Jackson V AEG Live August 8th 2013 Transcripts of Kenneth Ortega (This Is It Director/Creator)
Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos said she felt she needed to give the jurors an update on how long they’d be here. AEG Live’s lawyers said they hoped to be done with the defense case in early September. There are a lot of witnesses that still need to be called, though, and lots of days the court won’t be in session in late Aug, early Sept. There could also be a rebuttal case, which Panish said would probably currently be about 4 witnesses. There’s also closing statements. When the jury came in, Judge Yvette Palazuelos told them her estimate had changed and she thought they’d get the case by the end of Sept. “You can write me a note if that presents a problem,” the judge said. She noted that one juror has already said she needed to be done in Aug.
Jury entered the courtroom 10:10 am PT. Judge Yvette Palazuelos advised jurors she came up with new time estimate for the trial.
Judge: My estimate has now changed. The case will probably be submitted to you at the end of September.
“It is what it is,” judge said. She told jurors before they would get the case at the end of August.
Outside the presence of the jury, AEG attorney told judge he will be done 1st week of Sept or so. Panish said he has 4 rebuttal witnesses.
Judge said they are bringing Kenny Ortega back on the stand out of order to finish his testimony.
Ortega is under cross examination by AEG’s attorney Marvin Putnam. Ortega had professional engagement overseas, not available until today.
Putnam showed Ortega a “Certificate of Employment — Loan-Out,” which Ortega said it’s certificate that he works for The K.O. Company, Inc.
AEG Live had an agreement with K.O. Company for the services of Ortega.
Putnam: Did you understand you were an employee of AEG Live? Ortega: No P: What were you employee of? O: K.O. Company
“I was only contracted, and we were only focused, on the London tour at this time,” Ortega explained.
Ortega’s contract was executed on April 26, 2009. “I believe I was paid in advance of signing,” Ortega said.
In his deposition, Ortega was shown documents to refresh his recollection. Putnam showed him the same documents.
Ortega looked at the document and said he was paid on May 11, 2009, which is after he signed his contract.
Putnam: You were paid after the contract was executed, right? Ortega: That’s what appears in this document.
Ortega said he has put himself in the position of working prior to signing a contract. “It’s what I call working in good faith.”
“It’s sort of common in the industry,” Ortega said. Putnam: If you don’t reach an agreement, you could work and not get paid? Ortega: Yes
“I can’t recall specifically, but I’m sure in my 40-something years in this business that has occurred,” Ortega testified.
In Ortega’s contract, there is a provision for bonus in case “This Is It” tour went around the world.
“The shows were not booked or guaranteed,” Ortega said. “That’s what I think Michael hoped to do, but wasn’t booked.”
Putnam: If tour was successful, you already have in your agreement what you’d be paid in bonus, correct?
Ortega: That’s what I understand it’s in my contract Ortega’s contract DOES NOT have a signature line for Michael Jackson.
Putnam read Murray’s contract were it says the contract is not valid unless MJ consented to it and asked if Ortega has that in his contract.
Ortega went thru all the pages of his contract and said: “I do not see that anywhere.”
Putnam: Did you consider it a tour? Ortega: We called it tour, term used in the industry, but we weren’t really touring, it was 1 venue.
“People were calling it a tour but it was more like an event,” Ortega explained.
“He told me he only wanted me,” Ortega said about Michael Jackson’s wished that he be the director.
Putnam: Is it fair to say you were the “TII” director because of MJ? Ortega: Yes.
Ortega said he doesn’t remember who he said reached out to him first regarding the tour in his deposition.
Putnam showed Ortega’s deposition transcript. “In deposition, I remember it to be Dr. Tohme,” Ortega said.
In a deposition related to Lloyds of London litigation, Ortega also said Dr. Tohme first reached out to him regarding TII.
In Dr. Murray’s criminal trial, Ortega said it was Paul Gongaware.
Putnam: Do you remember as you sit here today who first contacted you? Ortega: I’m not really certain.
Ortega said he didn’t really know who Dr. Tohme was, have never met the guy at that point. Tohme said he called on behalf of MJ.
Ortega testified he never really fully understand Dr. Tohme’s role related to MJ. He thought was a friend.
Regardless of who contacted him first, Ortega said he was hired because Michael Jackson wanted him.
Ortega said AEG Live and MJ were co-producers of the show.
Ortega said he reported to Michael Jackson for the creative side of the tour and regarding budget/financial matters he reported to Gongaware.
Ortega explained he dealt with Gongaware regarding technical things, like moving dates to new rehearsal venue, delivery of stage parts, etc.
Ortega would discuss with Michael about hiring someone and the director would go to Gongaware to get the contract drawn and the person hired.
Ortega did not discuss with Gongaware anything related to creative matters.
“Because the creative person was Michael, and myself,” Ortega explained.
“We talked about these things together and I’d go with Michael’s blessing to Paul to begin the process,” Ortega explained.
“I’d go and say ‘this is what we’d like,'” Ortega said. Putnam: Did he ever tell you you couldn’t get something? Ortega: No.
“He would just make it happen,” Ortega said. He could not recall Gongaware denying anything.
“Final say would be Michael,” Ortega said. “Michael had final creative say.”
Putnam: Why? Ortega: Because he was brilliant and he knew what he was doing.
“At the end of the day, creatively, we trusted Michael knew what we needed,” Ortega said.
Ortega said February, March and April MJ was very involved in the creation of the show, would show up a lot.
“A lot meaning 3-4 times a week,” Ortega clarified. He said things changed as they were moving to the Forum, which was end of May.
Putnam: Who did you consider your boss? Ortega: Michael.
Ortega: I thought of MJ as my partner, I didn’t think of him as my boss. But MJ always had the final creative say in all the years we worked
Putnam: Did you ever see AEG pressure Michael in any way? Ortega: No Putnam: Did you feel AEG Live supported MJ? Ortega: Yes
Ortega: Everything we brought to AEG, in terms of enormous creative needs, that AEG was very supportive in doing all they could.
Ortega said he would ask Gongaware for more and more things to create the show. Gongaware never denied anything.
He said there were professional discussions like ‘is this something you really feel it’s going to benefit,’ ‘do you really need this.’
Ortega: I think we were getting in a place were we had a ceiling, because we were already with a fat budget.
Ortega: But at the end, I believe they thought Michael had what he wanted.
Ortega said he learned from Randy Phillips that Dr. Murray was responsible to get MJ to rehearsals on June 15, 2009.
He explained he didn’t think Phillips was involved as much in MJ’s scheduling, but was overseeing it.
Ortega said he never spoke with Timm Wooley about scheduling.
“I looked at Mr. Phillips as the promoter, Michael’s promoter and producing partner,” Ortega testified.
Ortega: In this stage of the game, Mr. Phillips took on overseeing position to make sure the schedule was responsible for Michael.
Ortega: I think they were trying to create a schedule to factor in all of Michael’s needs (like family) and still could come to rehearsal.
Putnam asked about June 19, 2009. “I’ll always remember June 19,” Ortega said.
Putnam asked if Ortega testified before he thought MJ had a really bad case of flu.
“I supposed I might have suggested it could look that way,” Ortega said. “It would’ve been a really, really bad flu.”
Putnam asked if throughout the night on June 19th, if MJ got better. Ortega said yes.
Putnam: He was coherent? Ortega: Yes. P: Warmed up? O: A bit. P: More engaged? O: Yes. P: Calm? O: Yes.
“I felt somewhat calm when we left,” Ortega said. But he said he was still concerned, thus the email he sent to AEG high ups.
Ortega: It didn’t appear to me it was drugs, it appeared to me it was something else, emotional.
Putnam: It never crossed your mind it could be drug related? Ortega: No, I was thinking it was something else.
Putnam: You have never seen Mr. Jackson like that before? Ortega: No.
Ortega sent an email after seeing MJ that way because he thought Phillips and Gongaware should know about it.
There was a meeting scheduled next day to address MJ’s problems on June 19.
Ortega said he thought it was a responsible way to deal with it, and pretty immediate after the fact.
At the meeting, Dr. Murray told Ortega to stay out of it and to leave MJ’s health for him to take care.
Dr. Murray told Ortega to quit being an amateur doctor and that MJ was physically fit to show, the director recalled.
Putnam: MJ assured you that he was fine? Ortega: I didn’t feel assured
Ortega: He said don’t leave me, I’m gonna take the reins, you’ll see I’m going to change this. He seemed absolutely committed at that point.
Ortega: Murray started up saying I had no right to not allow Michael to rehearse that night and that I had no right to send him home.
Ortega testified he said: ‘Wait a minute, that’s not at all what happened.’ The director recalled Dr. Murray said MJ told him that.
Ortega: I looked at Michael and asked him to tell what had happened, that I didn’t forbid Michael of anything.
Ortega said, at one point, MJ told him he was going home. “I said yes, go home, tuck your children in, feel better,” Ortega described.
Ortega: I did think it was right he didn’t rehearse that night, I did think it was the right thing he went home.
Ortega said Dr. Murray told him to be the director and to quit his concerns with Michael Jackson’s health because it was not his job.
Ortega: I’d like to think that Michael would not set me up that way, I’d like to think Dr. Murray misunderstood Michael.
Ortega said Michael explained in the meeting that what Dr. Murray said was not what had occurred.
Putnam: Did you talk about drugs in that meeting? Ortega: No
Putnam: Did he (Murray) offer any explanation of what happened to MJ the night before? Ortega: I don’t believe so.
Ortega: I worked with 10,000 people in the Olympics, how can I be responsible for everybody’s health?
“Adults are responsible for their own health,” Ortega opined.
Putnam: Do you think MJ was being responsible with his own health?
Ortega: I didn’t think he was being very responsible, but it was his responsibility, in my opinion.
Jurors were writing viguroulsy at this point. Juror number 6 looked over at Katherine Jackson.
Ortega: I wanted to take care on him, you want to take care of someone when something is not right, but you can’t be responsible.
Putnam: Were you responsible for MJ’s health? Ortega: No.
Someone on behalf of Michael Jackson contacted Ortega to be part of the HBO special.
Ortega never asked MJ about his rehab stint or any drug use.
Putnam: Did you have any reservation to work with him after rehab? Ortega: No P: Why not?
“Because he came out of rehab,” Ortega said. “He was moving on with his life in a healthy way, hopefully.”
Putnam: Did you ever talk to him about nutrition? Ortega: As a general idea P: Physical therapy? O: Yes
Ortega said he would talk to MJ, as a performing artist, and ask if he was focusing on nourishment, health, warming up, stretching, sleeping
MJ wasn’t really fond of massage, Ortega said. “Don’t forget to eat, get some rest,” Ortega would tell MJ.
The singer would smile and answer “okay” in a very loving way, Ortega recalled.
Ortega said MJ liked to be in a certain kind of place (weight) to execute his moves and to get the look he wanted.
“I might have been a little concerned (with his weight) when I brought that up, yes,” Ortega testified.
Putnam: In your opinion, was Mr. Jackson always skinny? Ortega: In the early years I worked with him he was light, lean performer.
“He was strong,” Ortega said. But 20 years later, when Ortega worked with MJ in the “This Is It,” the director said MJ was much different.
Ortega’s first time working with MJ was in the “Dangerous” tour. He said he may have been director of the project. It was in 1992-93.
Ortega said he usually likes to stay in tour until everything is working to everybody’s satisfaction. He said it may be 4-5 shows or 8-10
Putnam: Did you have any concerns he might have been using drugs then? Ortega: No
At this time, MJ was living at Neverland. Ortega said they never rehearsed at MJ’s ranch, but a stage in Los Angeles.
Ortega was called to help MJ with the HBO special. Putnam: He seemed well to you? Ortega: Unhappy
Putnam: Was he physical well? Ortega: He seemed tired and unhappy, stressed.
Putnam: But at no time you thought he was using drugs? Ortega: No.
Ortega was present at Beacon Theater when MJ collapsed. He didn’t see the artist fall, though.
He said security responded quickly, everybody stayed away to give paramedics room to work.
MJ was transported to the hospital. Ortega didn’t go, because he said he wasn’t invited. “Certainly concerned,” though, he explained.
“HIStory” tour rehearsal was done in Los Angeles, Ortega said.
Putnam: Did you have any concern with MJ’s health? Ortega: I don’t recall having any concerns P: How about mentally? O: No
Putnam: Were you concerned MJ was doing drugs before “TII” in 2008? Ortega: No, I saw him.
Ortega said he had dinner with MJ a couple of times, MJ took his children to see High School Musical, and that he looked fined.
The director described MJ very excited, even not knowing yet what “TII” was going to be, but feeling exhilarated.
Ortega said MJ was being approached by someone from American Idol, also Randy Phillips approached him, they wanted to do something with him.
“I think seating in a theater for 5 years in Las Vegas wasn’t really attractive to him,” Ortega explained.
“Michael wanted to get out on the road,” Ortega said.
Ortega: I was happy for him, because he had been through so much, I wanted him to be the King again
Ortega: I think the arrival of his children in his life brought something he didn’t have before.
“He seemed exhilarated, excited, like the Michael I always knew,” Ortega described.
Ortega: He was unbelievable! His reasons for doing the tour were incredible. He was motivated.
Ortega said the meeting on June 20th was at MJ’s Carolwood home. On June 23rd, Ortega testified MJ was in great spirits, ready to work.
Putnam: Completely different? Ortega: Completely
Ortega: He seemed healthy, ready and happy, there didn’t seem to be any left over issues from the 19th.
Ortega said MJ was always a little chill, but not like on the 19th. The director was surprised how quickly MJ got better.
“It was like metamorphosis,” he said. Putnam asked if Ortega inquired MJ what had happened. “I din’t pry in his personal live,” he replied
Putnam: How was the rehearsal? Ortega: Great. It was one of the best rehearsals we had up until then.
MJ was there a number of hours, Ortega said. He went thru a number of songs. Putnam: Had he taken the reins? Ortega: Yeah
Ortega: He was in charge. Not only capable to rehearsing but to talk about other aspects of production, like films, the effects, costumes.
Ortega said he just embraced it and went with it. “We were all delighted” Ortega recalled. “The energy in the room changed, hope returned”
Ortega: Everybody felt there was a different Michael in the room.
Ortega said MJ was almost as good on the 24th as the 23rd. He seemed a little tired from the day before but talked about things for the show
MJ also rehearsed and performed. Ortega said he was feeling they were back on track, believing they were in a new chapter.
Ortega felt less excited, deeply grateful about MJ’s come back. “Maybe it was a lot of rest,” Ortega opined. “He did seem rested, stronger”
Putnam: Did you have concern on the 23rd or 24th he was taking drugs? Ortega: No.
Ortega said said excitement was pretty unanimous among all the people working on “This Is It.”
In re-direct, Panish asked: Prior to June 23rd, you thought Michael got real organic sleep? Ortega: Yes.
Panish: And before that you thought he was not having any sleep? Ortega: Yes.
Panish: The symptoms he had, did it seem like someone who wasn’t sleeping? Ortega: I think that might have been a factor there.
Panish asked Ortega to assume MJ was getting Propofol for 60 days then didn’t have Propofol the last few days before his death.
Ortega: I assumed sleep had to be a part of it, he looked rested.
Panish asked is Ortega saw MJ several times appearing under some kind of drugs during TII.
Ortega: It seemed like it was doctor related, so it wasn’t like taking drugs but just being under the influence.
Panish: In all your years in the industry, have you ever heard a producer involved in hiring a doctor for an artist? Ortega: I haven’t.
Ortega said he thinks it’s unusual for producers to engage attorneys to hire a doctor for an artist.
Ortega clarifies that the only artist, “the” artist, was Michael Jackson.
Panish asked if MJ could’ve been fired by AEG. “No, he was a partner,” Ortega responded. He said Michael told him that.
Panish: The producer could fire you if they wanted, right? Ortega: I think Michael would not be happy with that.
“I assume they could give a good try,” Ortega responded. “I assume they could do that but I doubt it would last more than 24 hours.”
“I don’t think producers can fire Tom Cruise,” Ortega opined. Panish said movies are different from singers.
“I don’t think producers can fire Cher,” Ortega said.
Panish: Were you ever involved in a show where promoter was buying CPR machine? Ortega: Not that I know of.
Panish: Were you ever involved in a show where promoter was buying saline, catheter, needles for a doctor? Ortega: No.
Panish: Have you seen a CEO for promoter/producer involved in artist rehearse attendance/schedule? Ortega: CEO no, producers/promoters yes.
Panish: Have you ever seen a situation where a CEO for promoter/producer set rehearse schedule with artist’s doctor? Ortega: No
Panish: Did you think you were not being demanding enough of MJ’s attendance and schedule? Ortega: No
Email from Woolley to Bob Taylor saying Randy Phillips and Dr. Murray were responsible for MJ rehearsal and attendance schedule.
“I recalled that Dr. Murray was going to be responsible for the schedule,” Ortega said.
Earlier in the trial, Ortega testified rehearsal schedule and attendance was up to Dr. Murray and Randy Phillips.
Ortega said, at one point, there was a standstill regarding his contract.
Email from Gongaware to Ortega on March 25, 2009: I’m afraid we may not be able to meet your financial requirements for a deal
Panish: Are you aware of any artist in the world with the drawing power of Michael Jackson?
Ortega: I’d think if done right, that Michael would be the highest draw on the planet. Panish: You don’t think Celine Dion would be bigger?
Ortega: I think the Stones come close, McCartney come close. But if MJ was not the number one, he was very close.
“He sold 50 shows,” Ortega said. “Pretty awesome, historical.”
Ortega said he disagrees with anyone who says there’s no way MJ could’ve done 50 shows.
Panish: Did you ever have assistant producer say she was afraid an artist would die in weeks of a show and they actually did die? Ortega: No
“Yes, he did change over time,” Ortega said about Michael Jackson.
Panish: Was MJ perfectionist? Ortega: That would be something that people would have called him.
Ortega: Most of us have never seen anyone work as hard to accomplish something as MJ.
Ortega said he didn’t see MJ at practice for a long period of time in June. Panish: In June, he didn’t show at all? Ortega: That’s correct
“It was fairly obvious he was not moving forward in the rehearsals with this sort of tempo,” Ortega testified.
Panish: Did you have concerns about his physical condition on June 14? Ortega: I’d say yes.
Panish: Sir, did you tell anyone that MJ should’ve been taken to the hospital? Ortega: I might have.
Panish: Did you say that after MJ died? Ortega: No, I think I’d have said it sooner than that.
Ortega suggested another physician, not Murray, come to check MJ out. Panish: You didn’t think Dr Murray was doing a good job? Ortega: No
Panish: Did you think MJ was irresponsible? Ortega: It seemed to me that he was in trouble.
Ortega: MJ was very cool, bold, strong in his ideas and what he wanted all through the beginning of the process.
“Eventually he started to decline and disappear,” Ortega recalled.
Panish: I want you to assume that AEG Live hired Dr. Murray. Would you expect them to hire a fit and competent doctor? Ortega: Yes.
Panish: You expect AEG to check them out, not being under conflict of interest situation? Ortega: Yes.
Panish asked if Ortega was doing his job when he sent email w/ concerns. “More than just doing my job, looking out for my friend” he said.
Ortega said Dr. Murray did not have the same mindset as him in the June 20th meeting.
Phillips didn’t do anything to stop Dr. Murray’s admonishment of Ortega in the meeting, Panish said. Ortega agreed.
Panish: Did you ever learn that Phillips was grabbing Dr. Murray’s arm? Ortega: I never heard that.
Panish asked if Ortega knew how much pressure AEG was putting MJ and Dr. Murray on. He said no.
Panish: Did you heard Murray walked out and said he couldn’t take this s**t anymore? Ortega: No, I never heard that.
Ortega then opined: If Michael ever heard you talk like that it would not be appropriate. Isn’t that right Mrs. Jackson?
Katherine Jackson nodded in the audience in agreement. “In respect of why we are all here for, that’s not nice,” Ortega said on the stand.
Ortega said he never told Faye MJ had to face his fears; used the word tough love, may have said the show could be cancelled if not ready.
Putnam did re-cross. Ortega: Michael had not performed in 10 years. Whether he’d command the world like he had before remained to be seen.
“However, the sell out at the O2 for 50 shows showed he still had drawing power,” Ortega opined.
Putnam: Did you see Michael deteriorate over 8 weeks? Ortega: I would’ve not used the word deteriorate to describe what I saw.
The week of June 15th is when Ortega grew concerned with Michael Jackson.
Ortega said nobody came up to him on the 23rd or 24th expressing concern about MJ. They did on the 19th but not after MJ came back on 23rd.
Putnam: Would it be surprising to you that the Rolling Stones have a doctor on tour with them right now? Ortega: No.
A first in court: #Jackson jury applauds as This Is It tour director Kenny Ortega wraps up his testimony.
Putnam: You just don’t know some of those things, right? Ortega: Yes.
Putnam: Have you ever worked on a tour where an artist was $400 million in debt? Ortega: Not to my knowledge.
Putnam: Have you ever worked on a tour where the artist could not afford his daily expenses? Ortega: I don’t believe so.
Putnam: Have you ever worked on a tour where the promoter/producer was advancing all daily expenses? Ortega: It’s possible, I don’t know.
Putnam: Have you ever worked on a tour where artist was unable to pay his personal doctor? Ortega: I don’t think so, assumption on my part.
Putnam: Who introduced you to Dr. Murray? Ortega: Michael P: Did AEG introduce you to him? O: No P: What did MJ say? O: This is my doctor.
Putnam asked if AEG checked if the doctor was licensed and if he had been disciplined, if it was responsible thing to do. Ortega said yes.
Putnam: If they weren’t hiring Dr. Murray, would that responsibility be above and beyond anything they needed to do, in your mind?
Ortega: I think that would’ve been responsible. Putnam: Did Mr. Phillips ever tell you he wanted MJ to come on tour? Ortega: No
In re-re-direct Panish: Would it be responsible to place a doctor in a conflict of interest had they hired him? Ortega: In my opinion, no
Putnam in re-re-cross asked if it’s common practice to check a doctor’s credit report prior to hiring him
“I wouldn’t think it would be something that would be the norm,” Ortega responded.
Putnam: Do you think it’s responsible for a studio to hire Kenny Ortega if he were in debt? Ortega: I’ve been there and they hired me.
Putnam asked if being in debt diminishes your capability. “I don’t think so,” Ortega responded.
Ortega: Being in debt doesn’t change your talent, your gift, your ability.
Panish in re-re-re-direct: Do you have access to a prescription pad? Ortega: No
Putnam and Panish took turns in asking out-of-the-ordinary questions regarding responsibility to Ortega.
Jurors were laughing out loud with the exchange between the attorneys. The director kept his composure and responded to all questions.
Ortega was dismissed, subject to recall in AEG’s case in chief.
When the director got up, all jurors clapped for him. He thanked the jurors, kissed Mrs. Jackson, shook hands with Shawn Trell and left.
Judge adjourned session a little early. Jurors ordered back 9:30 am tomorrow. Kathy Jorrie is back on the stand.
AEG plans to play Randy Jackson’s deposition and Dr. David Adams from Las Vegas in the afternoon.
Source:- Local medis
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