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Originally published Friday, May 6, 2011 at 1:52 PM

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Mastro declared competent to testify in bankruptcy trial

Former real-estate developer Michael R. Mastro has been ruled competent to testify in a trial stemming from his bankruptcy.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Michael R. Mastro is competent again.

The bankrupt former Seattle real-estate magnate suffered a head injury three months ago in a fall at his Palm Springs, Calif., home, prompting a bankruptcy judge to deem him incapacitated and appoint a guardian to represent his interests in court.

But the guardian, retired state Supreme Court Justice Faith Ireland, said this week her services no longer were needed.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marc Barreca agreed Friday, meaning Mastro is considered competent and can be asked to testify.

Ireland's move came after James Rigby, the trustee seeking to recover assets for Mastro's many creditors in Washington's largest bankruptcy, asked Barreca to order an independent medical exam and turn over all Mastro's medical records.

Rigby has questioned for weeks whether Mastro, 85, was really incapacitated.

Rigby wants Mastro to testify in a trial stemming from his bankruptcy in which the trustee seeks millions from Mastro's wife, son and others for their roles in transactions Rigby contends were aimed at hiding assets from creditors.

Spencer Hall, one of the trustee's lawyers, said after court Friday that he expects Mastro, rather than testifying, will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, as he did in depositions last year after the U.S. Attorney's Office opened a criminal probe.

Mastro's lawyer, Thomas Bucknell, declined to discuss what Mastro will do if called as a witness.

Mastro, a prolific real-estate developer and lender for 40 years, was pushed into bankruptcy in July 2009. He reported debts exceeding $570 million.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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