LOS ANGELES — Videotaped testimony in which media mogul Sumner Redstone says he doesn't want his longtime companion in his life anymore may be enough to end a mental competency trial, a judge said Friday.
"Mr. Redstone's testimony was strong," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan said near the end of the first day of the trial.
Cowan said he didn't want to make a rush judgment but wasn't sure that attorneys for Redstone's ex-girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, could prove that the ailing mogul was incompetent.
Redstone referred to Herzer multiple times by a two-word expletive during a 20-minute session with attorneys Thursday that was played in closed session at the outset of the trial.
A transcript of the testimony shows Redstone saying, "I want Manuela out of my life," in response to a question about how he wants the trial to end.
"How can I sit here and say after listening to that video, 'No, you can't have what you want,'" Cowan asked in court.
Herzer's lawyer Pierce O'Donnell told Cowan it was his duty to protect Redstone, who has numerous ailments including a severe speech impediment. Cowan has long said that even if Herzer proves Redstone is incompetent, it doesn't mean he will let her back in his life.
O'Donnell said Cowan should not allow Redstone's daughter, Shari Redstone, to oversee her father's care. The father-daughter have had a rocky relationship and only recently reconciled.
Testimony from one of Sumner Redstone's nurses Friday showed that the caregiver was sending Shari Redstone detailed information about the inner workings of the Redstone mansion.
The nurse and Shari Redstone wanted Herzer out of the home, the emails showed.
The testimony came after opening statements in which attorneys on both sides of the case agreed Redstone was being manipulated in the months before he shunned Herzer.
Redstone's attorneys contend Herzer was kicked out because she repeatedly lied to the businessman. Herzer's lawyers claim Shari Redstone manipulated her father to oust his longtime friend.
A doctor hired by Herzer to evaluate Redstone testified that he believes the mogul has dementia that renders him vulnerable to undue influence. Dr. Stephen Read said Redstone could name all his children and great-grandchildren but couldn't identify basic shapes, colors or perform simple arithmetic.
During questioning by Redstone's attorney Robert Klieger, Read acknowledged that the mogul appeared to understand many questions but had difficulty communicating anything more than a yes or no answer.
Read acknowledged he only asked one arithmetic question and Redstone had difficulty pointing to items on a board due to injuries to his hands.
"He is a living ghost whose mind has tragically become feeble," O'Donnell said during his opening statement.
Klieger said Redstone has trouble communicating but no difficulty comprehending what's going on around him.
If Redstone is deemed incompetent, several changes he has made to his estate plans would be invalidated.
Herzer and another of Redstone's ex-girlfriends received a total of $150 million from the mogul between 2010 and 2015, a court document states. O'Donnell has said Redstone was generous toward Herzer and paid her tens of millions of dollars over the years.
He said Redstone and Herzer ended their romantic relationship in the late 1990s and remained close friends and confidantes until October.
"They were lovers and best friends that transcended intimacy," O'Donnell said. "In the blink of an eye, literally in a 48-hour period, 17 years of friendship evaporated," O'Donnell said.