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Apple Price-Fixing Trial So Far: Amazon Blasted as a Bully, Google Grilled, A Comic Minion Moment

Week two in the Apple fix-pricing trial began Monday with HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray and Macmillan CEO John Sargent testifying that they weren’t forced by Apple to revise their terms with Amazon–as the Justice Department’s claims–but simply engaged in tough negotiations with both e-tailers to get the best possible deal.

While all five major publishers originally named in the suit have settled with the DOJ, the government’s case hinges largely on their actions in 2010, when Apple allegedly acted as “ringmaster” compelling them to adopt the agency model.

Monday’s witnesses also included a Google executive who finished testimony that began last week, when the Apple’s lawyer aggressively grilled him about his contention that publishers had told him Apple forced them to adopt a model that would result in higher prices. CNET reported:

Apple started to pick away at the Department of Justice’s claim that the tech giant conspired to inflate e-book prices by repeatedly and rapidly firing questions at a key Google witness.

The tactic paid off for lead Apple attorney Orin Snyder, who began to wear down on Thomas Turvey, director of strategic relationships for Google. Turvey appeared increasingly frazzled and frustrated as the afternoon went on.

Asked to name a publisher who told him about Apple’s demands, Turvey could not.

Also taking the stand during the first week of the trial, Penguin CEO David Shanks and Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy testified that Amazon used bullying tactics to keep them from adopting Apple’s agency pricing model. Shanks described a meeting in which publishers attempted to change their agreements with Amazon:

“They yelled and screamed and threatened,” Shanks said during his testimony during district court on Tuesday. “It was a very unpleasant meeting.”

Reidy made similar statements and inadvertently provided a comic moment when the court displayed an email she’d written referring to an Apple executive as a “minion,” The New York Times reported.

The executive, Keith Moerer, was seated in the courtroom.

“Sorry, Mr. Moerer,” Judge Cote said, as the onlookers laughed.

“That’s just what I was thinking,” Ms. Reidy said.

Moerer is slated to take the stand, possibly today.