(CN) – Former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro fired a reporter who helped co-write the forthcoming book about Robert Durst, Pirro’s most famous investigation, for refusing to distort the facts, the journalist claims in court.
Long before she made a name for herself as a Fox News personality, Pirro had been a local prosecutor in Westchester County, N.Y., who opened an investigation into a famous cold case that rocked the tony suburb back in the 1980s.
Kathleen Durst disappeared in 1982, weeks after she sought medical attention for domestic abuse and a divorce. Though investigators suspected that Kathleen had been the victim of foul play at the hands of her husband, the son of a prominent real estate developer, Robert had an alibi.
Shortly after news of Pirro’s investigation into the Durst case surfaced in 2000, however, Susan Berman, the woman who supported Durst’s alibi, was found murdered execution-style in her Los Angeles home.
Though Los Angeles is reportedly eager to have Durst tried there for Berman’s murder, the 72-year-old must first face a trial in Louisiana on a gun charge.
Durst has suspected in the murders of several other people who were dismembered, bagged and disposed near the ocean on both coasts.
In 2001, Durst was charged in Galveston, Texas, with murdering his elderly neighbor Morris Black. Though Durst admitted to dismembering Black’s body and dumping his remains in the ocean, a jury credited Durst’s self-defense claims and acquitted him of the murder.
While living in Galveston, Durst posed as a mute woman to avoid being recognized.
In a complaint against Pirro filed Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court, Lisa DePaulo claims that Pirro hired her to help the write a book on Durst.
Scheduled for release on Nov. 3, “He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest for Justice” is based on a whisper Durst made during the filming of the acclaimed HBO documentary about him, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
When he went to use the bathroom at the end of filming, Durst did not turn off his wireless microphone and can be heard saying to himself, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
DePaulo says she met Pirro back in her Westchester DA days, around the time Pirro’s husband was indicted for tax fraud, already reeling from reports that he fathered a child with his mistress.
A glowing profile DePaulo wrote of Pirro appeared in the Mother’s Day 1999 edition of New York Times Magazine.
DePaulo says she had plans to write her own book about Durst but agreed instead to work with Pirro in the hopes of churning out a bestseller. The journalist even moved into Pirro’s home this past April “to get this done,” according to the complaint.
“Unfortunately, defendant’s improper conduct made that impossible,” DePaulo says.
“Defendant refused to allow plaintiff to write a book for defendant that accurately reflected the facts and events concerning Robert Durst,” the 21-page complaint states. “Instead, defendant repeatedly directed plaintiff to describe events and circumstances that never occurred and to aggrandize defendant’s role in the story at the expense of the truth.”
DePaulo says Pirro prioritized outside obligations and home-improvement projects over working on the book, and “diverted plaintiff’s time and attention from writing to managing defendant’s household, running errands, and serving as live-in domestic help.”
DePaulo says she had to deal with a stream of workmen who continuously arrived at Pirro’s home without notice, and she had to clean up after Pirro’s dogs because the Fox News star’s part-time housekeeper refused to do so.
Pirro “was obsessed with using the book to settle scores with a slew of figures from her past whom she viewed as enemies,” DePaulo adds.
She says Pirro “planned to describe her supposed enemies as adulterers and/or heavy drinkers.”
Pirro was also “adamant” that the book implicate Robert’s brother, Douglas Durst, as concealing supposed knowledge about his sister-in-law’s murder, according to the complaint.
DePaulo says she “repeatedly pointed out the utter lack of evidence to support this claim, but defendant insisted on its inclusion, arguing that it was part of how she ‘sold the book.'”
To show that Durst had motive to kill Berman, DePaulo says Pirro sought to recount that her office had been on the verge of interviewing Berman about Kathleen Durst’s murder when Berman was murdered, according to the complaint.
But DePaulo says other sources stated that Pirro “had by then lost interest in Kathleen’s case and refused to send an investigator to interview Berman in California, even when Kathleen’s friends and family begged her to do so.”
Pirro “dismissed these contradictory accounts as lies propagated by insignificant detractors she referred to as ‘fleas,'” according to the complaint.
When DePaulo asked Pirro for documentation to corroborate her story, “she learned that none existed,” the complaint continues.
Pirro also “claimed that Galveston jurors were ‘paid off by Durst’ for acquitting Robert, an assertion unsupported by any evidence,” DePaulo claims.
Unwilling to write an “inaccurate and distorted” book, DePaulo says she could not complete a draft of the book by a June 15 deadline, and that Pirro fired her.
The parties allegedly came to an agreement under which Pirro would pay DePaulo $28,750 in exchange for a release of her claims, and a license to use DePaulo’s work in the book – but Pirro then repudiated the agreement.
DePaulo seeks damages for breach of contract.
She is represented by James Fishman with Fishman & Mallon.
Pirro’s agent David Vigliano shot down DePaulo’s claims in an interview with The New York Times.
“Lisa DePaulo is a disgruntled former employee,” Vigliano reportedly said. “She was fired for nonperformance. She’s doing this for the money and it’s sad.”
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