Donald Sterling Trial: Tracking Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

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Updates from Monday, July 28

After today's ruling, Ramona Shelburne reported on what's next for Donald Sterling and his legal team: 

Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles reports on the judge's ruling on the pending sale of the Clippers:

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated broke down what the judge's ruling means for the franchise and the league:

Markazi also passed along when the sale of the Clippers should be completed:

Earlier, Markazi passed along some of the notable developments regarding Sterling and his wife Shelly

Updates from Tuesday, July 22

In addition to the current legal proceedings, Donald Sterling has filed another lawsuit according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles:

Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles reports on Clippers CEO Dick Parsons' testimony in court today regarding how Doc Rivers would feel about coaching the team if Sterling remained the owner: 

Updates from Wednesday, July 9

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times has more tidbits from Sterling's testimony on Wednesday:

Updates from Tuesday, July 8

Arash Markazi of ESPN has the latest from Donald Sterling's trial:

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne has more on Sterling:

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times describes Sterling's demeanor on the stand: 

Markazi provides more dialogue from the Sterling-Fields exchange:

Dan Woike of the Orange County Register has more on Sterling's dialogue:

Updates from Monday, July 7

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported on the latest in the Donald Sterling trial:

Sterling's mental health was also addressed, according to Kim Baldonado of NBC4 in LA:

Original Text

The trial that could finally be the end to the messy divorce between the NBA and banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling begins Monday. 

Sterling is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles County court, where he and his team of lawyers are preparing to challenge his estranged wife's right to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Shelly Sterling, working alongside the NBA, negotiated a league-record $2 billion payout for the franchise after doctors deemed Donald mentally incapacitated.

Donald's incapacitation is at the heart of the case, as it gave Shelly the legal right to act on behalf of the family trust. According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, doctors claim Donald suffers from "mild cognitive impairment consistent with early Alzheimer's Disease" and cannot adequately manage his trust. 

Donald Sterling's attorneys' plan is to challenge that notion in court, highlighting the pretenses under which their client was examined, among other claimed discrepancies. There have been multiple attempts at a delay in the case from Donald Sterling's team, including a request to move the trial to federal court due to violations of medical privacy, per Vincent Bonsignore of the (Los Angeles) Daily News (via San Jose Mercury News).

"While it has become popular to attack Donald Sterling for his regrettable comments, his right to privacy and to the protection of his medical records should not be acceptable collateral damage," attorney Bobby Samini said in statement.

Pierce O'Donnell, who is representing Shelly Sterling, called the delay request "a desperate act by a desperate man" and said he expects the trial to begin on time. 

TMZ's staff also provided a pre-trial statement from Shelly's attorney, Bert Fields, discussing Donald:

I even understand he left town... That's the kind of guy he is. He's willing to do anything rather than face the music.

But he's ultimately gonna have to face it ... as Joe Louis once said, 'He can run but he can't hide.'

The timing in this case is critical. The NBA is scheduled to vote to approve the Clippers' sale to Ballmer at its board of governors meeting on July 15. A delay in the trial could push the it beyond that date, bleeding uncertainty into an already tense situation. As noted by Shelburne, if the NBA does not approve Ballmer's purchase by Sept. 15, he can pull out of the deal without incident and leave the league stuck in the same place it was in early May.

Working with the NBA, Shelly Sterling cultivated a fever-pitch bidding process that led to one of the biggest sales in professional sports history. Ballmer, who had previously made bids on the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings in an effort to move a team to Seattle, agreed to a $2 billion price roughly one month after NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling for life.

Donald Sterling, who has owned the Clippers since 1981, was banished after TMZ leaked recordings of the 80-year-old real estate developer making racist remarks to his then-girlfriend/assistant V. Stiviano. Among other things, Donald disparaged Stiviano for associating with African Americans at Clippers games, specifically former Lakers star Magic Johnson.

"You can sleep with [black people]," Sterling said on tape. "You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that...and not to bring them to my games."

Sterling has since apologized, notably in a tearful appearance on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360

Nevertheless, the leaks created one of the most intense controversies in league history, as Silver tried to successfully navigate the legal requirements while dealing with unprecedented outside pressure. After consulting the league's bylaws, Silver banned Sterling just days after the recording leaked and began a termination-of-ownership process.

Should Ballmer pull out in September or Donald Sterling successfully challenge the sale in court, the NBA would then restart the disfranchising process. The league was scheduled to meet and vote on a formal removal of Donald Sterling on June 3, but the sale took that off the docket.

Three-fourths of NBA owners are required to approve a termination of ownership, according to the league constitution. Silver has been resolute in saying that he has the votes to oust Donald Sterling, but that the "preferred outcome" is a voluntary sale.

That may still take place. A court ruling in Shelly's favor would expedite the process, and Ballmer could be in power later this month. The probate trial is expected to take four days, per Bonsignore, leaving just enough time for a ruling before next Tuesday's meeting of NBA owners. Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated noted the process by which Judge Michael Levanas could rule in Shelly's favor:

During the hearing, Levanas will closely scrutinize the language of the Sterling trust and its procedures.  He will assess whether the trust has been correctly interpreted and applied in good faith by both Sterlings. If Levanas identifies no procedural errors in the evaluations of Platzer and Spar, and finds no misconduct by Shelly Sterling, he would be inclined to hold for Mrs. Sterling. 

Donald Sterling's only other possible recourse would be an appeal, though timing will again play a big factor considering the constricted window.

After an already drawn-out process, most parties involved are looking forward to a quick resolution that allows the league and Clippers franchise to move on from this ugly window. Whether that's an option—or whether we're headed to more months of controversy and in-court proceedings—will be decided in a Los Angeles probate court this week.

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.


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