Alycia Lane sued KYW-TV yesterday, claiming that the station exploited her, tore her down, and defamed her on her way out the door.
Seeking unspecified damages, the former anchor alleges in a complaint filed in Common Pleas Court that management "turned a blind eye" toward leaks of personal information after she repeatedly voiced concerns about "security breaches" in her private e-mail. She also alleges that management engaged in "deep-seated gender-discriminatory animus" toward her and other female employees.
Lane uses the lawsuit to spell out for the first time her side of her downfall at CBS3. She claims that the breaches of her e-mail began in early 2006, when the New York Post reported that she was cozying up to Prince Albert of Monaco.
The suit also tells Lane's side of the May 2007 scandal after the Post wrote that she was chastised by the wife of the sportscaster Rich Eisen for sending him photos of herself in a bikini.
Besides the station, station manager Michael Colleran and two defendants called John Doe and Jane Doe are named in the filing by her attorney, Paul Rosen of Spector Gadon & Rosen.
Lane's erstwhile coanchor, Larry Mendte, is not a defendant. The complaint alleges that Mendte was "obsessively jealous" of her "growing popularity and success" and resented her higher salary. Her compensation is thought to have been $100,000 above his $700,000 a year, according to station sources.
Three weeks after the FBI impounded Mendte's computer during an investigation of his allegedly reading Lane's private e-mails, Mendte yesterday remained a station employee. The suit contends that a double standard exists at KYW.
Lane was fired two weeks after she was arrested in New York City and accused of striking a police officer. In the complaint, Lane alleges that she was fired even though station management conducted its own investigation that determined she was innocent.
In February, felony charges were dropped. Lane and New York authorities agreed to an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which will clear her record in August if she has no further involvement with authorities.
A KYW spokeswoman said the station had not seen the complaint and had no further immediate comment.
Mendte's lawyer, Michael Schwartz, said he had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment at this time. "We'll take a look at it and make a determination what, if any, response we would make," he said.
Lane's suit claims that a statement from Colleran that Mendte read on-air on Jan. 7 killed her career.
It read in part: "After assessing the overall impact of a series of incidents resulting from judgments she has made, we have concluded that it would be impossible for Alycia to continue to report the news as she, herself, has become the focus of so many news stories." It added, "We understand that Alycia expects to be fully vindicated in that proceeding" in New York.
The suit says the "clear meaning" was that Lane was "now unable to report the news for any news station anywhere in the world."
Mendte and Lane started on the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts in September 2003. The lawsuit traces Lane's troubles to 2004, when the station, in a bid to court female viewers, sent her to Los Angeles to appear on Dr. Phil, which KYW also carried. She says she was encouraged to discuss "some of the previous failed relationships which, to that point, had not been public information." Lane says that she insisted that she review the taped interview so that "inappropriate personal segments" could be deleted.
The interview turned weepy, and she begged the station not to air it, the suit says. But the station heavily advertised it as a two-night special called "Demons of Divorce," which drew high ratings. She was instructed to appear again on Dr. Phil, she says. Her personal life thereafter "became fodder for tabloid media coverage," the suit says, and she was "branded in the press as someone who sought to make herself the news rather than to merely report the news."
Lane exploded onto the front page of the Post in May 2007 with a story headlined "Bikin-e-mails rattle TV wife." Lane says in the suit that she and Eisen were talking on the phone about a vacation she had taken with a mutual acquaintance. The suit says Eisen had asked her to e-mail photos but Lane had "felt embarrassed" because some were beach photos and because "they were taken without makeup, her hair was a mess, and she did not view the pictures as flattering."
Eisen reminded Lane of their friendship and "the level of comfort," so she sent them, she says. In a lighthearted response, the suit says, Eisen e-mailed Lane a photo of Baywatch's David Hasselhoff.
Eisen's wife, Suzy Shuster, later saw Lane's photos and sent her a scathing e-mail, which was recounted in the Post.
Lane's suit says Mendte told her that the piece was "a hatchet job. . . . He told her, a lot of people will be watching [the news] tonight. Mendte also continually commented on how many hits [Lane's] KYW bio received - more than 500,000 hits," compared with 200 on a normal day.
The Post previously had declined to comment on how it obtained the e-mail, and recently reported that it had received it anonymously. Eisen has refused to comment.
Another instance, which the suit terms "the Prince Albert of Monaco Exploitation," has Lane being sent to Monaco in 2006 to cover the 50th anniversary of the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III. "KYW-TV specifically instructed the plaintiff to 'sex it up' with respect to her attire," the suit says.
Lane states that she e-mailed a photo of herself dancing with Albert to her private account. Shortly after, the Post reported that it had seen photos of Lane with "her arms cozily wrapped around the royal."