Shelly Sterling Testifies She Doubted Donald's Mental Health: 'He Was All Over the Place'
The trial over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers saw more testimony on Thursday from Shelly Sterling, whose authority to sell the team is being contested by her husband, Donald Sterling.
While she had signed a renewal of the Sterling family trust in December 2013, she testified in the Los Angeles courtroom, she had had doubts about her husband's mental stability for the past three years.
Shelly said the neurological exams she arranged for her husband were motivated only by concern for his health and not to find him incapacitated and to remove him from the trust through which the couple owns the Los Angeles Clippers, which is what her husband is claiming.
"He would make decisions and change them — he was all over the place," she said.
"The only thing I know is I was deeply concerned about his screaming and his yelling and his choice of words against me," she told her husband's lawyer, Max Blecher, later during her testimony. "You were there when he was screaming, you know how he acted toward you in the house."
When Blecher read emails that indicated Dr. Meril Platzer and Dr. James Spar had been in contact with her lawyer Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly testified that she had no knowledge of those communications. She said that she had her lawyers at the Greenberg Glusker law firm schedule the appointment with Dr. Spar, but only because she did not know any neurology specialists and they recommended him.
She also said that the first time she was told of the possibility that the doctors' records could be used to remove her husband from the trust was after the doctors' investigations, when O'Donnell presented her with the paperwork to remove him. That was on May 29, she said, the day after Donald had refused to sell the team.
After the hearing, O'Donnell told the media that he and Shelly's lawyers had been prepared to use the doctors' reports to remove Donald from the trust if he refused to sell.
"His mental health was clearly the issue for Shelly Sterling. But we're lawyers. We're trying to see that this sale gets done," O'Donnell said. "You would not be a very good lawyer and adviser to a trustee if you just took Donald Sterling at his word.
Earlier in the day, Shelly testified that her husband initially had encouraged her to negotiate the sale of the team, leading her to secure the record-setting price of $2 billion from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
"Every day we talked about who I was talking to and what I was doing, and he was very happy," she said. "He was really nice and on the same page as I was," she told the courtroom on day four of the trial.
"'I want you to go ahead and sell the team.' He said that in front of you," she told Blecher.
Shelly Sterling received the offer from Ballmer after fielding other bids of $1.2 billion, $1.5 billion and $1.62 billion, she said. When she told her husband of Ballmer's record-breaking amount, "he was very happy and very proud of me," she claimed. "He said: 'Wow, you did a good job.'"
She also testified that in an early phone call about the sale, NBA commissioner Adam Silver had agreed to consider reducing her husband's lifetime ban from the NBA to one year with a two-year probation on the condition that Donald could provide written assurance that the team would be sold under terms agreed upon by the Sterlings and the league, as both she and Silver had concerns about Donald's indecisiveness and mood swings.
She and Donald had both aimed to sell the team before the league's June 3 deadline, after which the NBA would seize and auction the team, she said.
Donald Sterling suddenly refused to sell the Clippers on May 28, Shelly claimed. "He was screaming and cussing," she testified. "I had no idea that he wasn't going to sign because he had been so adamant about selling before [June 3]."
On Wednesday, the 80-year-old embattled owner caused a stir in the courtroom by telling his wife: "Get away from me, you pig." He also vowed that he will "never, ever, ever sell this team, and until I die, I will be suing the NBA," he told the court.
The trial will continue on July 21 because some lawyers for Donald Sterling have personal plans.
Ballmer's deal is due to expire next Tuesday, but his lawyer, Adam Streisand, says there's a provision to extend that another month until August 15 as long as progress is being made in court. If so, it will still need the NBA to meet and approve the sale.