A former contributor to the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column said he was thankful he wouldn’t be charged with trying to shake down a billionaire in exchange for good press, but the sensational case has left his life in tatters.
“It is definitely a relief,” Jared Paul Stern said in a phone interview. “But I’m still basically in the same situation vis-a-vis my life being ruined. I never really believed that I’d end up in court. It was a smear campaign. But it was a success. I got fired and vilified and all of that.”
Stern’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, confirmed in a statement Tuesday that his client would not be indicted.
An individual familiar with the federal investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made public, said the case was being closed because there was no basis to proceed.
Stern, 35, was under federal investigation into whether he tried to extort money from Ronald Burkle, a California billionaire who has given millions of dollars to political causes and is known for his investments in supermarkets.
Burkle said Stern demanded $100,000 and a $10,000 monthly stipend to make negative stories about him stop appearing in the paper’s Page Six gossip column.
Stern has repeatedly denied Burkle’s accusations.
“We have said from Day 1,” Tacopina said, “that this was a campaign to spread lies based on false accusations fueled by Burkle’s personal vendetta against the New York Post and that there was never any evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Stern’s part.”
Burkle spokesman Mike Sitrick said in a statement that the billionaire wasn’t going to second-guess the decision of federal authorities who were present at least one time last year when meetings between the two men were secretly videotaped.
“Mr. Burkle didn’t question their decisions previously, and he isn’t going to start doing so now,” the statement said.
Post spokesman Howard Rubenstein said the paper does not comment on personnel matters but it was pleased that “no crime” was committed.
Tacopina said Stern intends to file a civil lawsuit against Burkle.