Former anchor Alycia Lane returned to court yesterday, taking direct aim for the first time in a lawsuit against former CBS3 colleague Larry Mendte, accusing him of ruining her by invading her privacy and leaking personal details to the media.
The Common Pleas Court suit spells out about two years of gossip fodder provided by Mendte, including new details of the notorious bikini-photo incident, her relationship with a married New York news anchor, and the aftermath of her Dec. 17 arrest in New York, when she was ridiculed for reaching out to Gov. Rendell.
The suit says it was Lane's boyfriend, radio personality Chris Booker, who made the initial call to Rendell, hoping to leverage their common connection as Masons to get the name of a lawyer. The suit also said Lane was recognized by police in New York, who had seen New York Post gossip stories on her leaked by Mendte and used them to "belittle, embarrass and threaten" her.
The suit also names CBS3 and accuses the station of defaming Lane before and after her firing on Jan. 1, and of ignoring her suspicions that someone was hacking into her personal e-mail.
CBS3 fired Mendte in June after an FBI investigation found that he had accessed her e-mail hundreds of times. Mendte pleaded guilty last month and is awaiting sentencing Nov. 24.
Philadelphia Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross, who ran columns and blog posts about Lane, was accused in the suit of "conspiring with Mendte" and "obtaining the fruits of the illegal activity through the conspiracy."
Gross and Daily News editor Michael Days declined comment, saying they had not seen the suit. Scott Baker, general counsel for Philadelphia Media Holdings, which owns the Daily News and The Inquirer, said, "Without commenting on the merits of the case, we're certainly going to vigorously defend Dan and the Daily News."
Mendte's attorney, Michael A. Schwartz of Pepper Hamilton, also declined comment as did a representative of CBS3.
The suit, filed by Paul Rosen of Spector Gadon & Rosen, replaces and expands upon an earlier civil complaint that Rosen had filed. The suit specifically claims defamation and invasion of privacy.
Mendte admitted to federal authorities that he installed a keystroke-capture device on Lane's work computer. Mendte's intrusions - more than 7,000 in all, according to the complaint - were believed to have started in March 2006.
Among the first hacks was an "intimate e-mail exchange" between Lane and her mother about Lane's trip to Monaco to interview Prince Albert, the suit says, adding that Mendte sent her private photographs from the trip to the Post.
Lane's photos, which showed her dancing with the prince, were never published, the suit says, because Lane warned the newspaper that they were private property. Lane was "falsely portrayed in the media as someone who made sexual overtones to a member of the Monaco royal family" in a Post Page Six item printed May 1, 2006. The Post was not named as a defendant in the suit.
The suit says that Mendte overheard Lane's complaints to station management about the photographs and did not send photos to the media after that incident.
The suit also accuses Mendte of telling the Post that Lane was chastised for sending bikini pictures to sports anchor Rich Eisen. The Post wrote about Eisen's wife's reaction in a May 1, 2007, story that thrust Lane into the national spotlight.
The suit says the story led to Lane's being branded publicly as a "homewrecker, vixen, bikini babe" and a "person of a low moral character, when the exact opposite is true."
The suit says Mendte "faked concern" for Lane during the media storm and told her that the only way to avoid the glare would be to move away from Philadelphia and start over.
The suit accuses Mendte of tipping the Post to her summer 2007 relationship with New York TV anchor Chris Wragge. The Post staked out her apartment with a photographer. Mendte anonymously sent e-mail exchanges between Lane and Wragge to Wragge's estranged wife in Sweden, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also describes the aftermath of Lane's arrest Dec. 17. With Lane in lockup and her cell phone in a taxi, her boyfriend, Booker, was frantically calling people.
Disputing a story reported last December, the suit says that Booker - not Lane - called Gov. Rendell to seek the name of a New York attorney. The suit says Booker knew that Rendell was a former district attorney, a native New Yorker - and like Booker - a Mason. Booker left a message with Rendell, the suit says. In the interim, Booker secured a lawyer.
When Lane later learned of Booker's call, the suit says, Lane called Rendell to explain why Booker had reached out. Rendell then returned Lane's call. The suit says that Mendte leaked the details of Lane's calls to the Daily News, which insinuated that Lane as a journalist had sought special treatment. A Rendell spokesman could not be reached last night for comment.
The suit contends that Gross "knew or should have known, or was acting in reckless disregard, of the facts that [the station] and Mendte were unlawfully accessing" Lane's e-mail.
Contact staff writer Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or email@example.com.