Friday, June 20, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge Thursday rejected an urgent request by Shelly Sterling's attorney asking that husband Donald Sterling and his lawyers be ordered to stop harassing her legal team and doctors in their dispute over the planned sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.
A petition filed by Shelly Sterling's attorneys quoted allegedly threatening remarks made by Donald Sterling in phone calls and a letter sent by his lawyer to two doctors who declared him mentally incapacitated.
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said the matter may involve "high emotions and some litigation posturing" and urged both parties to tone down their communications.
"The court does not feel that the statements set forth in the ... petition rise to the level of great and irreparable injury to a party as called for in the Code of Civil Procedure," Levanas said in a written decision.
Outside court Donald Sterling's attorney Bobby Samini said, "Clearly from the court's ruling it's apparent Mr. Sterling is not a danger to anybody."
A trial next month will look into assertions that Donald Sterling is mentally incapacitated and determine whether he was properly removed as an administrator under the terms of the family trust, which owns the Clippers, leaving Shelly Sterling alone as trustee with authority to sell the team. A $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is pending.
The physicians who determined he was mentally incapacitated in May examinations with Donald Sterling could be key witnesses in the trial.
A filing by Shelly Sterling's attorney stated that on June 9 Donald Sterling called Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, threatening lawsuits and said: "I am going to take you out, O'Donnell." O'Donnell understood that to be a death threat.
The document also alleged Donald Sterling called one of the physicians, Dr. Meril Platzer, told her she's "nothing but a fraud and a liar and a cheat" and menacingly warned, "I'm going to see that you lose your license."
He also is said to have threatened to sue Platzer and made similar threats in a profanity-laden message left for a second doctor, James E. Spar.
"I'm gonna get you fired from UCLA because you're nothing but a tramp. How dare you let someone use you that way?" Sterling tells Spar's voicemail. "You know, you rely on doctors. You think that they'll be above it all. But obviously you're not. You'll sell yourself for nothing. How dare you? How dare you give my records to a lawyer for the purposes of using it against me?"
The filing states that Sterling's lawyer Samini, followed up with a letter to each doctor accusing them of being a part of a conspiracy. The document called it a clear attempt to intimidate key witnesses in the case.
Samini said his office had been bombarded with calls from representatives of Shelly Sterling urging them to settle the case.
He contended that the call cited in O'Donnell's papers was made by O'Donnell to his office and he turned the phone over to Donald Sterling.
"They wanted to have a conversation," he said of Sterling and O'Donnell, but he listened from a distance.
"It was quite entertaining," Samini said. "I didn't hear any threats."
Samini said he wrote letters to the doctors because he felt Donald Sterling's medical records were disseminated to the media inappropriately. He also said he believed that the doctors had been hired to give specific evaluations of Donald Sterling, which were suggested to them by Shelly Sterling's team. Samini said he has engaged other doctors to examine Donald Sterling and "the results are different and there are more to come."
He said those would be released in court during the trial now scheduled for July 7.
The terms of the trust state that two licensed physicians can determine a trustee "incapacitated" and both parties must cooperate in any such examination. Both Sterlings signed the terms, which also waive doctor-patient privilege and privacy rights for any "incapacitation" finding.
Outside court, O'Donnell said about the statement by Donald Sterling, "I took that as a threat on my life and I still do." He said Sterling used numerous expletives.
"We think this is evidence of his lack of control, his impulsivity." He pointed out that the comments came the same day that Sterling went on a rant about the NBA, calling its board members "despicable monsters."
He also said the doctors threatened by the 80-year-old Donald Sterling were shaken and one of them, Platzer, said she had misgivings about whether she should have gotten involved in the case at all.
In her declaration she wrote that she believed Donald Sterling and his attorneys are "attempting to bully me into changing my opinion regarding Mr. Sterling's incapacity. I also do not want to be intimidated if I testify in this matter."
O'Donnell said he would ask for an injunction prohibiting Donald Sterling from intimidating witnesses.
"This is not normal behavior in civil litigation," O'Donnell said. "This shows how erratic and volatile he is."
Attached to the motion were letters from Samini to the doctors instructing them to not communicate further with anyone on Donald Sterling's medical condition or treatments without his prior consent.
"Your conduct has already constituted interference with prospective economic advantage as part of a conspiracy," a letter dated June 10 said.
Shelly Sterling's potentially record-breaking deal with Ballmer was struck after Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved to oust him as team owner, fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life.
Donald Sterling has filed suit against the NBA for $1 billion in federal court alleging that the league violated his constitutional rights, committed breach of contract and violated antitrust laws. Sterling has also hired four private investigation firms to dig up potential dirt on the NBA's former and current commissioner and its owners for the case.
AP writers Tami Abdollah and Christopher Weber contributed to this report.