Recordings that cost Donald Sterling ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers could cost the woman he was dating the fortune in gifts he lavished on her.
Snippets of the conversations recorded by V. Stiviano were played Wednesday as a lawyer for Sterling’s wife explained why the former girlfriend should return more than $3.6 million the billionaire gave her in gifts that included a duplex, Ferrari, jewelry and designer clothes.
Stiviano manipulated and deceived the 80-year-old to give away community property that belongs to Shelly Sterling, his wife of nearly 60 years, attorney Pierce O’Donnell said in Los Angeles Superior Court.“She defrauded him and I feel that she is not entitled to any of these gifts or whatever they call them,” Shelly Sterling later testified. “She’s been very, very nasty to me, and she’s been mean to my husband.”
The trial brought the Sterlings and Stiviano together in one courtroom about a year after the recording of Donald Sterling telling Stiviano not to publicly associate with blacks led to a bizarre series of events culminating with his lifetime ban from the NBA and the record $2 billion sale of the team.
Other conversations recorded on her cellphone show Stiviano conniving with Sterling to cover up the source of the money he gave her for the Spanish duplex near Beverly Hills.
“I don’t want anybody to take anything away from me,” she said in one recording.
Donald Sterling, at times confused and combative, denied having an affair with V. Stiviano, as his wife alleged, and described her as an “ex-friend,” who hadn’t contributed “50 cents” to the $1.8 million duplex now in her name.
Sterling, who made a fortune buying apartment buildings across Los Angeles, never explained why he purchased the house, though he made it clear he paid every penny because Stiviano was poor and her whole family was on welfare.
He said the house was supposed to be in the name of his family trust. Noting that Stiviano is part black and Hispanic, he said she illegally got her name inserted into escrow documents by befriending a Hispanic bank employee who added her name to a $1 million check.
Defense lawyer Mac Nehoray said Donald Sterling gave the gifts when he was separated from his wife and that no real community property was transferred to his client. Further, he said the law does not allow a spouse to seek that money from a third party.
O’Donnell’s characterization of the Sterling’s marriage as growing stronger in recent years “despite Donald’s past and notorious dalliances” was questioned by Nehoray, who said Stiviano had been Sterling’s caretaker and spent every day with him at one point.
Nehoray pointed out that Shelly Sterling told Barbara Walters in an interview that the couple was estranged and that she didn’t love her husband.
Shelly Sterling got choked up as she said the couple separated after a son died a few years ago. She had divorce papers drawn up after the recordings surfaced last year, but she never filed them and pledged her love to her husband.
Donald Sterling denied the couple ever was estranged and couldn’t believe his wife used that word.
“It’s inaccurate,” he said. “It would be shocking to me.”
Donald Sterling, a lawyer known for relishing a skirmish, sparred with Nehoray and frequently asked Judge Richard Fruin Jr. to intervene when he didn’t want to answer a question. Each time, Fruin, who will decide the case, told Sterling to answer.
Sterling did dodge a question when asked if he had added his wife as a defendant in his federal lawsuit against the NBA for forcing the sale of the team. He is also suing two doctors who said he had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis that allowed his wife to seize the family trust and sell the team.
Sterling did not look at Stiviano, who made faces at the witnesses throughout the day and jotted notes to her lawyer.
O’Donnell said Stiviano had called Sterling throughout the day and asked the judge to order her to stop.
Fruin refused to intervene.