03.25.12

‘Sex Rehab’ Star Duncan Roy’s Jailhouse Blues

Duncan Roy, the British director turned reality star, wound up behind bars for nearly three months—for threatening to blog. Christine Pelisek reports.

You’ve heard the phrase “Don’t drink and dial”? Here’s some advice for director-turned-reality-TV-personality Duncan Roy: don’t blog while bitter.

The British director, who became a minor celebrity on VH1’s Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, wound up in an L.A. County jail for nearly three months after he threatened to go on a blogging tirade against another minor reality-TV personality he claims was a former lover who cheated him in a real-estate deal.

A decade ago Roy was well on his way to becoming the next hot auteur. He won over audiences with his directorial debut in the film AKA, a semiautobiographical account of his life hobnobbing with the British elite in the 1970s. He later directed the 2004 mystery thriller Method, starring Elizabeth Hurley, and 2007’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, starring former child actor David Gallagher. But Roy really caught the attention of American audiences when he joined Dr. Drew’s show in 2009 as a self-identified sex addict.

Like most entertainers, Roy started a blog. Only his was a little more ... personal than most. The tell-all blog detailed his sexual exploits with online hookups, his battles with ex-boyfriends, and his struggles with addiction. In one particularly amusing entry, the eccentric Brit dissed Oprah Winfrey for excluding him from her sex-rehab special.

But then Roy allegedly threatened to post a salacious story about well-known Malibu, Calif., real-estate agent Chris Cortazzo—who appeared in season one of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing—and wound up behind bars on a charge of “sending a letter to extort.” Then immigration officials got involved, and by the time he was finally sprung, the blogger had spent a total of 84 days in jail.

“People think I am an isolated, desolate character on his last legs,” Roy told The Daily Beast as he lounged on his couch one recent afternoon looking out at his postcard-perfect view of the Pacific Ocean. “I am going to have my moment in the sun.”

According to Roy, his legal mess began last October when he received a call from a man claiming to be the geologist who surveyed his Malibu Hills property before he purchased it for $1.37 million in 2007. The caller, according to Roy, said that Roy had never been told about three landslides that had occurred on and near the property, among other issues. Roy testified at a Feb. 2 preliminary hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court that the geologist told him: “Mr. Cortazzo was responsible for a fraud and that I had been basically conned into buying my house.”

Roy claimed in court papers that Cortazzo and he had been lovers, but the real-estate agent insists they never had a relationship. Whatever the case, according to Roy’s attorney Alec Rose, Roy felt betrayed.

“I am going to have my moment in the sun,” says Roy.

According to court documents, Roy sent Cortazzo three emails in early November of 2011 and asked him to take the property off his hands and return his down payment. One of the emails read: “We need to have a chat. If we don’t have a chat, I will be blogging about not only your out-of-control sex addiction, but also the fact that you conned me out of $500,000. I have a lawyer waiting to serve you. I urge you to contact me A.S.A.P.”

During the Feb. 2 hearing, Cortazzo denied Roy’s claim that he was a sex addict and had had a sexual relationship with him. Nor, Cortazzo said, did he collude with the geologist to rip off Roy. “It’s disgraceful that he says that I’m responsible. That is on a level of my integrity of my business that, um, I conned him with this geology report which, in fact, I was not his agent.”

The emails, Cortazzo testified, “caused me serious concern not only professionally, but it also made me scared for my safety. I spent 18 years building up my reputation within the business, and that’s the cornerstone of my success, and I felt a direct threat against my reputation.” Cortazzo said he immediately told his manager and contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Roy denied he was going to publish the blog entry at all, and said he was just trying to “catch his attention.”

"He didn’t publish anything about it,” said attorney Rose. While Roy’s negotiating tactics “could be described as crass, this is basically a dispute between two wealthy, educated men that should be resolved in civil court,” Rose added.

As the criminal case against Roy winds its way through the courts, he’s wasted no time in blogging about his lengthy incarceration in Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles. According to his attorney, because Roy was not charged with a violent crime, he was eligible for bail. But when the British citizen attempted to pay the bail fee of $35,000, he was refused by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and was told he was being detained on an immigration “hold” placed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is looking into the lawfulness of his detention, said Roy became a victim of ICE’s Secure Communities program. The program, which requires local law enforcement to share fingerprint information with the FBI and ICE, is meant to target criminal aliens who have already served a jail sentence or have plead guilty to a crime. Before an individual’s release from jail, local law enforcement is required to give ICE 48 hours’ notice so it can further investigate and determine if that person is deportable, according to ICE. If ICE does not assume custody after 48 hours, law enforcement is required to release the individual.

But Roy wasn’t released from custody until nearly three months later, on Feb. 7, after an immigrant-rights advocate from the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project convinced an ICE agent at Men’s Central Jail to lift the hold.

“It is extraordinarily troubling that he spent three months there,” said ACLU attorney Jennie Pasquarella. “How many other people are in this situation like Duncan, who is spending a large amount of time in the worst jail in America on a hold when they have a right to bail?”

No one seems to want to take responsibility for what happened to Roy. Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said, “If ICE puts a hold on someone, we hold them until ICE decides what to do.” According to a statement sent by ICE spokeswoman Lori K. Haley: “Because [Roy] had no prior criminal convictions and did not otherwise fall into ICE’s enforcement priorities, the agency rescinded the immigration detainer and Mr. Roy did not come into ICE custody. It will be the responsibility of the immigration courts to determine whether Mr. Roy has legal basis to remain in the United States.” Asked why Roy stayed in jail for as long as he did, Haley said ICE did not play a role in Roy’s criminal case or detention.

Meanwhile, Roy continues to blog, posting regular installments about his ongoing legal saga and often bad-mouthing the people who have a say in the judicial outcome, including the local cops and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who is prosecuting his case. In a recent posting, he wrote about his experiences in the jail’s gay ward. He describes attending the wedding of Madeleine, a transsexual who wore a “long white dress and veil made for her that week by a gaggle of excited trannies” who held “a bouquet of toilet paper” when she married Oscar, “a madly jealous, beefy Mexican boy with a huge bull-dog under bite.” He also wrote that he witnessed “a beautiful boy with clown tattoos on his face sell his ass to an HIV positive older man for a packet of noodles.”

“I haven’t been the most sympathetic character, but there is a big difference from that and being a mastermind criminal,” Roy said at his Malibu home, which he shares with his two dogs, one of which is a Chihuahua–Jack Russell terrier mix named the Little Dog. “I never thought I would be back in my house, see my dog again, or drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.”

“The American dream,” he added, “has definitely soured.”

Roy's next trial date is scheduled for April 9.