Share “Sonics owners raised idea of '07 move”

By Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 11, 2008 at 8:35 am •  Published: April 11, 2008
nics attorneys initially agreed to turn over pertinent e-mails from Bennett and McClendon only, claiming that electronic documents from the group’s six other owners was unnecessary and perhaps illegal since the parties work at private firms.

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman, who is presiding over the case that is scheduled to go to trial June 16, later ruled that the Sonics must turn over e-mails from the six primary members.

Seattle attorneys attached the e-mails to a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York seeking to obtain documents from the NBA that might be useful in the upcoming trial.

In its 25-page brief, the city of Seattle contends that Bennett also “deceived NBA Commissioner David Stern about the ongoing conspiracy” to move the team.

In an e-mail dated Aug. 18, 2007 — one week after McClendon’s initial controversial comments and four months after the owners’ e-mail conversation — Bennett told Stern that he had not discussed a move with the other owners.

“As absolutely remarkable as it may seem, Aubrey and I have NEVER discussed moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City, nor have I discussed it with ANY other member of our ownership group,” Bennett wrote.

Paul Lawrence, a lead attorney for the city of Seattle, said the e-mails are currently being used only as evidence to compel the NBA to turn over what might be significant related information to the Sonics case. But Lawrence said the e-mails most likely will be used in June’s trial.

Sonics owners are attempting to escape the final two years of their KeyArena lease by paying off the remaining rent. Seattle attorneys are arguing that under a clause known as specific performance the team must play in Seattle until the lease expires in September 2010.

“One of the issues in specific performance is the good faith and the clean hands of the parties to a contract,” Lawrence said. “In addition, as argued in the motion, there are credibility issues raised by the e-mails where the owners of the Sonics appear to have said one thing to the NBA that is contradicted by e-mails that were produced in litigation.”

Berry Tramel contributed to this story.