Whether you are reading this blog on a beach chair overlooking cerulean blue water or at your computer with a warm cup of hot chocolate (marshmallows included), you definitely have an opinion about All About the Tea’s Scandal of the Year: Legal Edition.
Andy Cohen recently told Meredith Vieira on her daytime talk show that truth is stranger than fiction. In 2015, the facts revealed about several notable reality TV stars was riveting and shocking. It got us at All About the Tea thinking…
Scandal of the Year should be someone who remains noteworthy – for better or worse – because they represent stories that have staying power. This year, sensational legal news surrounded felons, wrongful death allegations, sexual abuse admissions, and divorce. After a year of seismic legal shifts, AATT wants you to vote on Scandal of the Year. Herewith, we present the finalists of our annual Scandal of the Year: Legal Edition poll.
1. Teresa Giudice
The essence of celebrity means that stars enjoy heightened recognition and they must constantly seek public attention to establish their particular distinctiveness. What has been Teresa’s uniqueness, and will it last in 2016?
The star of The Real Housewives of New Jersey began her 15-month prison sentence in 2015 and was released before Christmas. (The cookbook author will be on home confinement until February 5.) Teresa will be able to leave her home with an electronic monitoring bracelet as long as she receives permission from the Federal Location Monitoring Program, according to reports. The program utilizes technologies available to monitor the location and compliance of an offender at their residence and in the community. The digital device arguably has lowered the cost of incarceration and serves as a regulatory tool for law enforcement in improving public safety.
When Teresa returned home to her Towaco mansion after spending nearly a year in prison for fraud, she found a 2016 Lexus LX SUV waiting for her in the driveway, a present from her husband Joe. Wouldn’t a Ford Focus have sufficed to get Teresa from Point A to Point B? What does a ritzy gift – think Lexusgate – given by Joe and accepted by Teresa say about the Giudices? Attorney James J. Leonard Jr. just revealed to NJ Advance Media the Giudices owe less than $50,000 of the $414,588 in restitution the couple was ordered to pay. Do you believe him? Do you think the sizeable Bravo paychecks have helped the Giudices pay for their criminal transgressions? In order to make good on the restitution, Teresa’s wages will continue to be garnished.
In 2015, the Bravo duo’s Towaco, N.J. home went out of foreclosure. Teresa and Joe, who lost their beach house through foreclosure this year, were also hit with a tax lien to the tune of $551,563 on October 21. The lien reveals unpaid tax bills for nine years spanning from 2000 to 2013. Teresa was gifted a new Lexus but she hasn’t settled up yet with Uncle Sam. The IRS holds a lien against all of the Giudices’ bank accounts and property; it may seize the Lexus, for instance, at any time to satisfy the debt.
2. Bobbi Kristina Brown
The daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown left this world in 2015 under suspicious circumstances. The case of the reality TV star has been treated as a criminal investigation since her January 31 hospitalization when she was found facedown and unresponsive in the bathtub of her Atlanta-area home. A preliminary autopsy on Bobbi Kristina showed no significant injuries or obvious cause of death. However, on September 25, the Fulton County Medical Examiner announced that the cause of Bobbi Kristina’s death had been determined, but the results were sealed by a court order obtained by the District Attorney.
Court-appointed conservator Bedelia Hargrove first filed a $10 million wrongful death civil lawsuit in June against Nick Gordon. In an amended complaint filed in August, the conservator alleges Nick gave Bobbi Kristina a “toxic cocktail” that left her “unconscious” and ultimately led to her July 26 death at the age of 22. The lawsuit also charges him of beating Bobbi Kristina and withdrawing funds from her accounts during her hospitalization.
In September, Nick filed a response to the suit. He denied that he “perpetrated the fraud that he had married Bobbi Kristina” and used that to control her and “benefit from her wealth.” Nick admitted to going out and partying the night before Bobbi Kristina was found unconscious in a bathtub, revealing he did get into an argument with her before changing his clothes. Yet he denies the wrongful death accusations, saying he did not give his late girlfriend a “toxic cocktail” and then put her facedown in the tub of cold water. “Defendant admits that he tried to ‘wake up’ Ms. Brown and attempted to get her to react and that he performed CPR on her,” the response claims.
Bobbi Kristina’s family is seeking a criminal prosecution. The Georgia District Attorney is reportedly looking to convene a grand jury and possibly indict Nick Gordon on criminal charges. Adding insult to fatal injury, Nick recently posted a photoshopped portrait of he and Bobbi Kristina on his private Twitter page. In Nick’s picture, he and Bobbi Kristina wear Santa hats and hold presents. The bottom of the card says, “Merry Christmas.” Too soon? Poor taste? How do you think a jury will react to Christmasgate?
3. Josh Duggar
Jim Bob Duggar once ran for the Republican Senate seat in Arkansas on a platform that rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes. In 2015, TLC pulled the plug on the hugely popular – and ostensibly wholesome – hit series 19 Kids and Counting following the disclosure that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s oldest son, Josh, sexually molested five young girls, including his own sisters.
A police report notes that Jim Bob Duggar told police his son admitted to fondling the breasts and genitals of several victims while they were sleeping in the family’s home, and that similar incidents happened four to five times. The Washington County Sheriff’s record indicated that Jim Bob and Michelle waited at least 16 months before contacting authorities about the molestation. The investigation came in 2006 and was ultimately dropped because the statute of limitations had expired on the alleged events. Apparently Jim Bob resisted cooperation with investigators, declining to produce his son for a police interview. Josh Duggar was never officially charged with a crime. The former 19 Kids and Counting star remains in rehab. TLC did not throw in the towel entirely on the scandalous family: Episodes recently aired of Jill & Jessa: Counting On.
The father of four young children continues to be in the middle of yet another sex scandal and this time, there is a lawsuit for which he will have to answer questions. According to court documents, adult film actress Ashley Stamm-Northup, otherwise known as Danica Dillon, claims in her lawsuit filed in November that Josh assaulted her while they were having sex. Because of the incident, Danica says she suffers physically and emotionally and is now being treated for severe anxiety. She is suing Josh for $500,000 in damages.
Only a few sex scandals can propel one to celebrity – think Kim Kardashian/Ray J and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Brandi Glanville/LeAnn Rimes/Eddie Cibrian à la filming the Lifetime movie Northern Lights. But when we talk about molestation and assault connected to sex scandals, no amount of media “spin” can repair irreparable harm and hurt attendant to a violation of such a personal and heartbreaking magnitude.
4. Bethenny Frankel
Divorce pays – the lawyers, that is. The Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel had a rough year as far as her divorce from Jason Hoppy goes. One of the biggest items in their divorce is the former couple’s Tribeca apartment. In May, a judge declared documents used to secure a trust for Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy’s Tribeca apartment null and void. The purchase of the apartment, which Jason refuses to leave, closed in 2011 and was supposedly funded by a loan in the amount of $2.3 million and by approximately $2.7 million from an account in Bethenny’s name. She says she was “duped” into signing the documents and someone may have forged her signature. The Skinnygirl founder asserts that when she signed, she believed, based on her communication with her husband, that the trust was only to maintain privacy and that Jason would only be managing the property for her benefit.
Recently, reports surfaced that Jason has been trying to convince his and Bethenny’s former neighbors to write letters accusing his soon-to-be ex-wife of poor parenting, to be used to his advantage in custody hearings. The bestselling author was ordered to pay the pharmaceutical salesman $100,000 in lawyer fees by June 1.
A golden lady stands with a crowned head, a sword in one hand and measuring scales in the other. Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and let us know which reality TV star you think made the biggest legal splash in 2015. Who should be anointed All About the Tea’s Scandal of the Year: Legal Edition?
Cast your VOTES in our poll below and post your thoughts in the comment section.
Wishing All About the Tea posters and readers Happy Holidays and a New Year filled with health and prosperity.
Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.