<
>

Sterling trial could get interesting Tuesday

7/8/2014

Most of the first day of the Shelly Sterling v. Donald Sterling trial in California probate court was spent in procedural delays as Donald Sterling's legal team made an unsuccessful bid to have the case moved to a federal court.

Except for a dramatic theatrical moment when Shelly Sterling's lead attorney Pierce O'Donnell called Donald Sterling as his first witness then turned around to scan the courtroom to demonstrate the disgraced Clippers owner was not present and suggest a bench warrant be issued for him, Monday was a rather boring day in court.

But when the trial continues Tuesday afternoon, things could start getting really interesting.

First up will be the cross-examination of Dr. Meril Platzer, whom Donald Sterling called "nothing but a fraud and a liar and a cheat" in an angry voice mail on June 9 and accused of going "to the Beverly Hills Hotel and drink liquor" after her examination of him on May 19. The cross-examination will be performed by Donald Sterling's lead attorney Bobby Samini, who was at that dinner at the famed Polo Lounge inside the Beverly Hills Hotel. Samini says he has a different version of events than Platzer testified to on the stand Monday, when she recounted having "half a glass of wine" and said Shelly Sterling had encouraged her estranged husband, Samini and a family friend named Lawrence not to join them at the table.

But the real intrigue will come when Donald Sterling takes the stand and is questioned by legendary Hollywood attorney Bert Fields.

The genial octogenarian is known as both a Shakespeare scholar and a ferocious interrogator in court. He has represented such clients as Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson and Jeffrey Katzenberg, which is evident from the decorations inside his wood-paneled office at Greenberg Glusker in Century City, where a signed "Godfather" book from former client Mario Puzo hangs opposite a portrait of George Washington.

Fields seems to be relishing the opportunity to question Sterling, who has something of a ferocious reputation in the courtroom himself.

"I think he is an intelligent man," Fields said of Sterling. "But I think he is somewhat impaired, and he doesn't have the control of his temper and his emotions. So he's a little different. Most of the people I've cross-examined are not like that."

Asked whether his goal was to break Sterling, as he has bragged about doing to so many other powerful people on the stand, Fields said, "They don't always break, but sometimes they give you things that you can use to win the case. It's not like they all break down and say, 'Stop, stop, stop!'

"That rarely happens, but you get the truth, and that is what you are after. And when the truth comes out, this man does not belong running a trust."

Samini promised the court that Sterling would appear Tuesday but laughed at the notion that he would be intimidated or concerned about Fields' line of questioning.

"I think Donald is not concerned that he's going to cry," Samini said outside of court Monday. "Although I promise you that it's going to be an interesting day. I can promise you one thing: If there's any crying in the courtroom, it's very unlikely it'll be coming from Donald."