LOS ANGELES – Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling spent a second day on the witness stand railing against the NBA and challenging the attorneys who questioned him – including his own – then sent a shock through the courtroom when he lashed out at his estranged wife.
Shelly Sterling had just stepped down from the witness stand after the judge called for the end of Wednesday’s testimony and approached her husband of 58 years, apparently to give him a hug.
“Get away from me, you pig,” Donald Sterling blurted out in the sweltering courtroom, in which every one of the 102 seats was occupied.
Two sheriff’s deputies took stations in the courtroom’s center aisle, between Donald Sterling, sitting in the front row on one side, and Shelly Sterling, who returned to her seat on the other side, obviously upset. She later was escorted out of the courtroom in tears.
In the meantime, Judge Michael Levanas rejected a request from Shelly Sterling’s lawyers that Donald Sterling be removed from the courtroom. But he made it clear that he found Sterling’s comment “somewhat disturbing.”
It was the latest drama in the ongoing saga that has enveloped the Clippers since April, when a tape recording of Donald Sterling uttering racially charged comments was made public and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned him from the league for life and began proceedings to force him to sell the team. In the wake of that move, Shelly Sterling took over the family trust that controls the team after two doctors concluded her husband has dementia and negotiated a sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
“What a shameful display by a seriously demented tyrant,” Adam Streisand, who represents Ballmer, said outside the courthouse. “He proved today he absolutely has to go. The comments were hideous and reveal how truly demented he is.”
Sterling’s own attorney Bobby Samini struggled to put a positive spin on the outburst.
“Emotions were really high in the courtroom today,” Samini said. “Donald felt upset watching Shelly’s testimony, felt betrayed by it.
“Obviously not a happy time for him.”