By Alan Duke, CNN
LOS ANGELES (CNN) — A top AEG executive referred to Michael Jackson as “a freak” and another called him “creepy” just hours before their company signed the pop icon to a huge concert deal.
The revelation brought an audible gasp in the Los Angeles courtroom at the wrongful death trial Wednesday and left fans crying.
Jackson’s mother and children are suing AEG Live for the negligent hiring, retention or supervision of Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death.
Katherine Jackson watched from the front row as her lawyer questioned AEG Live Senior Vice President and General Counsel Shawn Trell about an e-mail exchange with his boss at parent company AEG.
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“Is it the policy of AEG to talk in derogatory terms about the artist you’re going to do business with?” Jackson lawyer Brian Panish asked.
“No,” Trell answered.
Panish then showed jurors an e-mail Trell sent on January 28, 2009, to Ted Fikre, AEG’s chief legal officer, letting him know he was about to go to Jackson’s home for the signing of the contract for his “This Is It” concert tour.
“Does that mean you get to meet the freak?” Fikre replied.
Trell responded: “Apparently. Not sure how I feel about that. Interesting for sure, but kind of creepy.”
The e-mail exchange happened less than four hours before Trell and other AEG excutives visited Jackson’s Los Angeles home.
“This is a man you hoped to make millions and millions of dollars from?” Panish asked Trell. “Didn’t your mom ever say if you don’t have anything good to to say about someone don’t say anything?”
Trell earlier testified that he was excited to meet Jackson for the first time and was impressed with his “good, firm handshake.”
“I may not have necessarily agreed with some of the life choices Michael Jackson made but I certainly had enormous respect for him as an entertainer.”
A dry review
Most of Wednesday’s session was a dry review of Jackson and Dr. Murray’s contracts as AEG Live’s defense team worked to convince jurors that Murray was not hired by the concert promoter. Jackson chose, hired and supervised the doctor, they contend.
Murray signed his contract the day before Jackson’s June 25, 2009, death, but AEG executives and Jackson never put their signatures on it. Jackson lawyers, however, argue he was already working for two months based on an oral contract.
The Jackson lawsuit contends that AEG Live executives ignored red flags that should have warned them Jackson was in danger from Murray’s treatment.
The coroner ruled that Jackson died from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, which Murray told police he was using to treat the singer’s insomnia.