Share “Sonics judge hard to figure”

By Chris Casteel Modified: June 22, 2008 at 12:59 am •  Published: June 22, 2008

/> Pechman sat through hours of testimony from Bennett and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, both of whom testified at length about the events leading up to Bennett announcing the team would relocate to Oklahoma City, without asking them a question.

She also heard about the charitable activities of the Sonics players, the ethnic diversity of the Sonics' fans and the history of KeyArena, the Sonics' home and the arena that Bennett's group says is too outdated for today's NBA.

And she heard:

•About e-mails from "sophisticated businessmen” in Oklahoma City and Seattle that those businessmen probably never wanted to see in court or newspapers;

•Extreme opposite opinions from economists with degrees from some of the nation's best universities; one said they're an economic boon to cities while another said they can actually be a drain;

•That the Sonics will lose $60 million more if forced to stay here for two more years;

•That the owners knew what they were getting into when they signed the lease;

•That the city participated in a plan to force the Sonics to stay here for two years so the bleeding would force a sale to a local group of owners;

•That the city never sought to harm the owners and had stated since 2006, when Bennett's group bought the team, that it wanted the lease honored;

•That the team can't make money in KeyArena because it's the worst lease in the NBA;

•That the team could make money in KeyArena if it could actually win some games (the team had the worst record in its 41-year history last season).

Looking ahead
Pechman put the two sides on the clock at the beginning of the trial, giving each 15 hours to make their case. And though little was revealed last week that wasn't already in reams of briefs, depositions and exhibits before the trial started, she never prodded the attorneys to move faster through witnesses, allowing them to use their time as they saw fit as long as they adhered to courtroom rules.

She did tell the attorneys that she has some questions for them and that she'd like for them to address those in their closing arguments. The judge said she had found some previous cases that hadn't been cited by either side in this suit, which was filed last fall, and that she wanted them to review those.

Pechman isn't expected to announce her ruling on Thursday, though she's aware of the tight timeframe if the owners are to relocate the team this year. She is planning to read her decision in open court at a date to be announced later.

Earlier this year, the judge rejected a request by the owners' attorneys to compute damages if she finds that the Sonics can relocate to Oklahoma City this year. The judge said the owners were trying to expand the scope of the case long after its parameters had been established by both sides.

Attorneys for the owners have declined to comment on the case this week. But Paul Lawrence, an attorney for the city, told reporters that if the judge rules that the owners can leave, the city won't ask her to decide the money damages.

"The measure of monetary damages is something that typically a jury decides,” he said. "So it's the position of the city that we'll never get there. But if we do get there, we would ask for a jury.”

City of Seattle's 'poisoned well' documents