KJ and Ranadive testify in Sacramento arena trial

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by Charlie O. Mallonee

The trial on the lawsuit brought by three Sacramento residents over what they see as illegal hidden subsidies given to the Sacramento Kings ownership group continued on Tuesday with two high-profile witnesses. Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive took the stand.

Johnson’s testimony began with a discussion of deleted emails. It was revealed that the mayor deleted emails concerning the arena even after being advised to keep all communications related to the arena project.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Johnson testified that there was no sinister intent in deleting the communications.“I did it without thinking,” Johnson said on the witness stand in Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon. “There was no ill intent.”

Johnson implied that the deleted emails contained nothing of substance related to the project. He characterized the content as “chit-chat”.

The judge in the case indicated he would consider the deleted emails when deliberating on the merits of the lawsuit. Since the case is accusing the city of hiding subsidies to the Kings ownership in order to have them buy the team and participate in the building of the arena, deleted communications are seen as a significant issue.

The lawsuit contends that 3700 parking spaces under the arena that will be controlled by the Kings and six digital billboards that Kings will place around the city were not disclosed to the public. The city and the KIngs refute that the parking and billboard deals were kept  secret.

Sep 24, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive answers questions from the media during a press conference at Kings Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

“I could not tell you how many parking spots there are. I could not tell you how many signs or what the value of the signs is, if there is any value,” Ranadive said from the witness stand.

The Kings majority owner also said that his group overpaid for the NBA team. He testified that the group may have paid as much as $200-million more than the team was actually worth to keep the franchise in Sacramento.

KCRA Channel 3 News quoted Randive, “If there was a way to save the team and keep it in Sacramento, that would be a good thing to do,” Ranadive said. “I had come to the state of California with nothing. And everything I had I owed to the state. And so if I could play a role in keeping the team, that would be a noble purpose.”

Ranadive went on to say, “It was an emotional decision,” he said. “If I had actually done it based on numbers, then I would not have done it.”

Mayor Johnson also told the court that the Kings ownership group came back to the city to see if they could put in any additional funds for the arena. The mayor indicated he told the owners that the city’s involvement would be capped at $258-million. The Kings are responsible to pay any overruns.

Observers have implied that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have an uphill battle in proving their case against the city and the Kings.

The trial is expected to continue until the end of the week.

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