LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The woman behind the downfall of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling painted two conflicting portraits of him in court on Friday, saying he was a kind, generous mentor and father figure to her but was mean-spirited to others.
V. Stiviano, 32, also testified that the 80-year-old billionaire real estate mogul spent far more time with her and members of her family during the two and a half years she spent as his personal assistant, driver and confidante than he did with his own wife and children.
“We were so interconnected on a level that was more spiritual. He became my everything and I became his all,” she said, describing their bond as “love at first sight,” though she repeated under oath that the relationship was never sexual.
Stiviano took the witness stand for a second day in Los Angeles Superior Court during the non-jury trial of a lawsuit brought by Sterling’s wife. The suit seeks the return of more than $3.6 million in community marital assets that Shelly Sterling claims her husband gave Stiviano without her consent.
Shelly Sterling, who accused Stiviano of fraud when she testified on Wednesday, has painted Stiviano as a gold digger who seduced her husband into lavishing her with money and gifts and is now out to hurt him.
Stiviano has not disputed Donald Sterling’s generosity, though she has quibbled with the sums at stake and has emphatically denied she used sex to manipulate him. She repeatedly testified that Sterling tried to manipulate her.
The apparent contradictions finally led Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O‘Donnell, to confront Stiviano with the question: “Who is the real Donald Sterling?”
“The real Donald Sterling is a con artist, a bigot ... he’s mean, he’s despicable,” Stiviano replied, before quickly adding that to her, he was “kind, loving, sweet ... a mentor, a father. ... He treated me as he treated no one else.”
It was Stiviano who recorded the now-infamous conversation with Donald Sterling in which he berated her for associating with black people and urged her not to bring minorities with her to Clippers basketball games.
In the furor sparked when the remarks were made public, the National Basketball Association banned Sterling from the league for life, and he was ultimately forced to sell the Clippers franchise he had owned for 33 years.
Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Lambert