involuntary manslaughter.
Leaning back casually in his chair as he answered questions from the Jackson family attorney, Gongaware said he knew a doctor was medicating Jackson during the Dangerous tour but did not find out why the tour was eventually cut short.
“Didn’t have time,” Gongaware said. “I was just dealing with what was in front of me.”
Gongaware, expected to be on the stand for several days, began working at Concerts West about 1976, before it was a subsidiary of AEG Live. He worked on Elvis Presley’s final tour, which ended with the performer’s death.
“So you knew what to expect when Michael Jackson passed away, is that right, sir?” Brian Panish asked.
“I kind of knew what was going to happen, yes,” Gongaware answered.
Before Tuesday's court session began, the appearance of Janet Jackson sent a murmur through the small crowd gathered in the hallway. The singer hugged her mother, Katherine, as fans watched and called out, “Janet, you’re beautiful.”
Attorneys for AEG objected to the high-profile performer sitting inside the courtroom along with her sister Rebbie.
Judge Yvette Palazuelos ruled earlier that Katherine Jackson — who has attended nearly every day since the trial began four weeks ago — is allowed only one supporter at the trial since most of her family members are on the witness list.
Palazuelos said the issue would be addressed later.
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