Christie Brinkley divorce trial set to begin

July 1, 2008 7:09:39 PM PDT
There's not much the public hasn't seen of Christie Brinkley.

Whether it's in next-to-nothing swimsuits in Sports Illustrated or starring in ex-husband Billy Joel's rock videos or in countless boldface tabloid mentions, the quintessential California blond cover girl has become a fixture on the cultural landscape.

And now Brinkley's divorce from her fourth husband, Hamptons architect Peter Cook, is about to be aired in full public view as a trial opens Wednesday on Long Island.

It's rare for divorce cases to go to trial and be open to the public. Brinkley, 54, opposed a move by a legal guardian for her children that would have closed the proceedings to the public, apparently comfortable with the prospect that Cook's alleged affair with an 18-year-old employee and other intimate details of their 10-year marriage will be ripe for public consumption.

"So much has already been in the press about what happened," said Brinkley's Manhattan attorney, Robert Stephan Cohen. "We believe the only way to get at the truth is through an open courtroom. Mr. Cook shouldn't be embarrassed. If he is, it's his own fault."

Brinkley filed for divorce from Cook in 2006 after reports surfaced that he had an affair with the teenager, Diana Bianchi, who claims Cook seduced her shortly after hiring her to work at his architectural firm. She's expected to be among the first witnesses at the trial.

The couple had a prenuptial agreement, so money will not be the main focus of the trial. Attorneys are arguing over custody issues related to the couple's two children and how to divide up some of their belongings, including three boats and some real estate. Brinkley's ownership of her $30 million Bridgehampton home is not being contested.

Brinkley had a 9-year-old daughter, Sailor, with Cook. Her 12-year-old son Jack, from her marriage to Richard Taubman, was adopted by Cook. Brinkley also has a 22-year-old daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, from her marriage to Billy Joel. Her first husband was artist Jean-Francois Allaux.

"He wants custody," said Cook's attorney, Norman Sheresky. "He thinks he's the better parent. Her rage has taken over; she's really mad at him."

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Mark D. Cohen wrote there was no proof of imminent harm to the children by opening the trial to the public. Court officials, anticipating a swarm of press converging on the courthouse, have already moved the trial to a larger courtroom.

"All this publicity has been generated by Peter's abysmal behavior," Brinkley's attorney said. "The notion that he's a candidate for custody is beyond anything."

Sheresky countered that he's puzzled by the focus on Cook's adultery, saying his client "already conceded that point. I don't know why this is an issue."

High-profile Manhattan divorce attorney Raoul Felder, who represented Taubman in a "very private" split-up with Brinkley, thinks the publicity could harm her. He said less than one-half of 1 percent of all divorce cases in New York actually go to trial.

"I think she made an awful mistake," Felder said. "She apparently is so angry she resisted confidentiality. I think she checked her common sense at the courthouse steps. It doesn't make any sense. There is nothing good that could come out of this."

Author and Hamptons aficionado Stephen Gaines noted that Brinkley is beloved in the Hamptons, where she is active in many charities and civic events.

"I think most people think she's a righteous, down-to-Earth person and people are rooting for her," Gaines said. "There is a general disapproval of Cook's behavior, but this is really not a big brouhaha out here.

"Maybe because we have so many divorces."


Load Comments