Janet Jackson at the 2013 Cannes amfAR benefit (Tony Barson/FilmMagic)
Janet Jackson, recently reported by Variety to have a net worth of over a billion dollars, excited fans by her presence in court yesterday, where she appeared for the first time to hear testimony in the civil trial of her family's estate against AEG Live for wrongful death in the death of Michael Jackson.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson's presence "sent a murmur through the small crowd gathered in the hallway" outside of the courtroom on Tuesday.
But Janet's visit to court led to another sibling's ejection. Judge Yvette Palazuelos had ruled previously that family matriarch Katherine was allowed only one supporter next to her in court, since many of her immediate family members are on the plaintiff's witness list.
When attorneys for defendant AEG Live reminded the plaintiffs of this, sister Rebbie Jackson, who has been a consistent presence in court during the first four weeks of testimony, got up and left voluntarily, conceding the single seat to Janet.
According to the New York Daily News, Janet "wore a black trench coat, dark pants and her tawny curls were tied back in a loose ponytail as she sat in the front row next to (her mother)."
"She wants to hear Gongaware's excuses," family lawyer Brian Panish said.
Gongaware, of course, is Paul Gongaware, co-chief executive officer of Concerts West, a division of AEG Live, whose testimony is key to the entire trial. Much of the case hinges upon an e-mail he wrote to "This Is It" tour director Kenny Ortega less than two weeks before Jackson died, which the plaintiffs claim proves that Dr. Conrad Murray was employed by AEG Live.
Gongaware's testimony on Tuesday centered around his knowledge of Michael Jackson's health status. "I believed he was under the influence of something because he wasn't quite right," Gongaware testified regarding a meeting he had with Michael at the singer's mansion just weeks before he died. "It's the only time I saw him like that."
AEG Live maintains that it was Michael who hired Dr. Murray to administer the drug that killed him, propofol, and not the company. Dr. Murray was convicted criminally of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 and is currently serving out his jail term.
"At no point did I ever require Jackson to take propofol," Gongaware testified. "I had no idea Jackson was taking propofol until after I learned how Jackson died in press reports. I had no suspicious whatsoever that Dr. Murray was giving Jackson propofol."
Gongaware also stated Tuesday that he was befuddled over who was in charge of the tour's budgets, which included the fees paid to Dr. Murray.
"I don't recall what budgets I approved," Gongaware said. "Budgets change daily."
Testimony in the trial resumes Wednesday morning.
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