March 28, 2015 / 12:12 AM / 4 years ago

Conflicting portraits of NBA ex-owner Donald Sterling emerge as trial ends

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The woman behind the downfall of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling painted conflicting portraits of him in court on Friday, calling him a kind, generous mentor and father figure to her but a mean-spirited “con artist” and bigot toward others.

Companion of ex-NBA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano (2nd R), walks out of the courthouse in Los Angeles, California March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

V. Stiviano, 32, also testified that the 80-year-old billionaire real estate mogul spent far more time with her and her relatives during her 2-1/2 years 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, though she denied again under oath that the relationship was ever sexual.

Stiviano took the witness stand for a second day in Los Angeles Superior Court during the trial of a lawsuit brought by Sterling’s wife seeking return of community marital assets she claims her husband gave Stiviano without her consent.

The non-jury trial concluded on Friday, and the judge was expected to render a verdict in the coming days.

Shelly Sterling’s lawyers asked the judge to grant her title to a $1.8 million house her husband had bought for Stiviano, plus more than $1 million in cash they said he lavished on Stiviano for living expenses, credit-card purchases and three luxury cars.

Stiviano has not disputed Donald Sterling’s generosity, though she quibbled over the sums and denied manipulating him. She repeatedly testified that Sterling instead tried to manipulate her.

The apparent contradictions finally led plaintiff’s attorney 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, 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 Clippers franchise he had owned for 33 years.

Shelly Sterling’s lawyers used other recordings Stiviano made of her private conversations with Donald Sterling to support their claims that he had bought her a house and had wanted to conceal it from his wife.

Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Lisa Lambert and Richard Chang

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