Kate Ward
May 28, 2009 AT 11:56 PM EDT

Three short weeks into The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and the ladies already have a scandal on their hands. (Oh, don’t act like you’re shocked!) At the end of Tuesday night’s episode, Bravo teased next week’s installment, in which the women discuss Cop Without a Badge, a book that supposedly features juicy information about the show’s divorcée, Danielle Staub (mug shot included!).

Well, lucky for Real Housewives fans, the New Jersey Star-Ledger got a hold of the book, and printed an item about the info tucked inside. The highlights? The book tells many stories about a Beverly Merrill — the woman who is supposedly Danielle — a stripper who Badge author Kevin Maher claims partied with a drug dealer who kidnapped a rich youth. (Maher claims Merrill was charged with extortion, kidnapping, and possession, but was granted only five years probation after pleading guilty to extortion.)

So there it is, out on the table. The question now is, is this true? According to some Amazon.com reviews, the book shouldn’t necessarily be trusted. But whether or not there’s any validity to the claims, it’s fair to say that Danielle will have to cope with this kind of notoriety for some time. And you know what? I feel bad for her. Although the divorcée is being set up as this season’s villain, what with her shady past and inappropriate tendencies, I think we really haven’t given her a fair shake. Yes, she’s pitiful. And yes, she’s annoyingly self-centered. But the lady appears to be a good mother — how many other housewives can claim they spend quality time with their children every single day (ahem, Luann)? — and does try to be fair when it comes to her friendships.

Of course, I could be partial, considering every single one of New Jersey‘s five women fondly reminds me of someone in my own South Jersey family. And in support of her opponents, if Danielle does have this many skeletons in her closet, why would she sign up for a reality show that has no problem airing its stars dirty laundry? Who is that desperate for attention?

But in the end, Danielle will likely have the last laugh, because there is no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to these women. She could take this notoriety and easily turn it into a Danielle-branded handcuff company, TruCrazy.  But what do you think, PopWatchers? Does this news make you pity her, or revile her even more?

addCredit(“Andrei Jackamets/Bravo”)

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