Alleged victims of Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi call him a ‘snake’
For fans of the Bravo franchise, a TMZ failure alert shouting the names of the stars on the shows might sound like Christmas morning. As reporter Kelley Carter says in a new documentary, “What’s so interesting is that whenever one of these women gets caught in some sort of legal situation, the first thing we all think about is , my God, I hope the cameras are rolling. “
But, for Bravo viewers with a conscience, this time it’s different. Well, different-ish. Especially after watching the new ABC News documentary The housewife and the con artist– truly, a sensational title – which premieres on Hulu Monday.
On the morning of election day 2020, the jaws of Lisa Rinna, Kyle Richards and Dorit Kemsley plunged into the ground after receiving a warning from Jayne about the news. A few days earlier, they were all together on vacation in Lake Tahoe, and Jayne hadn’t mentioned anything, casually catching up with Girardi on the phone when asked how he was doing.
The divorce bomb has sparked a series of events over the past seven months that, depending on their escalation and what is going on in the litigation, could see Girardi go to jail and Jayne in financial ruin. Bravo fans might start to wonder what costs are justified when it comes to the entertainment value of watching unscrupulous characters flaunt their wealth on television.
In a series of prosecutions and investigations, Girardi, once considered the “crusader of justice” famous for negotiating the record-breaking settlement for the victims in the case dramatized in the film Erin Brockovitch, is accused of embezzling millions of dollars other victims he has represented – clients who include burn victims and the widows and orphans of those who died in a plane crash in 2018.
Girardi was forced into involuntary bankruptcy. Its assets, including the Pasadena mansion, showcased so ostentatiously in episodes of Real housewives, are being liquidated. the California State Bar Complained, and the cases against him have been referred to a federal prosecutor, which could result in jail time. Meanwhile, Jayne has been named in several lawsuits and the trustees have asked for a special lawyer to recover her assets.
They’re a couple who for the past six years have bragged about their lavish lifestyle on television, listing their multiple private jets, parading their fancy cars, and modeling an outrageous wardrobe. Jayne is spending sadly $ 40,000 a month on glam alone. Showing such apparent wealth as Girardi allegedly robbed victims still awaiting settlement is a level of rudeness that approaches Shakespearean proportions.
The question is, what did Jayne herself know about it? And, more so, how much did she care (and care)?
Upcoming teasers Real housewives episodes show her being toasted by her dismayed castmates, to whom she pleads ignorance. Fans of the series salivate while waiting for these episodes. But as each day brings horrific new developments about Girardi and, perhaps, Jayne’s behavior in pursuing her cushy lifestyle, the thrill of the drama becomes an increasingly ugly experience.
Reading the surveys is one thing. Seeing and hearing the victims themselves is another. It’s there that The housewife and the con artist is so powerful.
Convenient and concise recap of complicated and at times indecipherable legal proceedings, the 70-minute documentary is a great keeper in the know. The overwhelming vibe of it all: anger.
The housewife and the con artist features moving on-camera interviews with the victims and families who have been swindled – stolen, abused, exploited … you choose the adjective – by Girardi and his company, Girardi Keese. These are the subjects whose testimonies in several Los Angeles Times investigative pieces helped explode awareness of alleged wrongdoing and launched dominoes into justice.
And while Jayne’s shameless celebration of her wealth – singing “it’s expensive to be me”In one of his singles, for example, is put into context as the victims wait for the money owed to them but never received, it is Girardi’s own words that seem to damn the couple.
Voicemail messages are played in which he lies to clients about why they haven’t received their money and tries to charm them into sympathizing with his hard work. Most important, however, is the exclusive video from a September 2020 deposition in which Girardi admits he’s broke – in other words, whether he intended to or not, he couldn’t. pay clients the money they owed them: “At one point I had about $ 80 million, or $ 50 million, in cash. But it’s all gone. I also had a stock portfolio of around $ 50 million, and it all disappeared.
The simplest explanation for what happened is that Girardi, whose firm Girardi Keese has attracted clients due to its experience in negotiating massive multi-million dollar judgments and settlements with titans of company, broke the cardinal rule of being a lawyer. The money from these cases is supposed to go into a trust account before going to a client. The lawyer or the firm is not authorized to touch these funds. Access to these funds, let alone personal use, is an absolute violation.
Such transgression is grounds for immediate exclusion. While there have been complaints about Girardi and his handling of funds over the years, his warm relationship with the California State Bar has largely protected him. When the scandal erupted last year, the bar admitted 40 years of errors in handling complaints against him.
As Sunny Hostin, View ABC News host and legal analyst said, “I can’t imagine being a victim and watching an episode of the Real housewives, and watch Erika Jayne browse her vast shoe collection, her closet, her house, her private plane, go on a trip and display all this wealth without wondering where it came from.
In the documentary, we hear what it sounds like from Joe Ruigomez and his mother, Kathy. Joe and his girlfriend were at home when a faulty gas line burst into a huge fireball that engulfed the house, burning Joe over 90% of his body and killing his girlfriend.
“We were convinced he would win for us,” his sister said. “We just didn’t know how much of a snake he would be along the way.” When Girardi won them a big settlement, he systematically missed payments, armed with an apology.
“Every time I complained about him, ‘Hey Tom, you said you were going to pay me that day and it’s been three weeks, what’s going on?’: Ruigomez said.” He would call me back and said to me, ‘Are you mad at me?’ He would butter me and say, ‘You know what, Joe? You’re a bad guy.’ That’s something he’d say a lot. “You’re a slutty guy, baby.”
He kept blaming the delays on judge Edward Panelli. Representatives for Panelli said he was unaware of the apology and had no involvement in how Girardi might distribute Ruigomez’s funds.
The last time Ruigomez received a payment was in January 2017. The family then sued him and Girardi agreed to a $ 12 million settlement. After a single million dollar payment, he never sent them any money again.
There’s also an interview with Josie Hernandez, a former client who sued the maker of a surgical implant intended to relieve incontinence. For nine years, his file kept changing hands at the firm. The case was ultimately settled for $ 135,000. She hasn’t seen a dime yet.
Hernandez plays a voicemail message from Girardi. “I don’t want you to upset me. I’m working like a dog to try to solve this problem, ”he says. “I know it’s very frustrating to wait so long for the settlement and then be further delayed. But I am in your corner. Believe me, we would love our money as much as you want yours. I am sorry. Don’t be mad at me. I’m a good guy, by the way.
The money had been transferred to Girardi’s firm in May. This voicemail was from August. He was blatantly lying.
No one or injustice is more important than that of others, but the story that has gained the most traction is that of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Girardi Keese has represented several orphans and widows of the deceased victims, winning multi-million dollar settlements. One of those clients, Bias Ramadhan, whose mother died in the crash, said he was not receiving the money and Girardi dodged his messages asking for status updates.
In December 2020, a month after Jayne filed for divorce, a Chicago attorney filed a lawsuit against Girardi because he and several clients had not been paid; he accused Girardi of hoarding and possibly abusing funds.
What happens next is a saga that we can now watch unfold. It’s the truth that’s stranger than fiction, the kind of reality TV even the most zealous producer couldn’t concoct.
On the one hand, we see Jayne navigate difficult questions about her involvement on camera, statements that will be recorded publicly and for which she will need to be held accountable. One wonders if this is wise on his part. But it is certainly gratifying, especially after spending time learning the details of the victims’ cases, to hear her responses.
Yet there is also cruelty in its continued spotlight. There is unease in confusing the real reality of the victims’ circumstances with the entertaining drama of a reality show.
Naturally, Bravo looks at the potential of the story for controversy. Jayne’s more mundane comments or asides about Girardi make them episode edits. Any mention of her wealth, wardrobe or mansion is incorporated into full scenes; the season premiere, for example, finds Jayne organizing her overflowing fashion closet.
It’s the classic TV conundrum when it comes to telling non-fiction stories, whether it’s reality TV, docuseries, or a special like The housewife and the con artist: How well do you tell a story, and when do you sensationalize the trauma and the pain?
There is no clear answer here, although growing moral ambiguity may soon provide a verdict.