Sonics Trial Blog
Seattle Times reporters Percy Allen, Jim Brunner and Danny O'Neil are filing updates from the courthouse throughout the day.
June 18, 2008 6:00 AM
Posted by Jim Brunner
KEY WITNESS: Sonics owner Clay Bennett was on the stand for most of the day Tuesday, repeating his claim that his "man possessed" e-mail referred to a desire to keep the team in Seattle -- even though even his co-owners apparently believed he was talking about Oklahoma City. Bennett remained calm even after Seattle lead attorney Paul Lawrence pointed out that Bennett's next actions were to call the NBA about moving to Oklahoma City and reserving dates at that city's Ford Center. One newly revealed e-mail shed light on why Bennett and his co-owners were unwilling to commit much in the way of up-front cash to their proposed $500 million Renton arena. The January 2007 e-mail by a Sonics political consultant said Bennett's group paid $350 million for the team "in a rushed auction and subsequently learned that we paid too much..." Whoops!
ECONOMIC HIT: Smith College Professor Andrew Zimbalist is regarded as one of the pioneers in the sports economics field, having written 10 books on the subject. But he looked awful during a brutal cross examination by Sonics attorney Paul Taylor on Tuesday afternoon. Taylor ripped Zimbalist's "expert" report for the city, in which large sections were virtually identical to a report he wrote two years earlier for the city of Anaheim (which was suing the Angels baseball team over its name change to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim"). Taylor also pointed out a judge elsewhere had nixed Zimbalist's testimony, referring to him as a "hired gun" expert who would reach whatever conclusions his current employer demanded.
OBJECTION SCORECARD: Seattle won the first objection of the day, with attorney Greg Narver successfully fending off a Sonics' effort to introduce a consultant's report about KeyArena deficiencies. Judge Marsha Pechman agreed with Narver that the Sonics were improperly trying to sneak the report in as expert testimony. But Sonics attorney Brad Keller came out ahead later -- successfully blocking Seattle from introducing evidence of the $170 million a year in economic benefits the Sonics claimed they'd bring to Oklahoma City (while simultaneously denying they'd have any such benefits in Seattle.) Incredibly, Keller also convinced Pechman to halt Lawrence's questions to Bennett about why Sonics owners refused to put up the same level of cash for an arena similar to what Mariners and Seahawks owners had contributed to their stadiums. Pechman said she didn't understand the relevance of that.
LEAST LIKELY KEYARENA PROMOTION: Seattle attorney Paul Lawrence suggested one solution to the Sonics' financial woes if the team has to play two more years at KeyArena. All Bennett would have to do is advertise that he'd be at the game: "You know, you get a big reaction when you have Clay Bennett Day, a sellout."
UP TODAY: Clay Bennett's testimony resumes. After that, the list of possible witnesses includes author Sherman Alexie.
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