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Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt testifies safety was 'top priority'

Frank McCourtLos Angeles DodgersJustice SystemTrials and ArbitrationSan Francisco GiantsBankruptcyDodger Stadium
Ex-Dodger owner Frank McCourt says fan safety 'top priority'
Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt says he didn't cut budget on safety
Frank McCourt says outside court that he places blame for Bryan Stow's condition on the men who beat him

Summoned to the witness stand Friday morning in a lawsuit brought by a San Francisco Giants fan brutally beaten at Dodger Stadium, former team owner Frank H. McCourt testified that fan safety was “the top priority” in his organization.

But, he told jurors hearing evidence in a civil suit brought by the injured man and his family, he had little personal involvement in security operations at Chavez Ravine.

“I trusted the people I empowered to do the job,” McCourt said in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

During more than an hour of testimony, McCourt adamantly denied suggestions in the suit that he had fueled a lavish lifestyle by slashing security costs.

“Did you ever cut spending for security at Dodger Stadium?” asked Dana Fox, a lawyer for the Dodgers.

“No, sir,” McCourt replied.

McCourt’s eight-year ownership of the team ended in 2012 when he sold the team for $2.15 billion amid  bankruptcy proceedings and a contentious divorce from his wife, Jamie.

On opening day the previous year, two inebriated Dodgers fans attacked a group of Giants fans in a parking lot, leaving Bryan Stow, a paramedic from Santa Cruz, with severe brain injuries.

Stow and his family are seeking at least $50 million in damages from the Dodgers and McCourt. Stow, now 45, has trouble speaking, walking and thinking and requires around-the-clock care. Stow’s attorneys have said that insurers would foot the bill for any jury award.

Judge Victor Chavez barred the plaintiffs from questioning McCourt about details of his finances, which emerged in bankruptcy and divorce proceedings. Attorney David Lira did ask McCourt to confirm that Jamie McCourt had been paid close to $2 million a year by the Dodgers.

“Her salary matched what the Dodgers spent on security for the year,” Lira asked.

A lawyer for the Dodgers objected and the judge told McCourt not to answer. Outside court, Lira said that McCourt’s insistence that he had not cut the security budget had little affect on their claim that the team is partially responsible for the beating.

Stadium employees have testified that there was insufficient security in the stadium and parking lots for the rowdy crowd.

“Our case is more about gaps and deployment in security not about the amount spent,” Lira said.

In a brief news conference outside the courthouse, McCourt, who now lives in New York, said that he “appreciated the opportunity” to testify and placed the blame for Stow’s condition on the two men convicted in the attack, Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez.

“Like all Dodger fans, I was appalled by the criminal behavior of Sanchez and Norwood,” McCourt said. “Make no mistake they are the parties responsible for this incident.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Frank McCourtLos Angeles DodgersJustice SystemTrials and ArbitrationSan Francisco GiantsBankruptcyDodger Stadium
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