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June 16, 2008 7:45 PM

First day winners and losers

Posted by Percy Allen

Sonics attorney Brad Keller scored a lot of points during his opening statement and against Mayor Greg Nickels, who often stammered and stuttered while answering.

Keller is a wordsmith and the Mayor is not, which put Nickels on the defensive early into Keller's cross examination.

The Mayor was not forthcoming with simple admissions. Several times, he declined to concede small points to Keller and when Keller showed evidence to support his claim, then Nickels looked silly.

During one exchange, Nickels refused to acknowledge that KeyArena was antiquated until Keller showed him a 2006 city task force report in which Nickels said the refurbished building was outdated and in need of renovations.

Keller produced some of the day's best lines in opening statements.

He said that while Clay Bennett's Professional Basketball Club was in Olympia lobbying for a new venue in Renton, the city of Seattle was thwarting that effort. "The landlord response was, 'You either play in my sandbox or drown in red ink.' "

Keller said former Sonics president Wally Walker, Slade Gorton and Microsoft mogul Steve Ballmer conspired in a "bleed them until they sell" strategy against Bennett. The Sonics lawyer then painted a picture in which it appeared as if the city was in on the strategy while questioning Nickels.

The K&L Gates attorneys, who represent the city, stumbled early and often.

Paul Lawrence was unspectacular in in opening arguments, Jeffrey Johnson momentarily froze when Judge Marsha Pechman upheld an objection and didn't allow him to introduce a piece of evidence and Pechman admonished Greg Narver several times for speaking too fast and not being clear with his questions. Narver was also unable to submit a 1995 video clip of KJR host Mitch Levy interviewing NBA Commissioner David Stern as evidence.

The miscues by the K&L Gates lawyers is alarming considering the city will pay in excess of $1.1 million for their service.

Former Seattle City director Virginia Anderson saved the day for the city. She held up well under cross examination by Paul Taylor. Anderson refused to be bullied and appeared to have a firm command of the facts. Often times, she refuted claims with solid evidence.

Taylor abruptly changed his line of questioning a few times, which only made him look confused and Anderson appeared stronger.

The day ended with former KeyArena manager Jyo Singh being cross examined.

For those keeping score: Sonics 2, city of Seattle 1.

The Sonics attorney are hammering at the claim that KeyArena is an outdated building in desperate need of repair and the city failed to make improvements. The city also failed in four attempts to lobby funds from state lawmakers and both sides are better off disolving a dysfunctional marriage. Oddly enough, the Sonics attorneys did not use the "unclean hands" reference, however, they're trying to establish an unethical connection between the mayor's office and the Baller group.

The Seattle lawyers are establishing that Bennett and his partners are smart businessmen who knew about the lease and the building's deficiencies when they bought the team two years ago. They arguements are simplier. They asked Anderson and Singh about lease provisions for a buyout and each said that no provisions exist.

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