Just how stringent are those CBS background checks for ”Big Brother” contestants? Yesterday, website The Smoking Gun revealed that current housemate Chiara Berti was arrested for drunken driving in the weeks before the show’s casting was finalized. That makes her the fourth housemate with a rap sheet, after three last year — most dramatically, Justin Sebik, who was ousted from the house after he held a knife to another contestant’s throat.
According to court documents obtained by The Smoking Gun, the California Highway Patrol arrested Berti in the wee hours of May 26 and charged her with driving under the influence, driving with a blood-alcohol level above the state’s .08 percent limit, and driving without a license. She did not appear in court in Van Nuys last Friday for arraignment, but she had a good excuse: She’s locked up in the ”Big Brother” compound. Her court date was postponed until Sept. 3, and if she hasn’t been voted out of the house by then, CBS may have to grant her a waiver and let her out long enough for a court appearance.
CBS was apparently more interested in Berti’s potential for on-camera antics than her arrest. In the two weeks since the show premiered, the 25-year-old New Yorker has gone topless, showered with another female housemate, and shared a bed with a male housemate. In an interview with the New York Daily News, CBS spokesman Chris Ender said of the charges against Berti, ”CBS knew about this, but we certainly don’t condone drunk driving.”
But Berti is not the first ”Big Brother” housemate to face a DUI rap. The Smoking Gun revealed during last year’s competition that Hardy Hill had been sentenced to probation and community service for drunk driving in Pennsylvania in 1999. The website also learned that Mike ”Boogie” Malin had been charged with trespassing on the Warner Bros. lot in order to surreptitiously photograph and videotape the set of ”Batman & Robin” in 1997, and had been fined and sentenced to probation and community service. Then there was Sebik; after he was kicked out, the New York Times revealed that the New Jersey resident had been arrested five times (including three times for assault), though the charges had all been dropped.
At least Berti would seem to pose less of a hazard to her housemates. After all, she’s not going to be driving any time soon.