City Team Bennett Reveals City’s “Machieavellian” Plot
posted by June 20 at 12:59 PMon
I switched my keyboard to “CAPS LOCK” mode at one point during this morning’s Sonics trial because what was going down seemed like a pretty big deal: Judge Marsha Pechman had just overruled the city’s desperate series of objections to Team Bennett’s interrogation of former Sonics player and later CEO, Wally Walker.
The city’s lead attorney, Paul Lawrence, was trying in vain to stop a line damning questioning by Bennett’s attack dog, attorney Paul Taylor, by arguing that Team Bennett had provided no proof that Walker was a consultant for the city while simultaneously working with a group of local bigwigs (former Sen. Slade Gorton, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, former Safeco CEO and GOP muckety-muck Mike McGavick, and local wireless mogul and billionaire John Stanton) to sabotage Bennett’s ownership and buy the team back.
The judge repeatedly overruled the city’s objections because Taylor had a letter, signed by Walker, that identified Walker as a consultant for the city as early as September 2007. From my notes:
“EXHIBIT 527 WILL BE ADMITTED,” PECHMAN SAYS.Inexplicably, Walker kept denying the implication of the signed letter.
Team Bennett’s point was to show that even as Walker was working as a consultant for the city on the Sonics, he was working with the group of bigwigs on a plan to force Bennett to stay in KeyArena by suing, and leveraging that (expensive) burden to make Bennett sell. Hmmmm… that’s kinda what’s happening right now.
During this morning’s questioning, Team Bennett hauled out incriminating emails and a plan dubbed the “poisoned well” strategy by the memo’s author, Mike McGavick. The secret plan explained: “For the best likely outcome … the Oklahomans have to be willing to sell.”
Taylor went on to show Walker’s assignment in the plot—according to an email—was to “drive a wedge between the NBA and the Sonics.”
And then, with the city’s objections overruled, Team Bennett ruffian Paul Taylor went forward with the antagonistic questioning, presenting an email from Walker to Stanton, one of the potential buyers, that Walker sent after meeting with mayor Greg Nickels’s staff. The email said the city was in “total agreement” with the strategy to make Bennett’s situation “too litigious and too expensive.”
The larger point of Team Bennett’s argument, identifying Walker as the link between the city and this “Machiavellian” plot, was to show that the city’s lawsuit is disingenuous and should be tossed. (“Machiavellian” wasn’t Team Bennett’s term, but actually turned up in an email from Mike McGavick to Walker, gleefully describing their efforts: “Machiavellian stuff that might work or at least be fun.”
In cross-examination, the city amplified Walker’s earlier defensive responses to Taylor: Although the letter he signed says he was a consultant, he didn’t think he was. Walker insisted his only job for the city was helping them work on a KeyArena solution for the Sonics that had nothing to do with any plot to wrest ownership away from Bennett.
p.s. One thing I forgot to include in yesterday’s Sherman Alexie coverage. He says he likes Oklahoma City a lot. “It’s the first place I ever kissed a Native American girl,” he said.