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Lawyer for ex-Miss California USA threatens to sue pageant director

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Pagaent director responds, "Facts are facts, and we stand by them"
  • Attorney Charles LiMandri pens ultimatum to Miss California USA director's lawyer
  • Carrie Prejean's lawyer says dethronement caused "severe emotional distress"
  • "Please view this letter as a last opportunity" to retract statements, LiMandri writes
By Alan Duke
CNN
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Carrie Prejean's lawyer gave Miss California USA executive director Keith Lewis what he said was a final warning to retract statements made about the former beauty queen or face a defamation lawsuit.

The lawyer for former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, says the ousted beauty queen's good name is "tarnished."

The lawyer for former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, says the ousted beauty queen's good name is "tarnished."

Prejean, stripped of the Miss California USA title last week, "suffered severe emotional distress" and her reputation was harmed by Lewis, Charles LiMandri said in a letter sent Thursday to Lewis' lawyer.

LiMandri's letter also accused Lewis, whom he referred to as a "gay activist," of setting Prejean up to be fired because of her statements opposing same-sex marriage.

When Prejean, 22, was dethroned, Lewis said it was for "contract violations," including missed public appearances.

He told CNN's Larry King last week that it wasn't one thing Prejean did, but "many, many, many things."

"She came to us and said I'm not interested in your input; I'll make my own decision what I'm going to do," Lewis said. "You know, when you have a contract, when you're working for someone, you have a responsibility to follow through on what that requirement is."

Lewis told King it was clear "she was not interested in upholding the title or the responsibilities."

"Carrie Prejean's good name has been tarnished by your client's false and defamatory accusations," the letter from her lawyer to Lewis' said.

"Please view this letter as a last opportunity for Mr. Lewis to retract the defamatory statements made against my client and to seek to restore her good name," LiMandri said. "If he does not comply, I will have no alternative but to recommend that Ms. Prejean proceed to do so through litigation."

In response to the letter, Lewis issued a statement that said: "Mr. LiMandri obviously has never watched 'The Apprentice' if he believes that Mr. Trump could be so easily fooled. Facts are facts, and we stand by them."

LiMandri denied any contract violations, saying it was a "complete and utter pretext" for her firing.

The list Lewis gave to reporters of Prejean's missed appearances was "an outright fraud," he said.

Prejean "did not refuse reasonable appearance requests" that could "be expected to promote and further the intended purposes of Miss California USA," he said.

The beauty queen expected to be asked to attend "Rotary conventions and avocado festivals," not events Lewis suggested, LiMandri said.

"She did not think it was appropriate for her to accept Mr. Lewis' invitation to attend a gay documentary in Hollywood promoting same-sex marriage," he said. "It was not my client's job, as Miss California, simply to help your client promote his personal or business interests as a Hollywood agent and producer, or gay activist."

He accused Lewis of trying to make commissions off Prejean's appearances.

"Your client was trying to wrongfully profit off of my client's participation as Miss California, in violation of her contract, by taking 20 percent of any appearance fee she would earn, such as at the Las Vegas jewelers convention she attended at his request," LiMandri's letter said.

LiMandri cited a statement he said Lewis made during a May 15 conference call that "clearly shows that your client was trying to 'set-up' our client for termination" by relaying an offer to appear semi-nude in Playboy. Three people who worked for a public relations agency representing Prejean at the time heard it, he said.

"All three of those people distinctly remember Keith Lewis talking about sending Ms. Prejean an offer to do a Playboy photo shoot 'so when they take her title away, she doesn't sue me,' " he said.

LiMandri said Lewis -- and former co-executive director Shanna Moakler -- were "bound and determined to get her fired, and they have now finally gotten their way."

Miss USA pageant owner Donald Trump announced last month that Prejean could keep her title despite a controversy over topless photos, missed appearances and her statements against same-sex marriage.

Trump reversed himself last week.

"I told Carrie she needed to get back to work and honor her contract with the Miss California USA organization, and I gave her the opportunity to do so," Trump said. "Unfortunately, it just doesn't look like it is going to happen, and I offered Keith my full support in making this decision."

All About Beauty PageantsDonald TrumpLarry KingCarrie Prejean

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