Woman behind NBA ex-owner Donald Sterling's downfall denies they had romance

Thu Mar 26, 2015 9:28pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The woman whose recording of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks that cost him his NBA franchise testified in court on Thursday that she loved him but insisted again that they never had a romantic relationship.

V. Stiviano, 32, described herself instead as a onetime confidante, personal assistant and platonic companion of the 80-year-old billionaire real estate mogul, who she said chose to give her large sums of money and expensive gifts as gestures of his love and appreciation.

Stiviano was called to the witness stand in Los Angeles Superior Court on the second day of the non-jury trial of a lawsuit brought by Sterling's wife, Shelly, seeking the return of more than $3.6 million in joint marital assets she claims her husband was swindled into furnishing Stiviano without her permission.

A forensic accountant called as an expert witness by the plaintiffs testified that gifts from Donald Sterling to Stiviano included a $1.8 million duplex in Los Angeles, $1.2 million in cash payments and several luxury cars.

Stiviano's lawyer, Mac Nehoray, however, questioned the documentation of many of the cash deposits and credit card purchases the plaintiffs asserted that Donald Sterling made on her behalf.

The judge indicated at the end of Thursday's session that he found the money trail murky for all but about $700,000 of cash payments and credit-card purchases acknowledged by Stiviano. Testimony was expected to conclude on Friday.

Shelly Sterling, who accused Stiviano of fraud when she took the stand on Wednesday, said in her lawsuit that Stiviano was essentially a gold digger who seduced her husband into lavishing her with money and gifts.

Stiviano did not dispute Donald Sterling's generosity but denied she used sex to manipulate him.   Continued...

Companion of ex-NBA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano (R), walks out of the courthouse in Los Angeles, California March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson