Guy Sebastian’s trial against his ex-manager has been delayed again – just hours after it resumed following the death of its presiding judge.
Downing Centre District Court Judge Tim Gartelmann restarted the proceedings on Monday already with a complicating factor, that of barrister David Morters SC having tested positive for Covid.
This was after the Australian Idol winner and principal Crown witness Sebastian had himself come down with Covid in the opening week of the trial of Titus Day.
This was followed by Judge Peter Zahra falling ill and being taken to hospital where he died from a stroke.
The court heard Judge Zahra’s funeral, which will be held at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Friday morning, may itself force a trial delay and Sebastian was also unavailable on that day.
When he resumed on Monday morning, Judge Gartelmann acknowledged ‘the tragedy that is the loss of Judge Zahra’, thanked the jury ‘for continuing with your role’, and pointed out that the crown prosecutor was appearing remotely because he had Covid.
His Honour also forecast the jury would have extended sitting hours to make up time, and the trial proceeded with Guy Sebastian in the witness box still giving evidence in chief to Mr Morters.
Guy Sebastian outside the Downing Centre where the embezzlement trial of his former Manager Titus Day ahs been beset with delays, including a judge’s death and now a juror having a ‘bad reaction’ from eating lunch
Following the death from stroke of Judge Peter Zahra, a new judge Time Gartelmann has taken over the trial, but on Monday after just hours of evidence, a juror fell sick and it was adjourned
But when the lunch hour adjournment ended at 2pm, Judge Gartelmann told the court that ‘a juror has taken ill’ and ‘had a reaction to food during the lunch break’ and would ‘need to have a medical examination’.
Adjourning the trial for the day, with the hope of ‘getting further information about the welfare of the juror concerned’, he noted that ‘a number of’ jurors had ‘raised concerns about the estimated duration of the trial’
‘We will address these concerns as soon as we can.’
Before the latest delay, Sebastian had resumed testifying against Day about allegations that as the singer’s manager he had embezzled about $900,000 from his client.
The trial before 14 jurors which is expected to run for another four weeks, until mid-June.
Before the delays, the trial had heard that Sebastian’s performance fees included almost $500,000 for supporting superstar Taylor Swift nearly a decade ago.
Sebastian charged $54,341 to sing at a wedding in Jakarta in July 2017 but just $10,000 for another wedding at Doltone House in Sydney in September that year.
McDonald’s paid the entertainer $66,000 to appear at a conference the same month, and Harvey Norman forked out $33,000 for him to perform in August 2017.
Singer Guy Sebastian’s performance fees – including almost $500,000 for supporting superstar Taylor Swift nearly a decade ago – were revealed at his former manager’s embezzlement trial. Sebastian is pictured with his wife Jules
The trial heard Sebastian was paid almost $500,000 for performing as a support act for superstar Taylor Swift
Guy Sebastian’s former manager Titus Day has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant. The charges relate to about $900,000 in royalties and fees allegedly not passed on to his former client and friend. Day is pictured outside court
The biggest fee paid to Sebastian detailed in the trial so far was $494,360 for supporting Swift during the four-city Australian leg of her ‘The Red Tour’ in December 2013.
The hit-maker also received $49,114.62 for singing at Allianz Stadium in Sydney during the British and Irish Lions rugby tour the same year.
Day has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing. The charges relate to about $900,000 in allegedly missing royalties and performance fees.
Day (left) and Sebastian (right) had worked together since 2007, four years after the singer won the first series of Australian Idol over Shannon Noll, another former Day client
Sebastian on stage at a Taylor Swift concert in 2013
The Crown claims Day received the payments on behalf of his client between 2013 and 2020, but rather than forwarding the money to Sebastian, kept it for his own purposes.
The amounts of money the 49-year-old is alleged to have embezzled range from $361.34 in royalties to $187,524 in performance fees. One charge concerns a $21,000 ambassadorship.
Crown prosecutor David Morters SC said Day, a qualified lawyer, had been in the entertainment industry since the early 1990s and had first managed Sebastian in 2007 while working for 22 Management, run by Sean Anderson.
Sebastian had about nine months left on a three-year contract when Day approached him in July 2009 to join his own new company 6 Degrees.
Mr Morters said Sebastian agreed to move to 6 Degrees without signing a contract but had an agreement with Day under which the agent was to receive a 20 per cent commission.
Sebastian is currently on tour for his recent T.R.U.T.H. album and is appearing as a judge on Network Seven’s latest series of The Voice. He is pictured with wife Jules
Day, who has also represented television presenters Sophie Monk and Grant Denyer, managed Sebastian until November 2017 when the singer terminated their arrangement.
‘The break-up was acrimonious, or hostile,’ Mr Morters said.
The court heard Sebastian subsequently found ‘anomalies’ in financial records suggesting he was still owed payments by Day and in July 2018 the performer launched a civil claim against him.
Day made a counter claim against Sebastian alleging he was owed money, which led to an examination of Day’s banking records allegedly revealing further anomalies, the court heard.
Mr Morters said Sebastian learnt 6 Degrees had received payments for copyright royalties and performances which he had never received.
Sebastian then went to police and Day was arrested at his eastern suburbs home in July 2020.
Sebastian won the first series of Australian Idol in 2003 over Shannon Noll, another former Day client. He is pictured performing at Aware Super Theatre in Sydney this month
Sebastian’s barrister Dominic Toomey SC gave a short opening statement on Wednesday in which said the jury could be forgiven for believing there must be some substance to so many charges.
However, the evidence would explain every allegation and it some cases the answers would be so clear as to suggest police had been ‘wilfully blind’ to the truth and ‘seduced perhaps by Mr Sebastian’s high profile’.
Mr Toomey told the jury they might wonder whether police and Sebastian had some ‘ulterior purpose’ to pursue the charges in court.
‘In the evidence are the answers to these misconceived charges,’ he said.
Mr Toomey said Sebastian and Day had been engaged in Federal Court action for more than two years when his client was ‘unceremoniously removed from his home by police’.
Each man had claimed the other owed him money, which was ‘hardly surprising’ in cases where a business relationship had soured.
Sebastian’s wife Jules and brother Jeremy will be giving evidence, along with the ARIA award-winner’s accountants.
Anderson is set to be called as a witness, as is Gordon Pitt, general manager of legal and business affairs at Sony Music, and Damien Luscombe, partner at White Sky Music accounting services.
Rebecca Oxenbould, who manages the The Sebastian Foundation charity, will also be giving testimony.
Sebastian won the first series of Australian Idol in 2003 over Shannon Noll, another former Day client.
Before contracting Covid, the 40-year-old was on tour to promote his recent T.R.U.T.H. album and appearing as a judge on Network Seven’s latest series of The Voice.
Day, who has also represented television presenters Sophie Monk and Grant Denyer, was entrusted to manage Sebastian’s income while the pair worked together. Day is pictured outside the Downing Centre District Court in Sydney earlier this month