McCourt trial coming to close

Updated: September 29, 2010, 7:29 PM ET
By Molly Knight | ESPN The Magazine

LOS ANGELES -- Closing arguments in Frank and Jamie McCourt's battle over the Los Angeles Dodgers began Wednesday morning with Jamie McCourt's attorney Dennis Wasser laying out the reasons why the marital property agreement that gives her estranged husband sole control of the Dodgers must be thrown out.

On the last day of the first round of what has been a nasty divorce trial, Wasser came out swinging, claiming that the lawyer who prepared the post-nuptial agreement at the heart of the case committed fraud when he switched the schedule that kept the Dodgers as community property.

Wasser gave a Power Point presentation that included two sections entitled "Smoking Guns" and "Hurdles Frank Cannot Overcome."

In both, Wasser directed his ire at Larry Silverstein, the couple's attorney. He testified last week that he had the couple sign six copies of the agreement in 2004 when they moved from Massachusetts to Los Angeles to take over the Dodgers.

Both sides agree now that the copies were not identical: three made the team community property, the other three gave the club to Frank McCourt alone. Silverstein testified last week that after all six copies were signed and notarized, he noticed they were not identical, switched out the schedules that gave Jamie McCourt a claim to the team and replaced them with schedules that made the Dodgers Frank McCourt's separate property.

During their closing arguments, attorneys for Frank McCourt said the postnuptial agreement should be validated because their client and his estranged wife always intended to have the Dodgers as his separate asset. Lawyer Sorrell Trope said that Jamie McCourt was the driving force behind the agreement.

Frank McCourt's attorneys also said she wanted no part in the risk associated with the $430 million purchase of the Dodgers that was mostly funded by short-term loans to be repaid within two years. They pointed out that Jamie McCourt didn't call any witnesses during the trial to corroborate her claim that she was a team owner.

"I'd like to challenge the other side to give us a case where the court has enforced an agreement where two directly contradictory versions were signed," Wasser said.

Lawyers for Frank McCourt acknowledge three copies of the contract were altered after being signed by the couple, but say Silverstein simply believed he was correcting a typo.

Wasser also questioned why attorneys for Frank McCourt waited until August 4 -- 26 days before this trial began -- to disclose the switch to lawyers for Jamie McCourt when they knew about it, as Wasser claims, "way before then." Jamie McCourt filed for divorce in late October 2009.

Should the judge accept the version of the marital property agreement that gives Frank McCourt control of the team, Wasser argued it should still be tossed out because Frank and Jamie McCourt were both advised by Silverstein when they should have had separate counsel. Because Silverstein's firm also represented Frank McCourt in his acquisition of the Dodgers, Wasser argued Silverstein had a conflict of interest that resulted in Frank McCourt gaining an unfair advantage over his wife.

"Every person who testified for Frank is either on his payroll or is receiving money from him," Wasser said.

Wasser believes Frank McCourt and Silverstein tailored their testimony when forensic analysts discovered the switch this summer after an examination of the documents.

"The story that Frank and Mr. Silverstein are giving is reverse engineering," Wasser said. "The story is scripted."

Lawyers for Frank McCourt say that because Jamie McCourt is a lawyer with experience in family law she was not taken advantage of. Rather, they contend, she was the driving force behind the agreement because she wanted sole control of the couple's homes. They argue she did not want any part of the Dodgers because the team was too big of a risk.

Judge Gordon will then have 90 days to decide whether to uphold the agreement.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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