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Leaked emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times reveal discussions between AEG executives about Michael jackson health issues while he was preparing for his "This Is It" concerts. The emails may play a role in lawsuits filed against AEG. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on September 3, 2012.
It came out during the trial of Michael Jackson's personal doctor that the producers of the singer's comeback concerts had concerns about his physical and mental health. But now with lawsuits pending against producer AEG, emails obtained and published by the Los Angeles Times provide new detail.
The Times article opens with the emails providing a behind-the-scenes look at the drama unfolding in Jackson's London hotel room before he was to announce the "This Is It" concert series, which was to be at once his comeback and his swan song.
"MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," read a message from promoter Randy Phillips to AEG President Tim Lewiweke, who replied, "Are you kidding me?"
Phillips continued: "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is show time."
AEG is named as defendant in a wrongful death suit filed by mother Katherine Jackson. A separate suit alleges AEG deceived insurers at Lloyd's of London into issuing a $17.5 million policy that Jackson would perform.
"The big question is did AEG lie to its insurance company," said Royal Oakes, an attorney and legal analyst for NBC4. "If they were saying some things internally like, 'This guy's a basket case and it's going to be a disaster,' and yet saying to the insurance company, 'Oh, he's fine. Please give us that $17.5 million insurance policy,' that could be trouble in court."
The emails could also play a role in the wrongful death case, Oakes said, to the extent they might indicate AEG was knowingly pushing Jackson when his health would not support it.
AEG lead attorney Marvin Putnam did not respond to a phone call to his law office on the Labor Day holiday. The Times in its Sunday article quoted AEG attorneys as saying the emails were leaked to portray AEG in a "negative light."
Putnam also "suggested Phillips had exaggerated in his emails and said Jackson's behavior appeared to be a case of 'nerves,'" according to the Times article.
"It is supercilious to say he was unable to take care of his own affairs," the Times quoted Putnam.
Putnam indicated AEG provided emails to plaintiffs as part of the discovery process. The Times did not disclose its source.
Some internal correspondence had come to light during the criminal trial that resulted in the conviction of Dr. Conrad Murray for involuntary manslaughter in the death of his patient Jackson.
Testifying on the first day of that trial, "This Is It" director Kenny Ortega read his own email in which he described Jackson as a "lost boy" too weak at one point to rehearse.
In one of the emails disclosed by the Times, Ortega suggested to Phillips, "the very best thing we can do is get a top psychiatrist to evaluate him ASAP."
That never happened. At a meeting shortly before Jackson's death, Murray assured AEG's representatives that Jackson would be fine and able to fulfill his concert obligations in London.
Phillips, the CEO at AEG Live, appeared satisfied, if somewhat ill-informed.
"This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig," Phillips emailed, referring to Murray as "totally unbiased and ethical."
In fact, Murray was in debt and facing the foreclosure of his home at the time Jackson asked him to serve fulltime as his personal physician. As came out at Murray's trial, AEG negotiated to pay him $150,000/month, but the contract had yet to be signed at the time of Jackson's death.
The coroner's autopsy found that Jackson died of the effect of a number of medications, in particular acute intoxication of the surgical sedative propofol, which Murray was administering as a sleep aid for Jackson, who suffered from insomnia.
There is no indication AEG officials were aware that Jackson was receiving propfol on a nightly basis, as Murray told police.