Former Dodgers owner testifies in fan beating case
LOS ANGELES -- Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt testified Friday in a lawsuit filed over a severe beating at Dodger Stadium that he wasn't personally involved in security matters at the venue but did suggest a fan code of conduct.
McCourt was only on the witness stand for about an hour in the negligence case filed on behalf of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, who suffered brain damage in the beating in a parking lot after the 2011 Opening Day game between the California rivals.
McCourt, who had been questioned by David Lira, an attorney for Stow, in pretrial depositions, appeared prepared for every question and was cautious in his answers, even when asked about his ownership of the Dodgers.
"It was owned by a legal entity, but as a practical matter I owned the stadium," McCourt said.
Asked if he owned the parking lots, McCourt gave the same answer. He acknowledged he still had an ownership interest in the parking facilities.
Tom Girardi, lead attorney for Stow, had said Thursday that he wanted to question McCourt about his lavish lifestyle and spending, suggesting McCourt had drained money from the team that could have gone to security.
Outside court on Friday, however, Girardi said Superior Court Judge Victor Chavez told lawyers during a conference in his chambers that he would prefer they not ask questions about McCourt's personal finances and lifestyle, and they yielded. Girardi did not elaborate.
Stow was not in court for the testimony. Two Dodgers fans, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the attack on Stow, who became a symbol of violence at sporting events.
Lira asked McCourt on Friday if he had hands-on involvement in security matters. McCourt said he did not.
McCourt acknowledged making public statements that a quality and safe fan experience is a core value of the Dodgers. He also testified that he suggested the drafting of a fan code of conduct, which was adopted.
The 11 lengthy points of the code were posted on large signs at the stadium and a video shown before games encouraged fans to report any misconduct to an usher or security guard, or by phone or text message, according to testimony.
McCourt said security was left to the management team that worked for him.
McCourt's attorney, Dana Fox, asked him if there was someone at Dodger Stadium who held the title of director of security.
"No," said McCourt, adding that there were others who filled that post during the time he was there.
Asked by his lawyer if he ever cut funding for security, McCourt said, "Absolutely not."
Lira focused on a vice president in charge of operations named Francine Hughes, who is expected to be called to testify next week.
Asked if it was clear she had no prior experience in stadium operations or security, McCourt answered, "I never reviewed Francine's resume."
After his testimony, McCourt would not take questions from reporters but made a statement outside.
"Like all Dodger fans I was appalled at the criminal behavior of Sanchez and Norwood," he said. "And make no mistake, they're the parties responsible for this tragic incident. My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Stow and his family."
Other testimony in the trial has focused on Stow's injuries and need for lifetime care, and the contention that there was insufficient security to protect fans at the game.
Witnesses have said no security guards were visible in the parking lot where Stow was beaten. The defense countered that there was more security than at any other Dodgers opening day in history.
McCourt paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that includes parking lots, from the Fox division News Corp., a sale that left the team with about $50 million in cash at the time.
The Dodgers went into bankruptcy protection in June 2011 and the next year McCourt sold the team for $2 billion.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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