Tahlequah Daily Press

Thunder/NBA

July 8, 2014

Sterling trial gets underway after delay

LOS ANGELES — A neurologist testified Monday that Donald Sterling likely has Alzheimer's disease as a trial over the $2 billion Los Angeles Clippers sale finally got underway.

Dr. Meril Sue Platzer testified that she was hired by Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, to evaluate him and made the diagnosis based on imaging tests and a two-hour interview at his home with his wife and an attorney present.

"After it was over," she said. "I told him and Mrs. Sterling that he probably has Alzheimer's."

"What was his reaction?" asked Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney for Sterling's wife.

"I'm hungry. I want to eat," Platzer said.

The NBA has moved to oust the 80-year-old Sterling as team owner because of racist remarks he made during a recorded conversation.

Platzer was the first witness to testify in a trial to determine whether Sterling's wife was authorized under a family trust to single-handedly make the deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Her lawyers actually called Donald Sterling to the stand first, but he wasn't in the courthouse and was ordered to appear when the nonjury trial resumes in Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier, a federal judge rejected a bid by Donald Sterling's lawyers to move the case to federal court.

Donald Sterling's attorneys argued that their client was induced to undergo mental examination under false pretenses and that his private, personal medical records were given to his wife's "hand-picked" doctors in violation of federal medical privacy laws.

Platzer testified that she wasn't told that her evaluation was in connection with the Clippers sale. The terms of the trust state that both parties waive their privacy rights for any incapacitation exam and its findings.

Shelly Sterling made a brief appearance in court Monday morning but left when the federal court motion temporarily delayed the trial.

Her lawyers claim Donald Sterling has been engaging in tactics to run out the clock on the Clippers sale.

Donald Sterling's probate lawyer, Gary Ruttenberg, hammered away at the need for a postponement.

"We've been railroaded as quickly as possible into a trial where we have very little discovery," he said. "We have not had adequate time to prepare."

O'Donnell replied that the issue had been disposed of earlier, and the judge denied his motion to delay the case. Ruttenberg threatened to object to every question asked by O'Donnell on the same grounds. The judge said he would note that Donald Sterling's lawyers object to every question.

Speaking in a packed courtroom, Ruttenberg said: "This case reads like a Hollywood soap opera. I've called it 'a tale of two Sterlings.'"

Platzer was to undergo cross-examination Tuesday when the trial resumes.

NBA owners are scheduled to vote on the sale to Ballmer on July 15. That's also the day his offer is set to expire — and there is no deal without the judge's approval of the sale.

If the sale isn't completed by Sept. 15, the league said it could seize the team and put it up for auction.

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