As CBS prepares for Wednesday’s premiere of this year’s edition of ”Big Brother,” it’s still facing repercussions from last year’s notorious incident in which contestant Justin Sebik held a knife to the throat of fellow contestant Krista Stegall. Though producers quickly evicted Sebik from the house, and though Stegall and Sebik seemed to dismiss the incident as horseplay at the time, she’s now suing CBS for negligence in allowing the incident to occur and not providing her with adequate psychological counseling afterward, E! reports.
Late one night during last summer’s run of ”Big Brother,” Sebik and Stegall were kissing in the kitchen of the camera-rigged house. Sebik pulled out a kitchen knife from a drawer, held it to Stegall’s throat, and said, ”Wait, hang on, I’m going to slash your throat. Would you get mad if I killed you now?” She replied, ”No. But I want some water.” (The incident was shown on the ”Big Brother” webcast but edited out of the TV broadcast.) Sebik later told host Julie Chen he was just kidding around, saying, ”If there is anyone who can perceive that as an act of violence or a threat, then you’re an idiot.” Still, CBS ejected him from the house. Shortly thereafter, the New York Times reported that Sebik passed through CBS’ contestant screening even though he had been arrested on assault charges in 1996 and charged with assault and theft in 1997. The network acknowledged that it had known of an arrest for robbery but noted the charge had been dropped.
Stegall, in a suit filed at the end of June in Louisiana state court in New Orleans, claimed that CBS should have been more vigorous in its screening of Sebik and should have ejected him earlier, after such menacing behavior as a dispute over a pillow. She also is seeking reimbursement for psychological counseling expenses she incurred after the show when, she says, she sought treatment to cope with the publicity stemming from the incident. (Apparently, having a knife held to her throat was less traumatic than dealing with reporters.)
A CBS spokeswoman said, ”We think there is no merit to this lawsuit and we are prepared to defend it vigorously.”