Donald Sterling’s wife of about 60 years testified Wednesday that she sued a former confidante of her billionaire husband because of the way she and the former Clippers owner were treated after he lavished the woman with cash, cars and a home.
“I feel like she abused him, she defrauded him and I feel she is not entitled to any of these gifts,” Shelly Sterling said of V. Stiviano. “She was nasty to me and mean to my husband.”
Asked by her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, if she ever gave written permission for Stivano to receive the gifts, Shelly Sterling replied, “Never, ever, ever.”
Stiviano, who has used the names Vanessa Perez, Monica Gallegos and Maria Valdez, met Donald Sterling at the February 2010 Super Bowl and began a sexual relationship with him that year, according to his wife’s lawsuit.
But under questioning by Stiviano’s lawyer, Mac Nehoray, Shelly Sterling backtracked on the sex allegation. She said she remembered her husband telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper during an interview that Stiviano was like “an animal in bed.”
“That’s what I based it on,” she said.
Under further questioning by Nehoray, she acknowledged that the Cooper interview aired after she filed the lawsuit in March 2014. But she said she still believed her 80-year-old husband and Stiviano, 32, were intimate.
“Why would a man give all these gifts and money if he was not getting something in return?,” she asked.
Shelly Sterling said she and her husband had serious marital problems only twice since they wed in 1955. The first occurred in January 2013, when their son, Scott, died at age 32 of complications from diabetes, she said.
“It was a very difficult time,” she said. “We were having some problems.”
She said she also consulted a divorce attorney last year when the Sterlings disagreed about whether the Clippers should be sold. The dispute was played out in another courtroom in the same building with Shelly Sterling prevailing in her bid to be allowed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
“No matter what our problems were, I always took care of him,” she said. “I’m a natural-born caregiver.”
She said her husband gave her permission to sell the team before the case went to court and that he feared the alternative would be that the NBA would seize the team or disband it. She said the decision to have to sell the Clippers was a difficult one and she blamed much of it on Stiviano’s tapes of conversations with her husband in which he made racial remarks.
“She turned in some tapes that took him down, that took us both down,” Shelly Sterling said.
In his testimony, Donald Sterling said he loaned items to Stiviano, but never bought anything for her. Stiviano was “a woman with no job,” he said.
“She has no money, we’re talking about someone who is indigent, on relief,” Donald Sterling said. He said all 30 of the woman’s family members “are on state aid.”
Donald Sterling also said he and his wife were never estranged. Sterling, who has a law degree, often appeared frustrated and occasionally turned to Judge Richard Fruin to inquire whether he should answer some of the questions asked by Nehoray. Each time, the judge answered affirmatively.
Stiviano looked directly at Sterling, smiled and shook her head often as she listened to his answers. She also passed a few written notes to Nehoray during the questioning.
In his opening statement earlier today, O’Donnell said Stiviano received at least $3.67 million in cash and assets from the real estate mogul without the permission of his wife and that she should be forced to return that community property to the couple.
O’Donnell said the defendant took advantage of Donald Sterling’s age to get what she wanted.
“She used a tangled web of deception and lies to keep Shelly Sterling in the dark,” O’Donnell said. “Like Watergate, we must follow the money.”
But Stiviano’s lawyer said the law does not support Shelly Sterling’s arguments, and argued that O’Donnell’s portrayal of the couple as being part of a “loving family” was contradicted by Shelly Sterling’s statements to Barbara Walters that she and her husband once were separated.
Nehoray also said Shelly Sterling is a defendant in various lawsuits he has filed, including one against the NBA.
In interviews following the release of racially charged recordings — which earned Donald Sterling a lifetime ban from the NBA and led to the sale of the team he had owned for 33 years — Stiviano denied having a sexual relationship with him.
The entrepreneur, however, described his comments on the tapes as being the result of a heated exchange during a “lovers’ quarrel.”
O’Donnell played for Fruin — who is hearing some of the preliminary issues in the case without a jury — recordings Stiviano made of conversations with Sterling in which she expressed concerns that some of the items he gave her could be taken away.
“She is a publicity seeker and she loves to record Donald Sterling,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell also displayed on a screen an Instagram photo of Stiviano hugging Donald Sterling.
“There will be no dispute Donald Sterling is not a saint,” O’Donnell said. But Stiviano used her “wiles” to try to convince him to divorce the mother of his three children and marry her, O’Donnell said.
“The record will show she was in it for the money,” O’Donnell said.
— City News Service