By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Reporting on the sex scandal, which was then picked up by Defamer, Smoking Gun detailed how Sterling allegedly paid $500 a trick to apparent girlfriend Alexandra Castro, whom the billionaire was suing over a $1 million Beverly Hills home on South Rodeo Drive, which Castro said he gave her. Although the house’s title was in Castro’s name, Sterling insisted in court documents that the house was an investment, and that he wanted the title switched to his name. As the lawsuit dragged on, Castro’s lawyer deposed Sterling twice. In court documents, it appeared that Sterling did give the home as a gift. Sterling ultimately backed off, and the two sides settled without a trial.
A few months after that hubbub, Smoking Gun released several pages of graphic, salacious sworn testimony Sterling had given in an August 13 and 14, 2003, deposition as part of his suit against Castro. It was not the kind of news story any megarich pro-basketball owner wants floating across the Internet.
“Well, I fool around sometimes,” Sterling told Castro’s lawyer, Doug Bagby, according to the document published by Smoking Gun. A different lawyer who was tracking the case at the time tells the L.A. Weekly that Bagby deposed the real estate mogul for more than 12 hours in Beverly Hills. Today, the court file of that deposition, stored in a Santa Monica courthouse, has hundreds of pages missing. According to the document posted on the site, Sterling said that he and Castro had sex “on many occasions” at his Beverly Hills office — dubbed Sterling World Plaza by the billionaire — and that she was “providing sex for money.”
“It was delicious,” Sterling said, “and it was the best of the best. And maybe I morally did something wrong, but I didn’t.”
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
“Did you tell your wife that?” Bagby asked.
“I don’t know if I told my — I probably didn’t tell my wife that,” Sterling answered. “Would anybody tell their wife that?”
Instead of getting major play in mainstream newspapers, the story died a quick death in the blogosphere, where outraged sports fans bellyached about Sterling’s infamous, penny-pinching ways, while Sterling stuck to his rule of rarely talking to the press. He’d long had a reputation as the unloved owner of the Clippers, accused of everything from running the team into the ground to being too cheap to sign major talent through free agency or to hang on to stars like Lamar Odom and Andre Miller. He earned a 2000 cover story in Sports Illustrated for being a terrible owner, and became the butt of jokes by Jay Leno, then shocked critics by paying serious money to relocate his team to Staples Center. Just a few weeks ago, in a rare media interview, Sterling created a new brouhaha by blaming the Clippers’ more recent poor performances on coach Mike Dunleavy, who responded to his boss’s attack by publicly inviting Sterling to fire him. Google registers 114 references to Sterling as “notoriously cheap.”
But in 2005, Sterling was facing a different kind of bad news. In August of that year, he was again in trouble over more alleged tawdry behavior. This time he was facing a sexual-harassment trial arising from a suit filed by a woman named Sumner Davenport. She was hired in 2001 as a property supervisor for Sterling’s sweeping real estate holdings of nearly 100 apartment buildings and other properties in Southern California, including such swank locales as the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel and the Malibu Beach Club. In 2007, the Business Journal estimated his net worth at $1.4 billion, giving him the No. 31 slot in its annual list of the “50 Wealthiest Angelenos.”
During the nine-week trial, Davenport claimed the billionaire tried to kiss her and touch her breast, and he once appeared at the door of his Malibu home clad only in a towel. Sterling countercharged that Davenport was a disgruntled employee who was “vindictively hatching a scheme to discredit, harass and embarrass” him. A jury cleared Sterling of the charges in October of 2005.
A few weeks later, though, Sterling was in court again, and this time things went badly. As the result of a housing-discrimination lawsuit alleging that Sterling and his wife, Rochelle, tried to drive black and Latino tenants out of his Koreatown apartments in favor of Koreans, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer, in late 2005, ordered Sterling to pay nearly $5 million in legal fees.
It was a huge amount, covering only the lawyers on one side, and it hinted at the massive, undisclosed payout Sterling agreed to make to renters he had allegedly discriminated against. Even the judge described the amount as “one of the largest ever obtained in this type of case.”
No surprise that Sterling wanted it to all go away. The plaintiffs’ lawyers, largely led by Liam Garland of the Housing Rights Center, had accused Sterling of telling his staff at the Mark Wilshire Towers — including Dixie Martin, a white woman, and Ray Henson, a black man — that he preferred a Korean staff in order to attract Korean tenants. Court documents allege that he wanted to rent only to Koreans because he believed that “they pay their rent on time and don’t cause problems ... He also said that he did not like ‘Hispanics’ or ‘blacks’ as tenants, telling his surprised onlookers that ‘Hispanics smoke, drink, and just hang around the building.’ On at least one other occasion, he had told management staff that he believed that ‘black tenants smell and attract vermin.’ ”