By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling lashed out at his estranged wife following her court testimony on Wednesday in a trial over the $2 billion sale of the NBA team.
Sterling, 80, who is fighting to scuttle the deal his wife Shelly Sterling negotiated with former Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, lashed out at his wife when she approached him after her testimony.
“Get away from me, you pig!” Sterling growled, startling his wife who had said she moved to gain control of the family trust that owns the Clippers out of concern for his mental health.
“Shelly, how could you lie?” the real estate billionaire added before apologizing to Judge Michael Levanas for disturbing court.
Shelly Sterling, 79, last month asked Los Angeles Superior Court to confirm her as having sole authority to sell the professional basketball franchise after her husband vowed to block the NBA-record sale.
Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA in April for private racist remarks that were taped and published
Shelly Sterling testified at the probate trial that she had her husband mentally evaluated after he gave a rambling television interview in May shortly after the ban.
“I couldn’t believe it and I started crying,” Shelly Sterling told the court. “I felt so bad. I couldn’t believe that was him.”
Shelly Sterling had her husband evaluated by two physicians who determined that he has early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and was unable to conduct his own business affairs, handing her control of the trust and the Clippers.
“It was just totally out of context and reality,” Shelly Sterling added while being questioned by her lawyer. “I thought for his health and my own health that he ought to be tested.”
Levanas will decide whether Shelly Sterling acted in accordance with the family trust, and if Donald Sterling’s move to revoke the trust after the deal with Ballmer would invalidate the sale.
Donald Sterling’s attorneys say he was misled by his wife into submitting to medical examinations.
In his second day of testimony, Sterling, who was often combative with his own lawyer questioning him, said that his wife moved to assert authority of the trust because she was afraid that the league would seize the team.
“My wife is terrified, frightened to death. She can’t sleep because she’s afraid the NBA will take everything away,” Sterling said. “Her motivation was that she scared out of her mind. She cried every night.”
The sale to Ballmer has been tentatively approved by the league but must be voted on by other team owners. The trial, however, will not conclude before the deal’s July 15 deadline.
Ballmer can walk away from the agreement at that date or extend it for another 30 days.
His attorney, Adam Streisand, said outside court that he was confident the sale would be completed.
The NBA has said it could seize the Clippers and put the franchise up for auction if the deal is not approved by Sept. 15.
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)