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The latest twist in the struggle for ownership of the Clippers came Thursday when lawyers for Shelly Sterling asked a judge to order her husband, Donald, to stop attempting to intimidate opposing lawyers and the psychiatrists who ruled that he was mentally incompetent.
In requesting the order against Sterling, 80, lawyers for his wife filed copies of voicemail recordings of messages that Sterling purportedly left on June 9 for two psychiatrists, James Edward Spar and Meril S. Platzer. In the recordings, Sterling uses profanity to chastise the two doctors for finding that he was mentally incapacitated and for the fact that those findings became public.
Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, accused Donald Sterling of making the calls to intimidate the two doctors into not testifying that their findings show that Sterling has signs of early Alzheimer’s disease, or another brain ailment, and is not capable of conducting normal business affairs. O’Donnell also included in the court filing his own personal declaration about a phone call he allegedly received from Sterling on the same day in which Sterling purportedly menaced O’Donnell, saying ‘I am going to take you out, O’Donnell!’
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Attorneys for Donald Sterling said they had not had time to listen to the recordings, but they did not deny that Sterling had contacted the doctors. They said he was understandably in an emotional state because of actions by the NBA, his wife and others to sell the Clippers without his permission. While Sterling can have a “short fuse,” according to attorney Max Blecher, he never intended to intimidate the psychiatrists or anyone else.
O’Donnell said he listened to the call with Sterling via speakerphone in his office with two other lawyers in his firm listening in. The two psychiatrists preserved the voicemail messages from Sterling and they were presented on Thursday to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas, who is overseeing the probate case between the two Sterlings.
In that case, Shelly Sterling has asked the judge to confirm that she properly took control of the Sterling Family Trust and the Clippers because of her husband’s incapacity. She sold the Clippers on May 29 to former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, the highest price ever paid for an NBA team.
Sterling plans to present his own witnesses and argue that he is still competent, still half-owner of the Clippers and that the sale of the team to Ballmer should be erased. The hearing is scheduled to begin July 7.
Readers who would be upset by the use of profanity should not listen to the recordings.