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Fed Judge: Sterling's Rights Were Not Violated When His Medical Records Were Made Public

The federal court filing prompted a brief delay in a non-jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, which may now begin.

Donald Sterling. Patch file photo.
Donald Sterling. Patch file photo.

Originally posted at 3:22 p.m. July 7, 2014. Edited with new details.

By BILL HETHERMAN
City News Service

Donald Sterling willingly agreed to undergo neurological exams that found him to be incapacitated and that his wife is using to justify her right to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, her attorney told a judge today.

Lawyer Pierce O'Donnell, on behalf of Shelly Sterling, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas that his client complied with the terms of a family trust when she made the deal with Ballmer. He said no fraud occurred and Donald Sterling changed his mind after originally agreeing to the deal.

"He will pull out all the stops to prevent the sale from going forward," O'Donnell said.

However, Donald Sterling's attorney, Gary Ruttenberg, said Shelly Sterling's attorneys are improperly using confidential medical information, which he called "fruit of the poisonous tree" that should be excluded from court consideration. He also said the NBA is complicit in Shelly Sterling's actions.

"The NBA wants to get rid of my client," he said. "They were colluding with Mrs. Sterling and her counsel to do this."

The trial over whether Shelly Sterling has the right to sell the team under the terms of the Sterling Family Trust began only after a half-day of legal maneuvering that saw the case briefly detoured to federal court. Donald Sterling filed papers Thursday in U.S. District Court contending his federal privacy rights were violated by the disclosure of his medical records to his wife and the public.

The filing prompted a delay in the non-jury trial in Superior Court, where Levanas had to wait for a ruling on whether the case would be shifted to federal court.

By mid-afternoon, however, U.S. District Judge George Wu rejected Sterling's case, clearing the way for Levanas to begin hearing testimony. When court reconvened, Shelly Sterling's attorneys called Donald Sterling as their first witness -- but he was not in court, prompting another brief delay. Donald Sterling is scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon.

The trial's first witness, Dr. Meril Sue Platzer, testified she conducted two types of brain scans on Donald Sterling in May and then went to his home to perform cognitive testing. She said Shelly Sterling was present and that one of Donald Sterling's attorney was in another room.

Platzer said that after two hours of testing, she told Sterling he had Alzheimer's disease, and he replied by saying, "I'm hungry, I want to eat."

His wife, however, was surprised, Platzer testified.

"She was taken aback, shocked," Platzer said. "She felt bad for her husband."

Platzer said she recommended that Shelly Sterling get a second opinion of her diagnosis to see if the second doctor backed up her findings. According to Shelly Sterling's attorneys, the second neurologist concluded Donald Sterling suffered from dementia.

Attorneys on both sides agreed last week that the Superior Court proceedings will focus on whether Donald Sterling was induced into undergoing the mental examinations by two doctors without being told the reason.

But there will be no rebuttal testimony from Donald Sterling's attorneys challenging the findings that he was mentally incapacitated, which his wife maintains gave her authority to sell the team.

The trial also will deal with whether Sterling's June 9 revocation of the family trust had any impact on the proposed sale. Shelly Sterling's lawyers maintain the $2 billion offer from Ballmer was already accepted by her and that her husband's actions were meaningless.

Levanas had earlier denied a request by Donald Sterling's attorneys for a short delay in starting the trial. Lawyers for Shelly Sterling and Ballmer maintain that a ruling by Levanas is needed by next week so the NBA can consider the proposed sale, in hopes of having the deal finalized by September.

Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life earlier this year following the public release of recorded conversations between him and companion V. Stiviano. Sterling is heard on the tape disparaging Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and telling her not to bring them to Clippers games.

The league announced plans to take action against Sterling to force him to sell the team. But Sterling has since filed a lawsuit against the NBA, alleging violations of his civil rights. He has contended that he was recorded illegally while making emotional remarks during a "lovers' quarrel" with Stiviano.

mimi July 08, 2014 at 02:02 PM
This is the longest shaggy dog story known to western civilization.

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