Clippers sale trial: Judge rules for Donald Sterling's wife
A probate judge has dismissed all of Donald Sterling’s arguments in the trial over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, issuing a very unusual ruling that takes place immediately -- even if Donald Sterling's lawyers appeal the judge's decision.
The closing arguments and decision Monday followed days of testimony involving Shelly Sterling's removal of her husband from the family trust that owns the team after doctors found him to be mentally incapacitated.
Sterling's lawyer had argued that the removal was the result of a conspiracy between Shelly Sterling and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, but the judge said Monday that the court does not find any evidence of a "secret plan B" and that Shelly Sterling's testimony was "far more credible than Donald's."
Sterling's wife, Shelly, cried and embraced her lawyers after the verdict was announced. "Wow. ... It's over!" she said. Later, she added. "I haven't slept for two months. ... I'm going to sleep now."
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas made the ruling under California Probate Code 1310(b), which states that even if the other side appeals, it will not delay his ruling from allowing the sale of the team.
In front of the courthouse, Donald Sterling's lawyer Max Blecher told reporters of his client's plans to appeal.
"It goes without saying we're deeply disappointed," Blecher said. "We're comfortable if we get right to appeal [...] this decision will not stand."
Blecher said he intends to file a writ objecting to Levanas' decision to invoke code 1310, which he hopes to use to stop the sale. There's also a separate civil suit still pending that challenges Shelly Sterling's authority to sell the team.
The verdict caps a trial that verged at times on the bizarre, as husband and wife leveled accusations against one another and the fate of a professional basketball team hung in the balance.
Sterling sought to challenge his wife's $2 billion sale of the Clippers to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, arguing that she did not have the authority under the terms of a family trust to unilaterally sell the team.
A doctor hired by Shelly Sterling testified on the first day of trial that Donald Sterling had Alzheimer's disease and that he was incapable of making such decisions, a fact Sterling's lawyer disputed.
When Sterling finally took the stand, he denounced the league and his wife, shouting in the courtroom and vowing he would sue the NBA for the rest of his life. He called his wife a pig.
Interim Clippers CEO Richard Parsons later testified that coach Doc Rivers said he would quit if Sterling remained in control of the team.
The proposed sale of the team came after the NBA moved to oust Sterling because of racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. The league banned him for life, though Sterling has said from the witness stand that he is not a racist.
This story has been updated