- Michael LePerruque traveled with Michael Jackson for three years a decade ago
- Jackson would call his guard late at night with slurred speech, he says
- "I think he was just lonely and wanted to have somebody to talk to," LePerruque says
- Although he was called to testify by AEG Live, he spoke glowingly of Jackson
Michael Jackson's former security chief testified that he worried at times that the singer might overdose on drugs, but he didn't think he was an addict.
Michael LePerruque, who traveled with the pop icon for three years a decade ago, returns to the stand Monday for more testimony in the wrongful death trial of Jackson's last concert promoter.
AEG Live called LePerruque as a witness in an effort to show jurors that Jackson was a secretive drug addict, making it impossible for its executives to know his life was in danger as he prepared for his comeback tour.
Michael Jackson's mother and three children are suing the promoter, contending the company is liable in his death because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death.
LePerruque, however, spoke glowingly of Jackson and after his first day of testimony last week he sought out Katherine Jackson to give his former boss's mother a hug.
He was hired as the chief of Jackson's travel security team after he retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, where he served as a deputy for 22 years. Part of his training involved recognition of when someone was under the influence of drugs, he said.
Jackson called him between 20 and 30 times from his hotel room "in the middle of the night," LePerruque testified. "His speech would be very slurred. There would be a lot of mumbling, and I wouldn't be able to comprehend what he was saying."
He would go to Jackson's room many of those nights to check to make sure he was alright, he said. He appeared to be intoxicated, he said. "I think he was just lonely and wanted to have somebody to talk to."
Under cross examination by Jackson lawyer Deborah Chang, LePerruque said Jackson's intoxication appeared to be consistent with someone drinking alcohol and taking sedatives to sleep.
Did he think he was addicted to drugs? "I wouldn't be able to say that he was addicted to those," he answered.
The security chief said he would sometimes notice empty wine bottles from the hotel room's minibar, but he never saw drugs. He also never witnessed Jackson take medications, he said.
He described a scary incident in 2001 when Jackson's children dialed 911 for help when they found their father passed out in the hallway of their suite at a Disney World hotel in Orlando, Florida.
Paris and Prince, then just 3 and 4 years old, were "crying, saying they couldn't wake up daddy," he testified. Jackson woke up after LePerruque performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and shook him, he said. Paramedics found no signs of a drug overdose, he said.
"It was my concern that, yes, he may overdose," LePerruque said.
LePerruque said he never confronted Jackson about his drug use because he "didn't want to put him on the defensive." To do so might have created a barrier, he said. "I wanted to be able to be close to him to monitor him to protect him."
The incidents of slurred speech and incoherent late night phone calls did not happen over the entire time LePerruque worked with Jackson, he said.
Jackson "fought very, very hard not to be on the prescription medications," LaPerruque testified.
He told of one conversation in which Jackson told him he was not going to use drugs again.
"Do I seem clear?" he said Jackson asked him. "I just want you to know that I'm going to stay this way, that I'm not going back to the way I was."
Their late night talks revealed to the guard that Jackson had trouble getting to sleep, a problem that would eventually lead to his death. He told him he couldn't sleep because his brain wouldn't stop creating music.
"He said that as an artist he always had a tune in his head, different melodies, and he wasn't able to stop it," La Perruque said. "It was always constant going through his brain.
The coroner ruled that Jackson died of an overdose of propofol, which Murray told investigators he was using to treat the singer's insomnia.
The incidents in which Jackson appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs became more frequent after the broadcast of a documentary based on Martin Bashir's extensive interviews with him. LaPerruque said Jackson was "very devastated" by what he thought was the betrayal of trust he had with Bashir. Child molestation charges were filed in Santa Barbara County, California, after the broadcast.
LaPerruque said he never believed the criminal charges against Jackson were true. If he suspected he was molesting children he would be the first to slap handcuffs on him, he said.
"I came out in full support of him," LaPerruque said.
Jackson was acquitted on all charges after a trial.
LaParruque called Jackson "very down to earth," saying he was proud to have worked for him.
"There were times there were difficulties, but for the most part it was a pleasure working for him," he said.
He noted that one problem Jackson had was keeping up with his cell phones. He lost 27 of them, he said.
The wrongful death trial begins its 15th week in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday. The judge projected the trial will last until the middle of September.