SBJ/February 28 - March 5, 2000/No Topic Name

Judge: Suits don’t free Davis from Oakland

Just stay, baby.

That's the message a Sacramento County judge sent to Oakland Raiders boss Al Davis in the Raiders' long-running legal battle against the city of Oakland over Network Associates Coliseum, the Raiders' home field.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Joe Gray said in a preliminary ruling Feb. 18 that the Raiders cannot break their 16-year lease, which expires in 2010, as the Raiders and Oakland city officials engage in dueling lawsuits over terms of the team's return to Oakland in 1995. The ruling is tentative and is subject to change given arguments presented last week by the Raiders and Oakland city attorneys.

The legal battles began in 1997 when Oakland city officials sued the Raiders, claiming the team interfered with the city's effort to land a naming-rights deal. The Raiders filed a countersuit in July 1998, claiming city officials overstated the amount of personal seat licenses and ticket sales when the team moved back to Oakland in 1995 after relocating to Los Angeles in 1982. In September 1998, Oakland officials signed a five-year, $6 million naming-rights deal with Network Associates.

The ruling, however, does not prevent the Raiders from using the courts to collect damages they say they suffered from low ticket sales, which they say fell below levels promised by city officials.

"The judge ruled that the Raiders waited too long [to sue the city of Oakland] in their belief that they were defrauded," said Deena McClain, general counsel for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, a partnership between the city of Oakland and Alameda County that owns Network Associates Coliseum.

According to the ruling, the Raiders waited until 1998 to claim that city officials defrauded the Raiders dating back to the signing of the stadium deal.

"The Raiders were aware of the alleged fraud before the end of the 1995 season," Judge Gray wrote in his ruling. "This notice was not given until the cross-complaint was filed on July 7, 1998."

Now, the Raiders are moving forward with their efforts to seek up to $800 million in financial damages.

"The ruling will allow us to receive the financial benefits of what was promised," said Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen.

A mid-June trial date is expected, unless a settlement is reached.

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