Naomi Campbell to negotiate 'palatable' community sentence

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The Independent US

Lawyers for Naomi Campbell, the model accused of assaulting a former maid with a mobile phone, are negotiating with prosecutors in New York in an effort to avoid a trial - and the possibility of a long prison term - in exchange for agreeing to community service.

But her lawyer insisted that any such task would have to be "palatable", fund-raising for Aids or cancer research rather than sweeping the streets, as Boy George recently did.

First hints of a possible plea bargain emerged yesterday as Ms Campbell, 35, showed up in court for a hearing in the case. Dressed in a form-fitting dark grey dress with a black jacket, the defendant stood mute as the judge agreed to an adjournment until 16 January to allow both sides to continue talking.

"We're still in the process of working out a possible disposition," Shanda Strain, an assistant district attorney, told the judge before a courtroom packed with reporters. Ms Campbell nodded meekly after being instructed to avoid all contact with the plaintiff while the case remains pending.

As the model left the courthouse surrounded by a large retinue of assistants and bodyguards, her lawyer, David Breitbart, confirmed that he was considering a plea offer.

Were his client to be found guilty of the allegations made against her, she could technically serve up to seven years in prison and then be deported.

Mr Breitbart declined to offer any details on how the negotiations were going. He did, however, indicate that he was setting conditions on the kind of community service his client would be prepared to do. Sweeping the streets, for example, would be out of the question.

His comment was a reference to the fate of Boy George, the British pop singer, who earlier this year found himself clocking in with the New York Sanitation Department for street-cleaning duty, as punishment for falsely reporting a burglary in his flat. His week of community service in Lower Manhattan inevitably turned into a media circus with scrums of reporters and photographers in close pursuit.

The case against Ms Campbell turns on allegations made by a former maid, Ana Scolavino. The model is accused of hitting Ms Scolavino on the back of her head with a mobile phone in her Manhattan apartment when she was unable to find a pair of jeans. Ms Campbell also accused Ms Scolavino of stealing the jeans.

On Tuesday, another former employee, identified as Gay Gibson, a native of Romania, made similar allegations against Ms Campbell in a new lawsuit. Ms Gibson alleges that the model hit her, showered her with racist insults and threatened to charge her with theft when she was unable to find a pair of Stella McCartney jeans.

Ms Gibson's court papers describe Ms Campbell as a "super-violent bigot", who insulted her further by yelling: "You are not in the Third World any more, stupid", and "Romanians are not usually as dumb as you".

The suit names Ms Campbell as a defendant, her four companies and her former press spokeswoman, Amanda Silverman.

Ms Gibson's lawyer, Lambros Lambrou, added that Ms Campbell has been cocksure in the face of her legal difficulties to the extent of wearing a T-shirt that has "NAOMI HIT ME" on the front and "I LOVE IT" on the reverse.

Mr Breitbart tried to swat the new allegations away, saying a previous lawsuit by Ms Gibson had been thrown out because papers had not been filed in time.