LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The wife of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has won a court decision ordering repayment of $2.6 million in real estate and cash he furnished to his alleged mistress, V. Stiviano, the woman behind his racially charged downfall.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin ruled that Shelly Sterling was entitled to recover those assets from Stiviano because they came from marital community property that her 80-year-old husband gave away without her consent.
Part of the 12-page opinion, made public on Wednesday, turned on the judge’s finding that the Sterlings did not live “separate and apart” during time period in question, contrary to Stiviano’s testimony and despite Shelly Sterling’s own assertion in a 2014 televised interview that they had been estranged.
The judge also found that Donald Sterling himself sought to “disguise and, thus, to conceal his gifts to Stiviano.”
The ruling came nearly three weeks after a three-day non-jury trial of the lawsuit brought by Shelly Sterling seeking the return of $3.6 million in joint marital assets she claimed her husband was swindled into lavishing on Stiviano.
She painted Stiviano, 32, as a gold-digging paramour who seduced her husband into showering her with a $1.8 million duplex, more than $1 million in cash and credit-card purchases and several luxury cars.
Stiviano did not dispute Sterling’s generosity, though she quibbled over the sums and denied under oath ever having sex with him.
Instead she characterized herself as a one-time confidante, personal assistant and platonic companion of the billionaire real estate mogul, who she said gave her large sums of money and expensive gifts as gestures of his love and appreciation.
She characterized him in testimony as a kind, generous mentor and father figure to her, but a mean-spirited “con artist” and bigot toward others.
It was Stiviano, of mixed race herself, who recorded the now-infamous racist remarks by Donald Sterling that led the National Basketball Association last year to ban him from life and force the sale of the NBA team he had owned for 33 years.
Shelly Sterling’s lawyers used other recordings Stiviano made of conversations with Donald Sterling as evidence he had bought Stiviano a house and wanted to conceal the purchase. The house was included in assets Stiviano was ordered to return.
“The tapes were Donald’s undoing. Now they’re going to be V.’s undoing. The circle is complete,” plaintiff’s attorney Pierce O‘Donnell said after the trial last month.
Editing by Eric Walsh