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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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$3.6M at Stake in Sterling-Mistress Trial

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Donald Sterling took the stand Wednesday afternoon to testify in his wife's trial, as she seeks to recover $3.6 million she claims her husband gave to his ex-girlfriend as gifts.

In a combative hearing, Sterling frequently refused to answer attorney Mac Nehoray's questions about his real estate dealings, turning questions back on the lawyer, or refusing to answer unless the court ordered him to.

Sterling's comebacks were met with laughter in the courtroom, and Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin appeared to be on the verge of losing his grip on proceedings.

"If the court wants me to answer, I'll do it," Sterling said more than once.

After one exchange, Nehoray took the extraordinary step of asking Judge Fruin to order Sterling to cooperate.

Donald Sterling took the stand in the afternoon.

Earlier Wednesday, his wife Shelly Sterling told the court that defendant V. Stiviano is to blame for ending the Sterlings' interest in the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team, after she leaked her husband's racially charged comments to TMZ.

"We lost our team. We lost our Clippers. They were like my child," Shelly Sterling said in the first day of the trial.

Shelly Sterling is facing off with Donald Sterling's former girlfriend in a fight to win back the $3.6 million in gifts her husband lavished on his former girlfriend.

Shelly Sterling sued Stiviano last year, claiming that Donald had bought his mistress a Ferrari, two Bentleys, a Range Rover and a $1.8 million duplex.

Shelly Sterling claims her husband gave his lover the gifts without her permission, and that Stiviano refused to return them.

She claims that those gifts were bought using "community property," including from their real estate company Beverly Hills Properties.

Shelly Sterling testified that her marriage was still intact, and that she had never separated from Donald.

She acknowledged that she had considered divorcing him after their 32-year-old son Scott died on Jan. 1, 2013 of a drug overdose. But she said she had never filed for divorce.

"My son passed and it was a very difficult time. It still is," she said, her voice breaking.

Her attorney Pierce O'Donnell painted a picture of a loving relationship with Donald, showing exhibits of birthday and anniversary cards, and photos of vacations.

Shelly's portrayal of Stiviano's relationship with Donald was less flattering.

"I felt she abused him. She defrauded him. And I feel she is not entitled to these gifts. She's been very, very nasty to me and to my husband," Shelly said.

Donald Sterling was also damning.

"She has no money. We're talking about someone who's indigent, on relief," Donald Sterling said. "Her whole family is indigent, all thirty of them are on state aid."

During his opening statement in the morning, Shelly Sterling's attorney Pierce O'Donnell played recorded conversations that Stiviano had taped with Donald, to support the contention that Stiviano wanted to keep Shelly in the dark.

"She loves to tape Donald herself," O'Donnell said. "That's how we got to the last trial."

That trial ended with Donald Sterling losing control of the Clippers and receiving a lifetime ban from the NBA.

His fall from grace came after the public heard a taped conversation between Sterling and Stiviano in which he made racist statements.

O'Donnell said Stiviano "was in it for the money. And turned out it was a lot of money."

"She has more bank accounts than Zsa Zsa Gabor has ex-husbands," O'Donnell said.

After Shelly Sterling filed suit on March 7, 2014, Stiviano filed a counterclaim for $10 million in damages against Shelly, Donald and the Clippers, claiming they had slandered her on national television.

In that complaint, she claimed that she had never had a sexual relationship with Donald Sterling because he "is a homosexual and enjoyed sexual acts and/or sexual congress with males."

That complaint was dismissed.

Nehoray said during his opening argument that Donald and Shelly Sterling were husband and wife in name only.

"In this case there has not been any community property conveyed to anyone," Nehoray said. He said that Shelly had told TV host Barbara Walters in 2014 that she had been estranged from her husband for about a year and no longer loved him.

"As far as credibility goes, there's a lot to be desired," Nehoray said.

During her testimony, Shelly acknowledged that she had been estranged from her husband for about a year after their son's death.

When Nehoray asked Donald Sterling to react to Shelly's testimony, he replied: "It's inaccurate. It would be shocking to me."

The trial is expected to conclude this week.

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