Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had no right to spend millions of dollars to give luxury cars, a duplex and other gifts to his alleged mistress, V. Stiviano, an attorney for Sterling's wife told a Los Angeles County judge Wednesday.
The lawyer's assertion came during opening statements of a trial in which Shelly Sterling is attempting to recoup more than $3 million in gifts that she alleges Stiviano seduced Donald Sterling into giving her.
Stiviano was at the center of last year's controversy that led to Donald Sterling being stripped of his ownership of the NBA team after she recorded him making racially charged remarks.
Attorney Pierce O’Donnell, who represents Shelly Sterling, told Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin Jr. that Donald Sterling used community property — assets he legally shares with his wife — to pay for gifts to Stiviano, including a Ferrari, two Bentleys, a Range Rover, a duplex near Beverly Hills and a Paris shopping spree.
“He’s an older, vulnerable man, susceptible to the wiles of a younger woman, like the defendant,” O'Donnell told the judge.
Stiviano, seated with her attorney in the downtown L.A. courtroom, glared and shook her head.
O’Donnell told Fruin, who will decide the case, that the Sterlings have been married continuously since 1955 and that Donald Sterling had no right to give away their shared property. Shelly Sterling never signed off on the gifts, as would be required for such expenditures, O’Donnell said.
Attorney Mac Nehoray, who represents Stiviano, countered that the gifts were made during a period when the Sterlings were separated, and that no community property was given away. He argued that Shelly Sterling would not be able to prove that her husband was the source of the gifts.
O’Donnell told the judge that Stiviano’s numerous bank accounts were “engorged” with money even though Stiviano has not held a job since 2010.
That money was given to her by Donald Sterling during their affair, O’Donnell said. “No job, no income. But millions of dollars flow in and out of her bank accounts and she lived a lavish lifestyle,” O'Donnell said. “She has more bank accounts than Zsa Zsa Gabor has ex-husbands.”
Nehoray told the judge that Shelly Sterling couldn't prove where Stiviano's money came from.
“They cannot show what money Mr. Sterling gave Ms. Stiviano,” he said. “They want to show that [if] Stiviano has this money but cannot explain it — then it must be [from] Sterling.”
Shelly Sterling testified that she was not aware of and never gave consent to any of the gifts her husband gave Stiviano, and that she believes Stiviano abused and defrauded her husband.
“She was not entitled to any of these gifts or whatever you call them,” she said. “She has also been very, very, nasty both to me and very mean to my husband.”
Shelly Sterling denied that she and her husband had ever separated. She admitted that she had no proof of a sexual relationship between her husband and Stiviano, as she alleges in the lawsuit, but said that she assumed there was one based on the fancy cars Stiviano drove.
“Why would a man give all these gifts and money if he’s not getting something in return?” she said.
Donald Sterling, wearing a black sweater with a hood, sometimes appeared confused while on the stand and often could not hear the questions from his wife’s attorney. He denied that he and Stiviano had a sexual relationship and described her as an “ex friend.” He recalled paying for the house but said he could not remember some of the other gifts.
At times, Sterling was combative — shouting answers, laughing at questions and mocking Stiviano’s attorney.
In one instance, Nehoray questioned Sterling about the Ferrari he purchased. Sterling said he bought the car so Stiviano could drive him in it. The attorney asked why Sterling did not buy it for his wife so she could drive him.
“Why don’t you buy it for your wife to have you driven around?” Sterling shouted back, to laughs from the audience.
“If I had your money I would, sir,” the attorney said.
“Now you’re counting my money?” Sterling shot back.
Jay Shapiro, a forensic accountant called to testify by Shelly Sterling’s attorneys, testified that he reviewed and analyzed documents that show that Sterling spent $3.6 million on gifts and money to Stiviano.
Shelly Sterling is seeking a complete accounting of the gifts and for the court to order Stiviano to return the money and property.
The trial is expected to continue until Friday. Stiviano is expected to testify Thursday.
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