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Shelly Sterling seeks protections for witnesses

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 12:32 p.m. CDT

LOS ANGELES — Shelly Sterling's attorneys asked a court Thursday to hold a hearing on allegations that Donald Sterling and his attorneys threatened her legal team and the doctors who assert that the Los Angeles Clippers' co-owner is mentally incapacitated.

There was no immediate word on whether the request, which is intended to win a protective order from a judge, would be granted.

The physicians could be key witnesses in a trial scheduled for next month to determine if Donald Sterling was properly removed as an administrator of a family trust that owns the Clippers, leaving Shelly Sterling alone as trustee with authority to sell the team. A $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer is pending.

The filing stated that on June 9 Donald Sterling called Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, threatened lawsuits and said: "I am going to take you out, O'Donnell." O'Donnell understood that to be a death threat.

The document also alleged Donald Sterling called one of the physicians, Dr. Meril Platzer, and menacingly warned, "I'm going to see that you lose your license." He also is said to have threatened to sue Platzer and made similar threats in a profanity-laden message left for a second doctor.

The filing also contended that Donald Sterling's lawyer, Bobby Samini, followed up with a letter to each doctor accusing them of being a part of a conspiracy. The document called it a clear attempt to intimidate key witnesses in the case.

Outside court, Samini said his office had been bombarded with calls from representatives of Shelly Sterling urging them to settle the case.

He contended that the call cited in O'Donnell's papers was made by O'Donnell to his office and he turned the phone over to Donald Sterling.

"They wanted to have a conversation," he said of Sterling and O'Donnell, but he listened from a distance.

"It was quite entertaining," Samini said. "I didn't hear any threats."

He said that the suggestion by O'Donnell that Donald Sterling could hurt anyone is "ludicrous."

"Mr. Sterling has no criminal past. He is a law-abiding citizen," he said.

Samini said he wrote letters to the doctors because he felt Donald Sterling's medical records were disseminated to the media inappropriately. He also said he believed that the doctors had been hired to give specific evaluations of Donald Sterling, which were suggested to them by Shelly Sterling's team. Samini said he has engaged other doctors to examine Donald Sterling and "the results are different and there are more to come."

He said those would be released in court during the trial now scheduled for July 7.

Shelly Sterling's attorneys say the terms of the trust require both sides waive doctor-patient privacy rights.

Outside court, O'Donnell said of the statement by Donald Sterling, "I took that as a threat on my life and I still do." He said Sterling used numerous expletives.

"We think this is evidence of his lack of control, his impulsivity." He pointed out that the comments came the same day that Sterling went on a rant about the NBA, calling its board members "despicable monsters."

He also said the doctors threatened by Donald Sterling were shaken and one of them, Platzer, said she had misgivings about whether she should have gotten involved in the case at all.

"This is not normal behavior in civil litigation," O'Donnell said. "This shows how erratic and volatile he is."

He said he would ask for an injunction prohibiting Donald Sterling from intimidating witnesses.

Attached to the motion were letters from Samini, to the doctors instructing them to have no further communication with anyone concerning Donald Sterling's medical condition or treatments without his prior consent.

"Your conduct has already constituted interference with prospective economic advantage as part of a conspiracy," one letter said.

The letter was dated June 10, the day after Donald Sterling's phone calls.

Shelly Sterling's potentially record-breaking deal with Ballmer was struck after Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved to oust him as team owner, fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life.

O'Donnell said doctors determined the 80-year-old Sterling was mentally "incapacitated" thereby making his wife the sole administrator of the family trust, according to its terms. But Donald Sterling is fighting that contention and Shelly Sterling's authority to sell. The deal would need to be approved by the NBA's owners.

Donald Sterling is also suing the NBA for $1 billion in federal court and alleges the league violated his constitutional rights, committed breach of contract and violated antitrust laws.

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