“I Trusted My Wife”: Donald Sterling Testifies in Court After No-Show

Once on the stand, the 80-year-old oscillated between angry and sarcastic outbursts and a soft-spoken demeanor, even choking up when talking about how much he loves his wife.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling gave colorful, heated and often rambling testimony Tuesday at the trial over his wife's negotiated sale of the team, at one point calling a doctor who had examined him a drunk and at another demanding that his wife's lawyer "stand up and be a man."

Sterling's animated testimony prompted the judge to admonish him to answer questions instead of "entertaining us." In response, Sterling said he was sure "questions will get better."

Sterling had been ordered to appear Tuesday afternoon after he failed to show up in court Monday, as his lawyers tried to get the case moved to federal court. That request was denied.

While Shelly Sterling entered the courthouse through a public entrance on Tuesday, Donald Sterling was allowed to use a private underground entrance.

Once on the stand, the 80-year-old oscillated between angry and sarcastic outbursts and a soft-spoken demeanor, even choking up when talking about how much he loves his wife.

"I trusted my wife, I love her," Sterling said about the document he signed authorizing Shelly to negotiate the sale.

Under cross-examination, a neurologist and a psychiatrist both testified that they had found Sterling mentally incapacitated, but also admitted they did not tell him their exams could be used to remove him as a trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, which controls the Clippers and provides the framework under which the team can be sold.

That led Sterling to call them "hired guns," claim one was drunk and say that neither should practice medicine.

Sterling had choice words for Shelly's attorney, and often went off on tangents when answering his questions.

"For God's sake, be a man! Stand up and be a man," Sterling said. "What do you want to accuse me of?"

During one heated outburst, Sterling said fighting the sale of the team wasn't about his ego, but about economics, claiming he could get $3 billion to $5 billion in TV and radio rights, adding that while his wife may be beautiful, she's not qualified to negotiate such matters.

Both sides are claiming Sterling's performance on the stand helps their case.

"I think the claim (Sterling) lacks competency is a sham, it's absurd and I think that should become more obvious to all of you today," Sterling's attorney Bobbi Samini said.

"Just as you saw the real Donald Sterling, and we saw the real Donald Sterling, the judge sees the real Donald Sterling now," Shelly's attorney Bert Field said. "He sees the guy just makes stuff up."

His attorneys said Sterling did not attend Monday's proceedings because most of the day would be consumed with the motion to move the case.

The first testimony Monday afternoon came from a neurologist who concluded that Sterling had Alzheimer's disease. Testimony about Sterling's health will be key to the trial because two doctors who examined Donald Sterling at Shelly Sterling's request declared him mentally incapacitated and unable to act as an administrator of The Sterling Family Trust.

Shelly Sterling negotiated the potential-record $2 billion deal with Ballmer after the NBA moved to oust the league's longest-tenured owner because of racist remarks made during a recorded conversation with a friend. She did so under terms of the trust that indicate incapacitation can be determined by two licensed doctors without ties to the family who are specialists in their field, according to her attorneys.

A trustee must cooperate with such exams. Attorneys on both sides agreed last week that proceedings will focus on whether Donald Sterling was induced into undergoing mental examinations by two doctors without being told the reason.

Donald Sterling was "blindsided" by the exams, to which he submitted under false pretense, according to his attorneys. He would have participated at more convenient times instead of being pulled out of legal meetings, the attorneys said.

"He would have also eaten properly and have been well rested for the examinations and focused on taking the exam with the full and complete understanding what it was for and the serious nature of the exam," they wrote in filings.

A doctor hired by Sterling's wife testified Monday about a two-hour interview at the Sterling home.

"After it was over, I told him and Mrs. Sterling that he probably has Alzheimer's," Dr. Meril Sue Platzer testified Monday.

"What was his reaction?" asked Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney for Sterling's wife.

"I'm hungry. I want to eat," Platzer said.

The trial also will address the question of what happens to a deal that hasn't been closed once a trust is revoked. Donald Sterling revoked the trust on June 9, weeks after Shelly Sterling negotiated the deal with Ballmer. In order for the deal to proceed, a judge must find that Shelly Sterling acted in accordance with the trust and that the deal is part of a "winding down" or the trust's affairs, as her attorneys claim.

NBA owners must approve the deal and are scheduled to meet July 15 to vote. Ballmer's offer is set to expire on the same day. If the sale isn't completed by Sept. 15, the league said it could seize the team and put it up for auction.

Contact Us