Crime & Justice

Donald Sterling: Woman to testify about gifts from former Clippers owner

In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. A civil trial has put the Sterling, his estranged wife and Stiviano in the same room about a year after the recording of Donald Sterling telling Stiviano not to publicly associate with blacks culminated with his lifetime ban from the NBA and the record $2 billion sale of the team.
In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. A civil trial has put the Sterling, his estranged wife and Stiviano in the same room about a year after the recording of Donald Sterling telling Stiviano not to publicly associate with blacks culminated with his lifetime ban from the NBA and the record $2 billion sale of the team.
Danny Moloshok/AP

Before a woman's recordings of Donald Sterling ousted him as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, she boasted she would be the next Mrs. Sterling.

V. Stiviano would pick up envelopes of cash in an alley behind the billionaire's real estate company and told employees at the firm she would one day be their boss.

Those predictions seemed like a fantasy Wednesday as Sterling's estranged wife went after the $3.6 million that she said the younger woman swindled from community property the couple amassed over 60 years of marriage.

"She defrauded him, and I feel that she is not entitled to any of these gifts or whatever they call them," Shelly Sterling testified. "She's been very, very nasty to me, and she's been mean to my husband."

Stiviano, 32, will testify Thursday in the civil trial in Los Angeles Superior Court about why she should keep gifts including a duplex, Ferrari, jewelry and designer clothes.

The trial put the Sterlings and Stiviano in the same room about a year after the recording of Donald Sterling telling Stiviano not to publicly associate with blacks culminated with his lifetime ban from the NBA and the record $2 billion sale of the team.

Whether Stiviano was ever a girlfriend to the billionaire, as his wife contends, she was downgraded to "ex-friend" when Donald Sterling took the stand.

The 80-year-old, who has been diagnosed with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, was at times forgetful and testy. He said Stiviano had not contributed "50 cents" to the $1.8 million duplex now in her name.

Sterling, a lawyer and shrewd businessman who made a fortune buying apartment buildings across Los Angeles, never explained why he purchased the house but made it clear he paid every penny because he said Stiviano was poor and her family was on welfare.

He said the house was supposed to be in the name of his family trust. Noting that Stiviano is part black and Hispanic, he said she illegally got her name inserted into escrow documents by befriending a Hispanic bank employee who added her name to a $1 million check.

Stiviano's lawyer, Mac Nehoray, said Donald Sterling gave the gifts when he was separated from his wife and that no real community property was transferred to his client. Further, he said the law does not allow a spouse to seek that money from a third party.

Sterling said he only intended to loan a Ferrari and a Bentley to Stiviano, but he put them under her name so he wouldn't be liable if she killed somebody, saying she was once charged with drunken driving.

The chief financial officer of Sterling's real estate company testified that it appeared his boss was cutting checks intended for Stiviano that made them hard to trace.

"I believe he was doing it to lose the bloodhounds through the creek," Darren Schield testified.

Schield, who notified Shelly Sterling of the questionable checks, said he witnessed Stiviano getting envelopes of cash or cashier's checks from employees at Beverly Hills Properties and she once told the accounting department they would one day work for her.

"I thought it was pure lunacy," he said.

The Sterlings, who were at odds in the same courthouse when Shelly won the right to sell the team last year over her husband's objections, presented a mostly unified front.

While Donald Sterling denied the couple was ever estranged, his wife said they separated after the death of a son. She also said she had divorce papers drafted last year but never filed them.

She said their relationship was strong. One close family friend, Betsy Superfon, said she vacations with the two and often feels like a third wheel as they walk hand-in-hand.

She described meeting Stiviano in restroom once at a Clippers game where the "friendly girl" complimented on her coat and purse. When she returned the favor, Stiviano gushed that Donald Sterling had bought her things and she planned to marry him.

"I said, 'But he's married to my girlfriend," Superfon said.

"No worries, honey," Stiviano replied. "I'm going to be the next Mrs. Sterling."