|Judge bars deputy mayor's testimony|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 26 June 2008 09:22|
But U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman did allow into the record a deposition by deputy mayor Tim Ceis that he never saw the so-called ``poisoned well'' documents that were presented in court last Friday.
The documents showed that a Seattle group that included former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, whom the city hired to lead its efforts to keep the Sonics in town, sought to have Bennett sell the team to local investors rather than move it to Oklahoma City, his hometown.
Pechman's rulings came on the final day of the six-day trial over whether the Sonics will stay for the final two years of their lease in KeyArena or move to Oklahoma City.
The Sonics believe that Seattle officials have ``unclean hands'' from inappropriately trying to drain the finances of team owners and want the judge to ignore the city's claim that the team must honor a clause of specific performance in its lease to play in the NBA's smallest venue through the 2009-10 season.
The city countered that elected leaders such as the mayor or his office were not aware of the plan.
Thursday morning began with Sonics lawyer Brad Keller finishing his questioning of Seattle Councilman Nick Licata.
Keller repeatedly questioned Licata on his comment to Sports Illustrated magazine in 2006, when he was City Council president, that the Sonics' departure would have a ``near-zero impact'' on the economics and cultural affairs of the city.
``It was a flippant remark, made off the cuff,'' Licata said.
The city has been attempting to show the Sonics have an intangible value to Seattle that cannot be quantified - or compensated by the buyout of the final two seasons of the lease. The team believes a buyout would satisfy the agreement and should free it to move.
Under questioning by city lawyer Greg Narver, Licata admitted he was a ``hard-line critic'' of public financing for professional sports stadiums. Narver then introduced a copy of an e-mail newsletter from Licata to Seattle residents soon after the article was published in which he described his comment to Sports Illustrated as a ``glib, foolish remark'' that was ``smug and wrong.''
``Moments after I said that quote, I realized it probably wasn't accurate ... and I felt bad about that,'' Licata said, adding he heard complaints from some of his constituents.
``Sitting here today, do you believe the cultural value of the Sonics is near zero?'' Narver asked.
``No, I don't,'' Licata said.
The Sonics rested their case 52 minutes into the day, pending their closing arguments. The city rested its case after Pechman's ruling. Closing arguments were set for later in the day, after which Pechman was expected to announce when she will issue her verdict.