Attorney resumes testimony in McCourt divorce case

Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, arrives at Los Angeles County Superior Court for day two of a non-jury divorce trial on August 31, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, arrives at Los Angeles County Superior Court for day two of a non-jury divorce trial on August 31, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

An attorney has testified in the divorce case of Jamie and Frank McCourt that he didn't tell the couple he made a change to a postnuptial agreement the day before they signed the document.

Larry Silverstein said Wednesday that he discovered a mistake that excluded the Los Angeles Dodgers, the stadium and the surrounding property from Frank McCourt's separate property. He said he made the correction to include the team as one of Frank McCourt's assets, but didn't tell the couple before they signed the pact in March 2004.

The agreement is at the center of the dispute between the McCourts and could decide who owns the Dodgers. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon must decide whether the pact is valid. He also could order the sale of the team.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Original story:

Divorce lawyers for Frank and Jamie McCourt are planning to go into mediation as soon as Friday over who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A person familiar with the case who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about settlement discussions told the Associated Press late Tuesday that the two sides would meet in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Friday.

The mediation talks were first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Jamie McCourt contends that she deserves a part of the team, while Frank McCourt argues that he is the team's sole owner. Earlier this week, she testified that she didn't read a postnuptial marital agreement which gave her estranged husband sole possession of the Dodgers.

An attorney who represented the couple and drafted the agreement said he replaced an addendum that excluded the Dodgers from Frank McCourt's separate property with wording that included the team and didn't notify Jamie McCourt about the switch.

Larry Silverstein, who is expected to resume his testimony Wednesday, said he made a "drafting error" when he prepared the agreement that didn't include the Dodgers, the stadium and the surrounding land, worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Frank McCourt's side of the ledger.

When Silverstein gave the documents to the McCourts to sign in March 2004, three had the team as Frank McCourt's separate property, and three others didn't. Jamie McCourt ended up signing all six; Frank McCourt signed three at the couple's Massachusetts home and the remaining three a couple of weeks later while he was in California.

The agreement is at the center of the dispute between the McCourts and could decide who owns the Dodgers. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon must decide whether the pact is valid. He also could order the sale of the team.

Silverstein said the original plan was to have three copies of the agreement, one each for Frank and Jamie McCourt and one for himself. However, he decided at the last minute before the couple signed them to produce three other copies out of an abundance of caution.

"I was simply trying to have a set of protective documents," he said.

Silverstein said he doesn't recall switching the versions Frank McCourt signed in California that excluded the Dodgers with wording that did include the team, but believes he did so shortly thereafter after he looked at company records.

It wasn't until a few months ago, after forensic analysts were hired by both sides to examine the six copies, that it was determined Silverstein made the changes.

Jamie McCourt's attorney David Boies asked Silverstein if he thought it was OK to switch a legal document after it had been signed and notarized.

"In certain circumstances, yes," Silverstein replied.

Boies asked his fellow litigator, who has practiced law for more than 30 years, if he ever recalled a situation where an attorney had removed part of a legal document and replaced it with something else without the written permission of both parties.

"Express permission or implicit permission, no," Silverstein added.

Silverstein said he didn't tell Jamie McCourt about replacing the addendum that gave her husband the Dodgers. On Monday, she testified she never read the agreement, nor did anyone tell her, namely Silverstein, that she would be giving up her purported ownership stake in the team.

However, another attorney who worked at the same firm as Silverstein said he was directed by Jamie McCourt to come up with the marital agreement during a meeting at Dodger Stadium shortly after the team was bought in February 2004 for about $430 million.

Reynolds Cafferata said in conversations he had with Jamie McCourt, she asked him questions about California's community property provision and told him it was a family practice to keep assets separate.

"She said 'We do things differently. I own the houses, Frank owns the businesses,'" said Cafferata, who added Jamie McCourt wanted a draft agreement created quickly. "She was interested in having this done immediately."

Gordon on Tuesday excused several witnesses from testifying at the trial, including Major League Baseball general counsel Thomas Ostertag. The trial could end early next week. Gordon then has 90 days to make a ruling.

Audio: KPCC's Susanne Whatley talked to ESPN Magazine reporter Molly Knight about the latest developments in the McCourt trial.

Text © 2010 The Associated Press.

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