By Steve Gorman and Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The audio recording of racist comments that got Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling banned from the NBA was made with his consent by the woman he criticizes on the tape for "associating with black people," her lawyer said on Thursday.
Los Angeles-based attorney Mac Nehoray also insisted that his client, who goes by the name of V. Stiviano, did not wish Sterling any ill will and had nothing to do with furnishing the recording to websites that released the audio over the weekend, igniting the racially charged scandal.
Instead, a copy of the tape was leaked by an unspecified friend to whom Stiviano had given the recording for "safekeeping" but who apparently "went rogue" for monetary gain, Nehoray told Reuters.
Nevertheless, Stiviano, seemed to be hinting weeks before the scandal broke that a big secret was about to be revealed, posting messages on the social networking site Instagram about "Skeletons in Closet" and "It's all coming out!"
Stiviano, 31, while not widely known to the public at large before this week's controversy, was a familiar fixture at Clippers games and charity events with the 80-year-old Sterling, and the two have frequently been photographed together.
Nehoray denied media reports linking the two romantically, however, saying, "there was no sexual relationship."
He said Stiviano was merely a friend of Sterling's who served as an informal "archivist" for him personally and was "in charge" of his philanthropic foundations.
SADDENED BUT SKATING
News of the National Basketball Association's lifetime ban against Sterling left Stiviano "very saddened," he said, despite the fact that local TV news cameras caught her casually roller skating outside her home that day, wearing shorts, a "Twinkie the Kid" T-shirt and large visor over her face.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in announcing the ban on Tuesday that Sterling had admitted to the NBA that the recording of his comments was authentic but did not apologize for them. Neither Sterling nor his lawyers have commented to the media since Tuesday.
Nehoray said the recording was made by Stiviano in September 2013 at her home with Sterling's knowledge and permission, and with a third person he did not name present in the room.
The lawyer declined to explain why Sterling gave his consent for the conversation to be taped but said the reason would likely be revealed in future litigation.
Stiviano was named as the defendant in a lawsuit brought in March by Sterling's wife, Rochelle, seeking to recoup marital community assets she claimed her husband gave to Stiviano without his spouse's consent.
Those gifts included $240,000 in living expenses, $1.8 million to buy an upscale duplex home in Los Angeles and several luxury cars, including a Ferrari and two Bentleys, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Rochelle Sterling further claimed in her lawsuit that Stiviano was essentially a gold-digger, who seduced older wealthy men into lavishing her with money and expensive gifts.
Nehoray did not dispute that Sterling's generosity toward his client, but called the characterization of her as a seductress "totally absurd," adding, "she didn't ask for those gifts, he gave them to her."
"This is an action brought by a very angry wife whose husband is a highly public figure and who is well known to be 'keeping women' other than his wife and who has done so far very many years," he wrote in a court filing last month in reply to the lawsuit.
Nehoray said he did not believe Stiviano and Sterling had spoken since Tuesday, and he did not know the last time the two had communicated.
The Texas-born Stiviano, who is herself of African-American and Hispanic heritage, moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and changed her name some years ago from Vanessa Maria Perez, Nehoray said.
In addition to having done some modeling, she also worked for two years in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office helping to provide crime victims with procedural information, he said.
On Thursday, she politely declined to speak with a reporter who paid a visit to her Spanish-style two-story duplex, where a red Ferrari and a Bentley were parked in the driveway, saying through the door, "I'm not making any statements today."
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Michael Perry)
- Society & Culture
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Donald Sterling
- Los Angeles