LOS ANGELES (AP) — An AEG Live LLC executive who negotiated with Michael Jackson’s doctor told a jury Monday that he never considered conducting a background check on the singer’s physician.
Promoter and producer Paul Gongaware testified that he didn’t think it was necessary to conduct background checks on anyone working closely with Jackson. He said in Conrad Murray’s case, he wasn’t concerned about his background because he’d been recommended by the entertainer.
The former physician had several liens, child support judgments and was facing foreclosure before agreeing to work with Jackson.
“I just expect doctors to be ethical,” Gongaware said. “Their financial side of their life shouldn’t affect their medical judgment.”
Gongaware is testifying in a negligent hiring lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother against AEG Live, contending that the company failed to properly investigate Murray before allowing him to work with her son on preparations for the “This Is It” shows.
AEG denies it hired Murray, or could have known that Murray was giving Jackson doses of the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid. Jackson died from a propofol overdose in June 2009, and Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam has said hiring Murray was Jackson’s personal choice.
Jackson died before signing Murray’s $150,000 per month contract to work on the tour. Murray was never paid by AEG for his work with the singer.
Katherine Jackson’s attorney Brian Panish, who has said Murray was facing nearly $1 million in debts, said in opening statements that the doctor’s financial problems created a conflict of interest in his treatments of Jackson.
Gongaware reiterated earlier testimony that he wasn’t concerned about Jackson’s health.
The executive worked on an earlier Jackson tour, “Dangerous,” that had to be halted due to the singer’s prescription drug abuse. He said he saw no signs in 2009 that Jackson was abusing prescription medications.
Gongaware said he recommended that Jackson hire a London-based doctor for the concerts, but the singer didn’t seem to give it serious consideration.
“It wasn’t my place to say who his doctor was going to be,” Gongaware said. “It was his decision.”
He also said he never considered performing background checks on Jackson’s makeup artist, a choreographer who worked one-on-one with the singer or Kenny Ortega, the tour’s director.
“I didn’t see the need for it,” he said.
Gongaware was shown emails he was sent less than a month before Jackson’s death in which tabloid newspapers were speculating the singer was suffering from cancer.
Gongaware urged his company not to respond. “Our redemption will be when he does his shows,” he wrote about Jackson. “We don’t have to sell tickets, so we can just sit back and prove them wrong by just doing it.”
The trial is entering its sixth week. AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips is expected to testify later this week.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP