LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling threatened the life of his wife's attorney and left threatening voice mails with two doctors who recently determined he was mentally unfit to serve as trustee of the family trust, Shelly Sterling's attorneys asserted in court documents filed Thursday.
Pierce O'Donnell, attorney for Shelly Sterling, told reporters Thursday that Donald Sterling threatened his life in a phone call on June 9.
"He raised his voice in a menacing manner and said, 'I'm gonna take you out, O'Donnell,'" O'Donnell said in a hallway at Los Angeles Superior Court. "I perceived it as a threat on my life."
In one of the voice mails left with one of the doctors that same day, Sterling called the doctor "nothing but a fraud and a liar and a cheat."
It was one of the latest audio recordings to get Sterling in trouble.
"And I'm gonna see that you lose your license and I'm suing you for conspiracy," Sterling said to the doctor, according to a transcript filed in court.
O'Donnell filed the documents Thursday in probate court in Los Angeles County, where a July 7 trial is scheduled to help determine the future of the Clippers. At issue is whether Shelly Sterling acted properly in removing her husband as a trustee for the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the team, with Shelly and Donald Sterling each serving as trustees.
If one of the trustees is determined to be mentally incapacitated to serve as trustee, the other becomes the sole trustee, according to provisions of the trust. After Donald Sterling agreed to be evaluated by the doctors last month, they determined he had symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease and said he was no longer fit to serve as trustee.
Shelly Sterling then used the diagnosis to sign an agreement to sell the Clippers without her husband's approval –for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. But her husband is fighting the sale and lashed out at the doctors with two voice mails left within three minutes of each other on June 9.
"I'm gonna have you lose your license," Sterling said a voice mail to doctor J. Edward Spar, according to a transcript filed in court. "How dare you give my medical records from my head to a law firm who hired you. They hired you for the purpose of finding me incompetent. I'm not incompetent. You're (expletive) incompetent you stupid (expletive) doctor."
Shelly Sterling's lawyers sought an injunction to prevent Donald Sterling from harassing or threatening any lawyers representing Shelly Sterling or potential witnesses in the trial.
But Judge Michael Levanas denied the request and asked both parties to calm down.
"It is probably no surprise to anyone that this case might involve high emotions and some litigation posturing," Levanas 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 trial."
ALLEGATIONS: Read the court filings
Despite losing in court Thursday, O'Donnell maintained that Sterling's calls amounted to harassment and intimidation.
"This is designed to intimidate and have you not go forward with your testimony on your findings," he said. "Anyone who is threatened with the loss of their livelihood would feel intimidated."
Asked what he thought Sterling meant by "take you out," O'Donnell said, "Kill me. I didn't think he was asking me to dinner."
O'Donnell also said in court documents that Donald Sterling told him he was going to file for divorce against his wife. He stated he was going to "sue everyone, including me personally," O'Donnell wrote in his court filing.
"He said he did not care about the money it cost or what the claim would be, but that he was going to spend whatever money he has to litigate just to make my life miserable," O'Donnell wrote.
Aaron Moss, representing O'Donnell and Shelly Sterling, said that "whether or not Donald in his mind meant it (a death threat), this just shows how erratic he is and how volatile he is and demonstrates why the doctors deemed him to be incapacitated. It's why we're here. It's why the judge needs to allow the sale to proceed."
Donald Sterling's attorney, Bobby Samini, said no threat to O'Donnell occurred. He said he was in the room with Sterling when the call was made and heard Sterling's side of the conversation.
"Donald explained that he thought the public dissemination of his mental health records was unethical," Samini said. "There was a little more exchange and that was it. It was a brief conversation.
"This allegation is most absurd thing I've ever heard. There were no threats."
Samini said that he sent letters to two doctors who examined Donald Sterling and wrote reports that subsequently led to Shelley Sterling's assertion that her husband is not mentally capable of properly handling financial affairs.
"There was no harassment," Samini said. "We did put the doctors on notice that we thought the distribution of his medical records violated his privacy rights."
O'Donnell countered that Donald Sterling waived his doctor-client privacy rights in the Sterling Family Trust.
"This is designed to intimidate and have you not go forward with your testimony on your findings," O'Donnell said. "Anyone who is threatened with the loss of their livelihood would feel intimidated."
Moss said that one of the doctors, Meril Platzer was "extremely shaken up" after a call from Sterling.
"To be honest, she has misgivings about whether she should have gotten involved in this, which is exactly what Donald intended," Moss said. "She has not said she is not going to testify."
Prior to their first meeting in probate court this month, one of Donald Sterling's attorneys, Maxwell Blecher, was asked by USA TODAY Sports what would happen if a judge rules in Donald's favor
"War," he said.
Indeed, if Donald Sterling prevails in the case, the sale of the team could hit a major snag, dragging out the drama indefinitely.
Ballmer's agreement to buy the Clippers says the sale requires one of two conditions to close, according to a copy dated May 29: Either Donald Sterling irrevocably consents to the sale in writing, or a court with jurisdiction over the trust issues a "final and non-appealable order confirming Shelly Sterling's authority to sell the team on her own."
The key word could be "non-appealable." If Donald Sterling loses this round in court, he could appeal and drag the case out. If it takes too long, the NBA could renew its effort to terminate his ownership.
"If, among other things, Mr. Sterling succeeds in delaying the trust's sale of the Clippers past Sept. 15, 2014, the NBA under the settlement agreement (with Shelly Sterling) may proceed to conduct a sale of the team on its own and/or renew termination proceedings against (the Clippers ownership)," NBA attorney Richard Buchanan said in a declaration filed last week.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver previously planned to force a sale of the Clippers with a three-quarters vote of team owners. But then Shelly Sterling decided to sell the team and her own and instead reached a settlement with the NBA to call off the forced sale by the league.
Silver announced on April 29 that Donald Sterling was banned for life after a different audio recording was leaked to the media with Sterling's voice on it. In this recording, he is heard telling his female companion, V. Stiviano, not to bring African-Americans to Clippers games.
The comments sparked outrage among players, fans, sponsors and Silver, who said he would move to force a sale of the team from Sterling, who bought the team for about $12 million in 1981.
GALLERY: Donald Sterling through the years