"Real Housewives of New Jersey" cast members beat up and injured a Chicago-area police officer and his cousin during a brawl earlier this year at a posh Dominican resort, two lawsuits filed today allege.
Adolfo Arreola, a sworn officer with the University of Illinois at Chicago's police department, suffered a broken arm, blurred vision, cuts and bruises after some members of the cast "savagely beat, kicked, punched, scratched, jumped" on him and smashed glass on his head, according to the lawsuits. His cousin Jason A. Gomez suffered a broken leg and a torn MCL after he came to Arreola's defense.
The cousins’ lawsuits – filed in New York and Miami – allege that they and their families were dancing and socializing in a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino bar in Punta Cana on Feb. 23 when Jersey Housewife Teresa Giudice sprayed champagne on Arreola’s mother-in-law and mocked the 53-year-old woman as she tried to wipe the alcohol from her eyes.
The complaints state that after Arreola confronted Giudice, he was attacked by cast members that included her husband, Joe, and Albert and Christopher Manzo, the sons of show matriarch Caroline Manzo.
All three men have supporting roles on the popular reality show, which follows the conflict-riddled lives of five women from northern New Jersey. Since the program's debut two years ago, the cast's public melees and physical altercations have fueled gossip sites and the show's ratings in near equal measure.
The Guidices and other cast members could not be immediately reached for comment.
Bravo, the cable channel that airs the show, is named in the New York complaint, as well. Thomas Demetrio, an attorney repesenting Arreola and Gomez, has asked Bravo and the show's production company to preserve any video taken of the fight. A spokeswoman for Bravo said the network and the cast members decline to comment on the accusations.
The cousins also sued the Hard Rock Hotel's parent company in Miami alleging negligent security and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Ricardo Cata, a lawyer for the hotel's operator, said he had not seen any lawsuit but said the hotel did nothing wrong. "Our position is the hotel did everything it was supposed to do and responded appropriately and took care of the guests in the appropriate manner," Cata said.
While in the Dominican Republic, the cousins signed an agreement not to sue, but their lawyer said they did so under duress.
In their lawsuits, the cousins allege that the cast and crew had been served "excessive amounts of alcohol" at the bar and became "intoxicated, belligerent and rowdy" – a scene reminiscent of a recent episode in which Joe Giudice and his brother-in-law scuffled at a lavish christening party. With 2.8 million viewers, that May 16 episode marked the biggest season premiere in Bravo history.
In addition to the Giudices and the Manzo brothers, the lawsuit filed in New York names the Manzos' roommate Gregory Bennett Jr. as one of the assailants. Bennett shares an apartment with the brothers, who star in their own spin-off reality show on the Internet.
Arreola, 42, told the Tribune that his family had flown to the Dominican Republic to attend a vow renewal ceremony for his wife's aunt and uncle, who were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. Shortly after midnight Feb. 23, he and several family members went to a hotel lounge and found seats near the VIP section where the cast was being filmed.
About an hour later, Giudice began spraying champagne and drenched Arreola's mother-in-law, Yolanda Martinez, the lawsuits said.
Martinez, a grandmother of four who is also part of the suits, said Giudice deliberately sprayed the champagne into her face and all over her body. As Martinez tried rubbing the alcohol from her burning eyes, cast members stood around her laughing, she said.
"They were laughing at me like it was funny," she said. "They were right in my face. I felt humiliated."
Arreola, who was on the dance floor, walked over to Giudice and asked her to stop, he said. The Manzo brothers began yelling obscenities, Arreola said, and he identified himself as a police officer. According to the lawsuits, cast members then pounced on him, and his cousin was hurt coming to his aid.
Security eventually broke up the fight, but initially refused the cousins' requests to call an ambulance and law enforcement, according to the suit.
The vow renewal ceremony was canceled so the family could deal with the aftermath, the cousins said.
On Feb. 24, the men and several cast members met with a magistrate to discuss what happened. All of those involved were required to hand over their passports. The cast was represented by lawyers from New York and Santo Domingo, Arreola said. Police retained a local lawyer for the cousins, Arreola said.
"I wanted justice," he said. "I kept saying, 'Why aren’t these guys arrested?' I was told that I didn't understand Dominican law."
The cousins say some cast members, including Teresa Giudice, told police they sustained scratches and bruises in the brawl as well. The cousins vehemently denied punching Giudice in the face, as was reported on some gossip sites immediately after the fight.
"If that had happened, we would be in jail," Gomez said.
On Feb. 25 — two days after the encounter — the cousins were given release forms to sign and were told they would get their passports back and be allowed to leave the country once the paperwork was completed, they said. According to the cousins, the documents stated that in exchange for dropping the matter, the men would receive $25,000 apiece as long as they agreed never to sue or talk about the incident publicly.
About $8,000 went to their Dominican lawyer. The cousins never cashed their $17,000 cut, said Demetrio.
Gomez said he encouraged Arreola to sign the documents so they could leave the country and have their injuries taken care of back home.
Their lawyer maintains the release is not valid because they signed under duress and has asked the court to declare the release invalid.
"It was so skewed against them," Demetrio said.
Arreola, who has worked for the UIC police for about 15 years, underwent surgery on his right arm after returning to the states and is undergoing physical therapy, Demetrio said. Arreola, who shoots a gun with his right hand, cannot return to his job until he can re-qualify on the gun range.
"I'm worried,” said Arreola, who had six screws put in to repair his arm. "I only have five years left until I can retire. I can see the finish line and then something like this happens."
Gomez had surgery on his leg and now has two pins in his knee, he said. Two long scars on either side of the patella leave his kneecap looking more like a baseball than a body part. Still on crutches, he does not know when he'll be cleared to return to work.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun