From claims about slashed tyres, threatening voicemails and headbutting, to insults about ‘fat’ women and details about huge performance payments – Guy Sebastian’s messy court showdown with his former manager has given fans a front-row seat to a relationship breakdown more extreme than most.
The Voice judge and former Australian Idol winner was managed exclusively by Titus Day, 49, between 2009 and 2017.
After a bitter falling out, the once inseparable duo parted ways and it was after their relationship ended that Mr Sebastian, 40, claimed to have discovered a series of anomalies which police allege amounted to fraud.
Claiming Mr Day owed him funds, Mr Sebastian launched civil action in the Federal Court in 2018.
Mr Day responded by launching legal action of his own, claiming it was he who was owed money by Mr Sebastian.
The court action failed to lead to a resolution and in 2020 Mr Day was arrested by police who charged him with 50 counts of fraudulently embezzling about $900,000 in royalty, ambassador and performance payments Mr Sebastian was allegedly owed.
Mr Day’s trial began in the NSW District Court on May 3 after he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
After initial delays, triggered following the death of the original presiding Judge Peter Zahra SC and Mr Sebastian’s Covid diagnosis, the trial resumed with the singer appearing as the first witness to give evidence over a seven-day period.
While under cross-examination from defence barrister Dominic Toomey SC, Mr Sebastian told the court a police officer came to his home to take a statement about Mr Day.
The officer was Detective David Murphy, a friend of Mr Sebastian’s best mate Tim Freeburn.
“I said ‘I’m very cautious to just speak to anyone, do you know any police that are trustworthy?’,” Mr Sebastian told the court.
“I presented David Murphy with what I had.”
The court was told Mr Freeburn and Detective Murphy knew each other from their time playing cricket together for the Sutherland Cricket Club.
Mr Sebastian colloquially referred to the Detective as “Murph” during his testimony, which Mr Toomey eagerly leapt on as a sign of a too-familiar relationship. The music star denied the suggestion, noting he’d spent a long time in the detective’s presence thanks to the ongoing litigation.
“I’ve known him for quite a few years through this process,” Mr Sebastian said.
“I don’t know … I can’t remember saying it,” he said when asked if he told anyone at the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecution that his best mate was acquainted with the police officer in charge of the investigation into Mr Day.
The initial meeting between Mr Sebastian and police took place two days after he was served with an application for an apprehended violence order (AVO) that was filed by Mr Day.
“At 6pm on May 20, 2020, I received a call from a blocked number saying ‘Guy Sebastian wants you f***ed … they say it’s wrong, they say you’re a paedophile’,” Mr Day claimed in the AVO application which was read out in court.
“Guy has a violent history that I know about and my wife is scared. He knows where I live and my wife is suffering from anxiety due to his behaviour.”
In the AVO application Mr Day alleged Mr Sebastian sent threatening emails to his wife and also claimed someone slashed his tyres. Mr Sebastian denied the allegations of intimidating behaviour in court.
Mr Sebastian said reference to a history of violence related to once incident in his past where he acted in self-defence.
“I had a newborn who was sleeping, I was at my recording studio … I received a call from my wife about this person who was trying to get into our house through my little boy’s window and as a result I arrived home,” Mr Sebastian told the court.
“By the time I got home the guy trying to break in was still there. I chased after him.”
However, the court heard the singer told people different stories about what happened next.
Asked repeatedly if he headbutted the intruder, Mr Sebastian said he had not, but he agreed that’s what he told some people afterwards.
“While I was holding him he was trying to grab me … elbowing and kicking me … he grabbed my [motorbike] helmet,” Mr Sebastian said.
“I’ve told people that I knocked him out … I didn’t headbutt him … I agree I’ve told people that I headbutted him.”
While discussing some of the disputed instances in which Mr Sebastian claimed he was either underpaid or not paid by Mr Day, the court was told of the eye-watering fees Mr Sebastian charged to perform.
For supporting American pop star Taylor Swift at four concerts, Mr Sebastian attracted $494,360.
A rugby match gig at Allianz Stadium earnt him $49,000 while a Big Bash cricket performance at the MCG on New Year’s Day saw him command a fee of about $60,000.
To perform at a wedding in Jakarta, Mr Sebastian charged about $54,000.
An in-kind deal with Toyota was worth about $140,000, McDonald’s paid Mr Sebastian $66,000 to appear at a conference, and Harvey Norman forked out $33,000 for another gig.
A Dreamworld ambassador role was worth $96,250 and he even received a boat from Bluefin instead of being paid for concert gigs.
In addition to Mr Sebastian’s fees, his choice of words to describe a certain demographic were also thrust into the spotlight as he gave evidence.
While mulling the idea of performing as a support act for former Irish boy band singer Shane Filan, Mr Sebastian said in an email that it was “a big investment”.
“Talking to Sammy, who did a similar tour, she said it was all fat older feral women,” Mr Sebastian wrote in the email.
“Are we scrapping corporates for it?,” he said.
In court Mr Sebastian said he was “not proud” of the email.
Earlier in the trial Mr Sebastian was presented with a series of documents which showed bank transfers out of Mr Day’s former company’s account and into his.
In one instance the court was told about $138,000 in royalties Sony music paid to Mr Day’s company in July 2014.
Mr Sebastian agreed documents tendered in court showed Mr Day correctly deducted a 20 per cent commission and deposited about $111,000 into his bank account.
While the correct amount was transferred, the court heard Mr Day was charged with not paying Mr Sebastian properly.
The court was told there were at least another three occasions where the correct amount had been transferred by Mr Day, but he had been charged.
When Mr Toomey asked Mr Sebastian if he was paying attention when police went through the banking documents before charges were laid, Mr Sebastian said, “there was a lot to go through definitely.”
“According to what you’re presenting to me, it seems like the numbers do add up … it’s an oversight,” Mr Sebastian told Mr Toomey.
The trial continues.
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