NEW: Judge says it's "no surprise" the case has "high emotions" and "posturing"
NEW: Judge asks parties "to tone down the pre-trial communications"
Donald Sterling tells wife's attorney: "I am going to take you out, O'Donnell!"
Sterling allegedly left intimidating voice-mail messages for two doctors
A Los Angeles judge on Thursday denied Shelly Sterling’s request to prevent estranged husband Donald Sterling and his legal team from contacting witnesses in the couple’s court battle over whether she controls the Los Angeles Clippers.
Shelly Sterling has a pending court case in which she is asking a judge to uphold her negotiated sale of the couple’s ownership of the NBA team despite her husband’s objections.
She and her attorneys accused her husband of making a death threat against one of her lawyers and leaving intimidating threats against two doctors who certified Donald Sterling as mentally incapacitated.
On Thursday morning, Shelly Sterling and her attorneys asked for a court protection order for those individuals and other witnesses, but later in the day, Judge Michael Levanas rejected the request, saying that her assertions don’t “rise to the level of great and irreparable injury.”
“It is probably no surprise to anyone that this case might involve high emotions and some litigation posturing,” the judge wrote. “The court respectfully asks all parties and counsel to tone down the pre-trial communications between parties, witnesses and counsel as this case will be decided on the relevant and admissible evidence provided at the time of the trial.”
Attorneys for Donald Sterling told CNN they opposed the motion for a protective order.
A probate court trial is scheduled for early July on whether Shelly Sterling can sell the basketball team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Shelly Sterling is asking the court to uphold her deal with Ballmer.
The NBA ordered the sale of the team after Donald Sterling’s recorded racist remarks to a companion were made public.
Accusations of threats
In court papers filed Thursday, Shelly Sterling accused her husband of threatening one of her attorneys by shouting over the phone, “I am going to take you out, O’Donnell!” according to documents filed Thursday in a Los Angeles probate court.
The attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said he took the remarks as a death threat.
Donald Sterling also allegedly left threatening voice mail messages for two physicians who certified him as mentally incapacitated, according to court papers. The two physicians are witnesses in next month’s probate court trial that was sought by Shelly Sterling.
When asked for a response, Donald Sterling’s attorney, Max Blecher, said “Mr. Sterling means no harm and he just has a short fuse.”
Shelly Sterling’s maneuver to seek a probate court trial comes as three physicians say Donald Sterling, 80, is mentally incapacitated, O’Donnell has said. Court papers say her husband shows early Alzheimer’s or other brain disease.
But Donald Sterling allegedly left “threatening voice mail messages last week” for two of the physicians, Dr. James Edward Spar and Dr. Meril S. Platzer, who earlier examined Sterling and deemed him incapacitated, according to Shelly Sterling’s legal documents filed in court.
Donald Sterling’s message to Platzer on June 9 stated, “I’m gonna see that you lose your license” and “I’m going to sue you for a large sum, I guarantee you,” according to court papers and an audio recording of the message provided by Shelly Sterling’s attorneys.
Donald Sterling left a profanity-laced message for Spar with threats to “have you lose your license” and “get you fired” and “have your insurance company call me,” according to documents.
Donald Sterling’s voice mail to Spar also stated, “I’ll show you what I think of you when I see you in court!” according to court papers.
“I’m not competent. You’re … incompetent you stupid … doctor,” Donald Sterling allegedly said, according to a recording provided by Shelly Sterling’s attorneys. “There’s an ethical issue here. … How dare you give my records to a lawyer for the purpose of using it against me?”
On the audio recording, Donald Sterling states his name and leaves his phone number.
But Donald Sterling waived all doctor-patient confidentiality and privacy in connection with his mental evaluation, Shelly Sterling’s attorneys said in court papers.
Another attorney for Donald Sterling, Bobby Samini, then sent a letter to each of the two physicians that accused them of being “part of a conspiracy” and threatening them with litigation seeking “damages for your illegal conduct,” according to documents filed by Shelly Sterling’s attorneys.
The documents said Samini demanded that the doctors stop communicating with anyone other than Donald Sterling about his medical condition.
An ‘upset’ Donald Sterling
When asked about Thursday’s legal filings, Samini told reporters that the public release of medical information is a distressing experience.
“He was upset his medical records were disseminated,” Samini said.
The two physicians who examined Donald Sterling didn’t have his permission to talk to third parties, Samini said.
Speaking about Donald Sterling’s overall reaction, Samini stated: “I was shocked by how tempered he maintained himself.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned the Clippers’ co-owner for life and fined him $2.5 million after the comments went public. Sterling responded by suing the NBA for $1 billion.
The real estate mogul bought the Los Angeles Clippers in 1981 for about $12 million.