Sil­ver­stein tes­ti­fies about chang­ing key word­ing in mar­i­tal agree­ment.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Carla Hall and Bill Shaikin

Af­ter two morn­ings of skew­er­ing, the Bos­ton lawyer who wrote the dis­puted mar­i­tal prop­erty agree­ment at the core of the bit­ter Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce bat­tle got to ex­plain him­self and try to re­ha­bil­i­tate his im­age.

Larry Sil­ver­stein, the lawyer who changed the word­ing in three signed copies of the agree­ments with­out con­sult­ing the McCourts, tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon how he came to make and then fix what he says was an in­no­cent mis­take.

Sil­ver­stein ex­plained that he sim­ply botched his words in a draft he wrote late one night or early morn­ing in 2004, when he listed Frank McCourt’s sole prop­erty as “ex­clu­sive” of the Dodgers.

Later, the at­tor­ney

changed “ex­clu­sive” to “in­clu­sive,” mean­ing the Dodgers were not joint prop­erty of the now-es­tranged cou­ple.

“Some­times I gar­ble the lan­guage,” the be­lea­guered at­tor­ney said un­der friendly ques­tion­ing by Vic­to­ria Cook, one of Frank’s attorneys. “I was try­ing to write it as the ex­clu­sive pool of as­sets.”

But there was noth­ing gar­bled in his words or thoughts when Sil­ver­stein re­counted his dis­cus­sions with Jamie McCourt.

Jamie McCourt con­tends that she would not have signed the agree­ment if she be­lieved that she was sign­ing away her claim to any own­er­ship in the team. How­ever, Sil­ver­stein, who was act­ing on be­half of both McCourts, said she never in­di­cated any­thing of the sort, in­clud­ing dur­ing a March 29 phone call when the two dis­cussed the draft agree­ment.

“She never once said that the Dodgers should not be listed as Frank’s as­sets,” said Sil­ver­stein, his voice tough­en­ing.

Jamie’s at­tor­ney, David Boies, said out­side the court­room that Jamie could not re­call that par­tic­u­lar phone con­ver­sa­tion she had with Sil­ver­stein. But Boies said that what­ever she told Sil­ver­stein prompted the at­tor­ney to change the draft “as soon as he got off the phone with her” — in­sert­ing lan­guage that ex­cluded the Dodgers from Frank’s sole prop­erty — the very lan­guage that Sil­ver­stein in­sists

‘Some­times I gar­ble the lan­guage.’

Larry Sil­ver­stein,


was an er­ror.

Boies main­tains there never was an er­ror, that Sil­ver­stein was fol­low­ing Jamie’s wishes when he wrote that the Dodgers were not Frank’s sole prop­erty. And when Sil­ver­stein changed the word­ing to in­clude the Dodgers in Frank’s sole prop­erty, he was chang­ing the doc­u­ment to re­flect Frank’s wishes.

Boies, who ques­tioned Sil­ver­stein on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day morn­ings, also dis­missed the idea the at­tor­ney might have “gar­bled” two words — in­clu­sive and ex­clu­sive — with a to­tally op­po­site mean­ing.

“Give me a break,” Boies said.

The trial is sched­uled to re­sume Thurs­day morn­ing. On Fri­day, the sides are ex­pected to meet pri­vately at the courthouse for a me­di­a­tion ses­sion.

Un­der Cook’s ques­tion­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Sil­ver­stein por­trayed him­self as a con­sci­en­tious lawyer who fol­lowed the cou­ple’s re­quests and walked them through the agree­ment they were sign­ing.

He re­called sit­ting in the kitchen of the McCourts’ home in Brook­line, Mass., re­view­ing the key para­graphs of the mar­i­tal prop­erty agree­ment they were about to sign.

“Were both of them pay­ing at­ten­tion?” Cook said in a sooth­ing voice.

“I thought so,” Sil­ver­stein said.

When it came to the last set of copies the cou­ple signed — the copies that Frank and his lawyers say mis­tak­enly ex­cluded the Dodgers from his sep­a­rate prop­erty — nei­ther Sil­ver­stein nor the McCourts read it be­fore they signed it and Sil­ver­stein no­ta­rized it.

“Wish I had,” he said rue­fully. “But I didn’t.”

The court took a 65-minute respite in the af­ter­noon be­cause Sil­ver­stein, who has health is­sues, felt ill. He re­turned to the stand.

Sil­ver­stein re­counted in de­tail a lun­cheon he at­tended with his Cal­i­for­nia col­league, Reynolds Caf­fer­ata, and Jamie McCourt at Dodger Sta­dium in Fe­bru­ary 2004, af­ter the sale of the Dodgers to Frank McCourt had gone through.

Though it was a cel­e­bra­tory event, Sil­ver­stein re­called Jamie sit­ting for 45 min­utes in in­tense con­ver­sa­tion with the lawyers, telling them she wanted le­gal pro­tec­tion from cred­i­tors for her real es­tate.

“She was very fo­cused on pro­tect­ing her­self from the li­a­bil­i­ties in­curred by the pur­chase of the Dodgers,” Sil­ver­stein said.

“She was driv­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.”

His rec­ol­lec­tion was in stark con­trast to Jamie’s ac­count of that day. She de­scribed her­self as a busy host, so­cial­iz­ing with well­wish­ers and barely re­call­ing what she said to the lawyers who were present.

Sil­ver­stein also tes­ti­fied that he told the cou­ple they could seek sep­a­rate coun­sel be­fore sign­ing the mar­i­tal agree­ment. They in­sisted, he said, that they wanted Sil­ver­stein to rep­re­sent them both.

In the ul­ti­mate irony, Sil­ver­stein re­called that Jamie McCourt — who dur­ing these pro­ceed­ings has been sur­rounded by a pla­toon of attorneys — told him she “didn’t need more lawyers. One was enough.”

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