Donald Sterling Offers Angry, Emotional Testimony at Clippers Ownership Trial

8:38 PM PST 07/08/2014 by Austin Siegemund-Broka, Debbie Emery
AP Images
Bert Fields and Donald Sterling

The 80-year-old became tearful and then antagonistic when he took to the stand in a Los Angeles courtroom on Tuesday, asking attorney Bert Fields: "What do you think I'm doing this for, ego?"

After the trial to determine whether Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the Los Angeles Clippers was hampered by delays on Monday, the star attraction showed up to testify on day two.

Donald Sterling, the 80-year-old embattled Clippers owner, became tearful while testifying in a Los Angeles state court on Tuesday, claiming that his wife gave him no indication that the mental health exams performed on him in May would be used to show his incapacity as a member of the Sterling Family Trust.

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"I trusted my wife. I relied on her. I love her," Sterling told the packed court. He went on to question the doctors' motivations and ability. "Those two doctors should not be practicing medicine. You know it and I know it," he told his wife's lawyer, well-known Hollywood attorney Bert Fields.

"You told them to find something wrong so we can sell the team. He did what he was told and the woman did," he said. 

The NBA has moved to oust Sterling from team ownership because of racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. His lawyers are challenging the authority of Shelly Sterling under a family trust to unilaterally cut a $2 billion deal for the team with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In court, Sterling also alleged that Dr. Meril Platzer—one of the specialists who had tested Sterling for mental impairment—had been intoxicated while giving him the exam and had not completed it. He testified that she had told him her husband divorced her and left her with millions in liabilities and that this had led her to start drinking.

Throughout the proceedings, Sterling was extremely combative with Fields, and at times he became dramatic with the judge. At one point Sterling told Fields to "be a man." At another, he speculated that the experienced entertainment attorney hadn't been practicing law very long.

Sterling particularly objected to the form of Fields' questioning, which cited various statements attributed to Sterling or his lawyers in media outlets. To these questions, he repeatedly alleged he didn't recall saying the specified remarks.

He went on to criticize the integrity of media outlets such as the New York Times, saying of its reporting:  "Usually it's what they [journalists] create in their minds."

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The testimony became most heated when Fields produced a statement that indicated Sterling was trying to block the sale of the team for his "dignity."

As Sterling made continued outbursts, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas tried to take control of the situation, at one point telling him: "Go back to answering questions rather than making somewhat entertaining comments."

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Sterling went on to respond to Fields' questioning about his reason for want to blocking the sale: "My wife can't run anything. She's beautiful and wonderful and intelligent, but she doesn't have the experience I have."

"What do you think I'm doing this for, ego?" he continued.

"Yes," Fields responded.

"You're wrong like you've been with every question you've asked today," Sterling said, prompting Levanas to ask, "How can you be wrong with a question?"

NBA owners are scheduled to vote on the Ballmer deal on July 15. It's also the day that Ballmer's offer is set to expire—and there is no deal without the judge's approval of the sale. If the sale isn't completed by Sept. 15, the league said it could seize the team and put it up for auction.

The trial will continue on Wednesday, when Sterling is scheduled to return to the stand.

Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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