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Sonics Trial Blog

Seattle Times reporters Percy Allen, Jim Brunner and Danny O'Neil are filing updates from the courthouse throughout the day.

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July 2, 2008 2:01 PM

Godden: Looks like a settlement for Sonics and city

Posted by Jim Brunner

Colleague Sharon Chan reports that she just asked Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden if the mayor is settling with the Sonics owners.

"It looks like it, but I’m afraid what little I know is sworn to secrecy until after the mayor's press conference," said Godden. A press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Another source confirmed there is a settlement.

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July 2, 2008 11:49 AM

City and the Sonics discussing settlement?

Posted by Percy Allen

That's what The Oklahoman is reporting on their Web site.

Apparently, Seattle City Councilmember Richard McIver says talks are being held up by Howard Schultz's lawsuit, the one in which he's seeking to undo his 2006 sale of the team to Clay Bennett.

"I hear that they were trying to work one up but I didn't know whether they were successful or not," Councilmember Richard McIver told The Oklahoman . "And I thought it was around something where (the Sonics owners) were trying to get Seattle to involve Schultz's suit withdrawal and that didn't come out, so I guess it fell apart."

I'm making phone calls trying to confirm if talks are ongoing.

Also, my colleague Jim Brunner just tried Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, and he refused comment.

Judge Marsha Pechman is scheduled to post her ruling in the trial at 4 p.m.

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July 2, 2008 6:00 AM

Judge to rule today in Sonics case

Posted by Jim Brunner

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman is scheduled to post her decision online at 4 p.m. today.

The city of Seattle filed the federal lawsuit to force the Sonics to play out the final two seasons on their lease KeyArena lease, through September 2010. Sonics owner Clay Bennett wants out now, and the NBA has approved the team's move to Oklahoma City. Bennett says a cash buyout of the lease should suffice. The city in February rejected a $26.5 million offer to let the Sonics go.

During the six-day trial that ended last Thursday, Seattle's lead attorney Paul Lawrence emphasized the city's right to enforce the lease, and the Sonics' unique role in the community and as a KeyArena tenant.
Brad Keller, the Sonics' lead attorney, focused heavily in his closing arguments on efforts by Seattle civic leaders, including former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, to use the lease lawsuit as part of broader scheme to pressure Bennett to sell the team.

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June 26, 2008 7:44 PM

Confidential? Let's talk about it: Slade Gorton's NBA meeting

Posted by Jim Brunner

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton went to New York last fall with Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis and Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams to meet with NBA officials and lawyers for the Sonics. For that Oct. 15, 2007 meeting, Gorton -- who was working for the city in the lease lawsuit -- signed a confidentiality agreement that read, in part, "All communications of any kind made during the meeting, and all materials prepared for, introduced at, or created during the meeting, are confidential and protected from disclosure for any purpose..."

The day after the meeting, on Oct. 16, 2007, Gorton e-mailed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, former Safeco head Mike McGavick and former Sonics President Wally Walker about -- the meeting in New York. (Ballmer led the investors group interested in buying the Sonics.)

After describing some of what was discussed and who asked what, Gorton wrote, "The next question is when and how we inform the league that a local potential owner is a possibility."

Judge Marsha Pechman asked today about the confidentiality agreement and subsequent e-mail.

Click here to see the confidentiality agreement and e-mails, including the Oct. 16 e-mail, from Gorton.

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June 26, 2008 7:22 PM

Press conference audio

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Here's an audio link to the press conference that Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis and attorney Paul Lawrence conducted after the conclusion of the trial. Click on the link to hear the mp3 file.

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June 26, 2008 5:05 PM

News conference with Paul Lawrence, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Paul Lawrence, lead attorney for the city of Seattle, and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis answered questions after six days of testimony ended at the U.S. District Court. Here's what they said:

Tim Ceis: So I just want to start off by saying, I just want to express my appreciation for the great work Paul Lawrence over the course of this trial and also particularly, though, today in his closing. I think what Paul did today was clearly lay out the strength of the city's case to the judge, the strength of our claim for specific enforcement of the lease and why that is so important to the city of Seattle and not only the city of Seattle, but the people we represent.

I thought it was particularly telling that the judge asked about the issue of sentimentality and how is it that a city can represent that sentiment of its citizens and the fans of basketball, but that is the job of the city, the mayor. He is elected to represent those interests and the representation of those interests [don't] always manifest themselves in just concrete and parks and things like that. They sometimes manifest themselves in the will and desires of the people he represents. So that's something that's irreplaceable in terms of the Sonics if they should leave Seattle. So that I think was a very poignant point of this case today.

I also want to lay out to you today that our objective of the city remains the same and has been consistent throughout the point in time in which Mr. Bennett told us he wanted to break the lease, the point in time in which we filed litigation to prevent that and the point in time between then and now in trying this case and that was to keep the Sonics as a tenant in KeyArena. To try and solve the KeyArena renovation problem so that we can keep a team here long-term, and that's regardless of who the ownership is and who that team is. That remains the city's objective. And so today was a closure of this trial, I hope that we will take a step forward in meeting that objective for the city.

Paul, do you have anything you want to add to that?

Paul Lawrence: No.

Ceis: Any questions?

Q: Is the case decided on Washington state law or federal law?

Lawrence: It's a Washington contract and Washington law would apply.

Q: It seemed like to me anyway, it seemed like [Sonics lawyer Brad] Keller dropped a new little bit of evidence closing, which found Deputy Mayor Ceis at a meeting at K&L Gates, two days after the "Poisoned Well'" meeting. So what were you there for? What strategy were you talking about there?

Ceis: That is not a new piece of evidence. That was in my deposition that is part of the court record, and it was clear that on October 9 we were meeting to discuss the preparation of the presentation to the NBA of a renovated KeyArena plan. That's the whole purpose of that discussion that day.

Continue reading this post ...

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June 26, 2008 3:50 PM

Judge Pechman to post ruling Wednesday

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Judge Marsha Pechman said she will post her ruling in the case Wednesday at 4 p.m.

"I'm not going to open my mouth and decide this case today," she said before court adjourned today. "I also understand that time is significant for everyone involved."

Then, she added, "So stay tuned."

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June 26, 2008 3:40 PM

City's lawyer gives rebuttal

Posted by Danny O'Neil

In the rebuttal by Paul Lawrence, the city's lead attorney, to the closing argument by Sonics attorney Brad Keller, he said Keller made the statement that no Washington court has enforced specific performance of a lease. Lawrence cited a court case in which the lease was enforced -- a case that had the landlord making specific improvements at a tenant's request.

Lawrence emphasized Keller's closing didn't cite a lot of case law to discuss specific performance and the "unique object."

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More from this blog

Recent entries

Jul 2, 08 - 02:01 PM
Godden: Looks like a settlement for Sonics and city

Jul 2, 08 - 11:49 AM
City and the Sonics discussing settlement?

Jul 2, 08 - 06:00 AM
Judge to rule today in Sonics case

Jun 26, 08 - 07:44 PM
Confidential? Let's talk about it: Slade Gorton's NBA meeting

Jun 26, 08 - 07:22 PM
Press conference audio







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Browse the archives

July 2008

June 2008

Recent stories

Sonics attorneys focus on city's "poisoned well" plan
Bennett says Sonics could lose $60 million if forced to stay in Seattle 2 more years
Sonics CEO: Fans are apathetic
Clay's excuses sound as contrived as his arena plan
On the hot seat: Sonics' attorney trips up Nickels
Attorneys in Sonics case described as tenacious, polite
This judge will decide the fate of the Sonics
Seattle vs. Sonics: Trial starts next week, if there's no settlement
Take a closer look at the Sonics case
More revealing Sonics e-mails emerge
OKC officials inform Schultz they expect Sonics to relocate, no matter who owns team
Sonics e-mail hints at NBA's concern over breach of promise
Howard Schultz suit adds fuel to e-mail fire
NBA owners approve Sonics' move, but legal fight continues in Seattle
E-mails reveal Sonics owners intended to bolt from Seattle
Oklahoma House passes tax package designed to help lure Sonics


2007 "Poisoned Well" document (PDF)
Ward: "Are we doomed to have another lameduck season in Seattle?" (PDF)
Bennett's e-mail to Stern: "You are just one of my favorite people on earth" (PDF)
Clay Bennett and Sonics' court filing (PDF)


Gallery | Seattle SuperSonics: Lasting memories
Gallery | Bittersweet night for Sonics fans
Gallery | Sonics through the years
Gallery | 25th anniversary of Sonics world championship
Gallery | End of a Season, End of a Franchise?
Sports fan "Big Lo" seeks answers from Howard Schultz

Fans weigh in about the state of the Sonics
Cartoon | Schultz jumps into action
Talk about the team in the Sonics forum

Other links

Trial coverage from | Hope (still) springs in Seattle