Trial before a jury is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Santa Ana for Los Angeles Clippers color commentator Mike Smith, who pleaded not guilty in January to charges he stole $735,000 from a retired school teacher with an inoperable brain tumor.
If Smith--a 44-year-old a former Clipper player who lives with his family in Laguna Hills--avoids conviction and up to five years in prison, he will still be left with this sobering punishment:
Having to watch the Clippers.
Smith's lawyer has said his client did nothing wrong and intends to pay back a long-time friend who used his home as collateral to finance a development project that fell apart--and left the friend facing foreclosure.
Smith, who covers the hapless Clippers with longtime play-by-play man Ralph Lawler at his side on the Fox Sports network, has an alleged partner in white-collar crime: Bruce Howard Furst, 57, also of Laguna Hills.
They are each charged with one felony count of grand theft with sentencing enhancements and allegations for loss over $100,000 and property damage over $200,000. I
Both were released from custody on $25,000 bail, which the Orange County District Attorney's Office objected to, wanting each to post bonds of $735,000 bail to reflect the alleged theft amount.
Smith is accused of repeatedly soliciting his long-time friend, identified in court documents as William S., to invest in January 2008 in a development project in Dana Point in which he and Furst were involved.
The 65-year-old retiree repeatedly refused, but was eventually worn down by Smith, according to prosecutors.
The victim's Dana Point home was paid off when he used it as collateral for what was supposed to be a short-term, $735,000 loan.
Smith and Furst are accused of inducing the man to turn over his money by falsely indicating he would be the sole recipient of a promissory note, the loan was safe and 100 percent guaranteed, the loan would be for a maximum of two months, and that Smith and Furst would sell their own homes before letting William S. lose his home.
The development project in Dana Point never materialized, and Smith and Furst are now accused of failing to repay the hapless man.
Prosecutors allege the pair also assured William S. he would be repaid using money from another project, but that never happened either.
No payments were ever made to an escrow account they established to pay the $7,200 monthly mortgage on William S.'s home for six months, according to court documents.
No payments have been made ever since, in fact.
At the time of the original charges being announced, prosecutors said there as a very good liklihood William S. would lose his home.
By the way, anyone remember when Smith and Lawler were suspended in 2009? It involved the following exchange regarding Hamed Haddadi, the Memphis Grizzlies center from Iran.
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Smith: "Look who's in?"
Lawler: "Hamed Haddadi. Where's he from?"
Smith: "He's the first Iranian to play in the NBA."
Lawler: "There aren't any Iranian players in the NBA."
Smith: "He's the only one."
Lawler: "He's from Iran?"
Smith: "I guess so."
Lawler: "That Iran?"
Lawler: "The real Iran?"
Lawler: "Wow. Haddadi -- that's H-A-D-D-A-D-I."
Smith: "You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?"
Smith: "If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I'm going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part."
Lawler: "Here's Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball."
Smith: "Especially the post players.
Lawler: "I don't know about their guards."
The broadcasters' crimes, according to network overlords? Linking Haddadi to the fictional Borat (iz niiiiice) and pronouncing Iran "Eye-ran."
Seems like screwing a retiree with an inoperable brain tumor out of his house--if true--is a lot worse.
But not nearly as bad as having to watch the Clippers.