The racist comments purportedly made by Donald Sterling in the audio recording that surfaced Saturday via TMZ.com are the latest in a years-long string of racially charged incidents linked to the real estate mogul.
In 2009, Sterling agreed to a $2.765-million settlement in a case that alleged discrimination against African Americans, Latinos and others at apartment buildings he owned in Los Angeles County.
Sterling denied the charges by the Justice Department and in two separate lawsuits by former tenants. All three cases were covered by the settlement. The former tenants alleged property managers used racial slurs against them and didn’t follow through on the terms of their lease agreements. Sterling, though, didn’t admit any liability in the settlement.
Another federal lawsuit filed in 2003 by the Housing Rights Center and 19 tenants accused Sterling of once stating his preference not to rent to Latinos because “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building.” The lawsuit also accused him of saying “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
The allegations included Sterling’s properties not renting to non-Koreans in Koreatown or African Americans in Beverly Hills.
According to the lawsuit, Sterling believed Korean-American tenants “will live in whatever conditions he gives them and still pay the rent without complaint.”
In addition to that case’s confidential settlement, Sterling paid almost $5 million in attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs. In a November 2005 document ordering the payment, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer excoriated the legal tactics of Sterling’s defense team. The judge described them as “scorched earth” and “often unacceptable, and sometimes outrageous.”