Back in 2008, then-ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews was the victim of a twisted crime in which a stalker by the name of Michael David Barrett requested a room next to Andrews's at the Nashville Marriott, and after the property obliged (without getting Andrews's consent), Barrett proceeded to rig the peephole to Andrews's room so that he could film her unclothed for extended minutes as she prepared herself for her telecast.
After uploading the video, Barrett was caught by the FBI and sent to prison for two and a half years. The video, despite Andrews' protests and 17 million views, remains available to view in certain unseemly corners of the Internet to this day, which is why Andrews is suing the Nashville Marriott for $75 million.
The trial, which has been playing out since last week, has been ugly and heart-wrenching at times, with Andrews's parents and Andrews herself taking the stand, and on more than one occasion being reduced to tears, as they recounted the shame and embarrassment she's been through, including the revelation that ESPN forced her to do an interview with Oprah Winfrey (ESPN wanted it on Good Morning America, but Andrews chose Oprah) so that she could dispel rumors that she arranged the whole thing as a publicity stunt. This, on top of the Marriott's defense team claiming that Andrews deserved no money because she's more famous now than she was in 2008, as if the video actually helped her career.
Yeah, it's been that kind of week. And on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, it got even more bizarre as one of the representatives for the Nashville Marriott, a guy by the name of Neal Peskind, admitted to being at a table at a Nashville restaurant on Tuesday night where the occupants were watching the NSFW naked Andrews video on a cell phone.
According to WSMV, the group was spotted by a bartender at the Margot Cafe and Bar:
On Twitter, a bartender at the restaurant told Channel 4 and several other media outlets that it was Peskind who was showing his friends the video.
“He said it was costing him millions so he was going to show it to everyone. His friends were making fun of her and her body,” the bartender wrote on Twitter.
“We had to ask him to stop. It was disgusting and horrifying,” she added.
…Margot McCormack, owner of Margot Café and Bar in east Nashville, issued the following statement:
“Based on what I have heard regarding the incident last night, one of my servers was made uncomfortable by activity at one of our tables. It is my understanding the supervisor on duty asked the customer to stop the behavior. I would expect any of my staff to respond to rude or offensive behavior in my restaurant. We take great pride in providing our guests with a quality experience.”
These accusations led to the media's descending upon Peskind Wednesday morning demanding answers. In the first video below, Peskind says nothing. In the second one, he says that reports of them watching the video are incorrect:
Eventually, Peskind issued a statement in which he attempted to clarify what went on at the table, or, depending on your point of view, concoct a story to take the heat off of himself:
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I was at a private dinner meeting with friends. They brought up the allegations and they started viewing the video. I asked them to stop, and while they did so, it was not as quickly as I had hoped. This incident has been blown into something it was not. I would never disrespect Ms. Andrews and what she has been through. This is a very unfortunate situation that should not be a reflection on West End Hotel Partners or to our commitment to the issues in this case surrounding what happened to her. I sincerely apologize for my participation in what happened.
Regardless of whether Peskind is telling the truth as to whose idea it was to begin playing the video at the table in that restaurant, this is a brutal look for the defense, and it validates any and all sympathy for Andrews as pertains to the permanence and ease of access to this embarrassing, intrusive video.
The jury is supposed to ignore media coverage of the trial; however, as TMZ has reported, they are not sequestered. If indeed the jury catches wind of this twist, then when it comes time for them to decide on the hotel's culpability and the torment that they enabled, they'll have direct evidence of how inescapable all of this is for Andrews — ironically, evidence provided directly by the defense.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.