LOS ANGELES – After a day of listening to Jamie McCourt employ what can charitably be called a Ditz Defense – she claimed under oath that she signed a marital property agreement and other important documents without reading them because they were boring – Tuesday will bring an explanation of why three copies of the MPA establish Frank McCourt as sole owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers while three other copies indicate Jamie is a co-owner.
Hopefully, Larry Silverstein, the Harvard-educated lawyer who drafted the documents, won’t back into a pedestrian when he arrives at the courthouse, something Jamie McCourt’s driver did Monday at 8 a.m. A woman struck by McCourt’s Land Rover was taken to a hospital in an ambulance.
So goes the second phase of the divorce trial that will determine the future of an iconic baseball franchise, although not necessarily this year, or next, or the year after that. Appeals delay resolution, and in the interim GM Ned Colletti and new manager Don Mattingly will just have to make do.
Deceit, neglect, greed and out-and-out incompetence are on display, and far from the foul lines that encase the suddenly lousy team.
Jamie’s testimony consumed Monday’s docket at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. She began the day answering questions from her attorney, David Boies, the only thunderbolt coming when she testified that she and Frank planned to sell the Dodgers if “something did not turn out exactly right,” and they were unable to turn around the hemorrhage of cash under previous owner Fox in two to three years.
As it happened, the McCourts did make the team profitable, and a playoff contender as well, until this season. But behind the scenes, the couple was siphoning money to underwrite a lavish lifestyle while Jamie plotted to become president of the United States and paid scant attention to documents that would dramatically impact her personal fortune in case of a split.
Frank’s attorney, Steve Susman, cross-examined Jamie through the afternoon. He mentioned more than once that she is a lawyer, holds a master’s degree in business administration and held the positions of vice chairman and president of the Dodgers, making her the highest-ranking woman in baseball.
Susman: “Do you remember signing the MPA on March 31, 2004?”
Jamie: “I really don’t.”
And later, about a meeting with an attorney to discuss the MPA’s ramifications, she said: “I didn’t think about anything I was writing down. All I did was take notes.”
And … “I still don’t understand it. I didn’t bother reading it because it’s over my head. … It’s never been explained to me.”
And … “I really don’t understand exactly what it means. I’m sorry. I just don’t.”
Afterward, Susman summarized Jamie’s characterization that she was clueless when she signed the MPA that gave her husband sole ownership of the team thusly: “That was as fictional as Harry Potter.”
Frank was similarly evasive during his testimony more than two weeks ago, and neither of the McCourts impaled themselves with a lethal admission or misstatement. Chalk that up to their high-powered legal teams.
More to the point could be the testimony of Silverstein, the lawyer who drafted the MPA. At the time both McCourts signed the document, a key passage included the term “exclusive,” which meant Jamie was co-owner. Later, “exclusive” was changed to “inclusive,” which meant Frank was the sole owner. Neither McCourt was informed of the change.
Frank’s attorneys say Silverstein simply made a drafting error and corrected it. Jamie’s attorneys infer something more nefarious and will have the opportunity to ask Silverstein about it under oath. Legal experts have said either side could sue the firm that employs Silverstein, Bingham McCutchen, for malpractice. Former Bingham McCutchen lawyer Reynolds Cafferata might also be called to testify Tuesday.
It is unlikely Silverstein could lean on a Ditz Defense. In addition to the key discrepancy in the MPA, he also will be asked why his firm believed it appropriate to represent both sides in what eventually could become a dispute of marital assets. Jamie said she felt the family had employed enough attorneys. And besides, she’d tired of Frank YAM, an acronym she invented during note-taking shortly after they bought the Dodgers.
Susman: “What did YAM mean?”
Jamie: “That means Frank is yelling at me.”
Judge Scott M. Gordon will determine whether shrug trumps scream – and whether she gets half the team.