Royal Showdown in New York Court

Monaco’s Pierre Casiraghi got punched in a nightclub. Can a lawsuit clear his name?

It was the classiest brawl New York’s Meatpacking District had ever seen, with all the makings for a sensational tabloid tale—young royalty, expensive booze, supermodels, smashed bottles, and, finally, criminal complaints.

Now, a year later, the juicy details of the so-called Battle Royale between Monaco’s Pierre Casiraghi (son of Princess Caroline and grandson of Grace Kelly), three of his friends, and former restaurateur Adam Hock will be revealed in Manhattan criminal court. And, according to one eyewitness, the jury will hear a much different story from the one the press has been spinning.

The sordid tale on Monday’s docket, as screamed in the papers for months, goes something like this: Around 2 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2012, the Monégasque royal and his inebriated posse of “international brawlers” sidled up to the VIP table of Double Seven owner Jeffrey Jah and started swigging from someone else’s $500 bottle of vodka. They were aggressively flirtatious with the models at the table—including married Russian beauty Natasha Poly—and were rude to Hock, who later claimed he acted “100 percent in self-defense” when he resorted to fisticuffs with Casiraghi and company.

That story is backward, according to the eyewitness, who asked not be named because of the pending litigation. Hock, the source says, was the aggressor who clocked Casiraghi first. “This was a really dangerous guy. He seemed like he was really hyped up on coke,” the witness said, claiming that the ruckus was entirely unprovoked.

At this point, that’s for jury to decide. But Hock, 46, is the undisputed winner of Battle Royale’s second round, which played out in the media. Arrested and charged with assault, Hock quickly rang up power lawyer Sal Strazzullo, a notorious litigator for high-profile people who get into trouble after dark. When Hock emerged from jail uninjured, both he and Strazzullo poured forth to the press. Hock told the New York Daily News that he felt he “had to defend the honor of the women I was with” by beating up pretty boy Pierre and his friends. In a not-so-subtle reference to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Strazzullo added that Casiraghi and his crew were “touching the girls” at Hock’s table, “grabbing them the way Europeans feel they can touch whatever women they want in New York.”

Meanwhile, Casiraghi left NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital the day after the brawl with a fractured jaw. He largely shunned the press, instead seeking vindication in the courts; months after the fight, the prince and two injured friends—Diego Marroquin and Vladimir Roitfeld, the son of former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld—sued Hock for battery and claimed negligence against Jah.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer had “absolutely no comment” when reached by phone last week. Attorneys for Hock and Jah could not be reached for comment. (According to court documents, Hock flatly denies the allegations.)

What’s the alternate version of the tabloids’ story? According to the eyewitness, it all started when Jah spotted Stavros Niarchos, most famous as Paris Hilton’s ex-beau, with Casiraghi and invited the group to have a drink at his crowded table. Before Casiraghi sat down, one of Hock’s friends allegedly accosted the young royal: “What are you doing? This is my table.” As the witness tells it, Casiraghi apologized, put his drink down, and walked away. He didn’t see Hock hit Marroquin square in the face, but he heard Roitfeld hit the ground. Moments later, he, too, was blindsided by Hock with a blow to the head that sent him flying through the air and onto a table full of glasses.

“It was completely unilateral aggression,” the witness said. “There was blood everywhere. [Casiraghi] tried to stand up and then blacked out.”

It wasn’t until Niarchos approached Hock that the club’s security guards rushed to his side as he walloped the Greek shipping heir, then tried to escape out the back door, the witness contends. Perhaps it was predictable that the bouncers would rally around Hock, a fixture of Manhattan’s nightlife elite and former owner of the now defunct Hawaiian Tropic Zone—a sort of upscale version of Hooters—in Times Square.

So who really threw the first punch? And why would Casiraghi, 25, bother to embroil himself in a lengthy legal battle against a person he deems a middle-aged bully, especially at the expense of bad press and a highly publicized trial? Having grown up surrounded by paparazzi, his personal life splattered all over European gossip magazines, does he really care about his battered image in the New York Post?

The motive for the plaintiffs’ lawsuit appears to be simple: an attempt to settle a personal vendetta. Hock has managed to turn the press against a seemingly playboy prince by doling out “scoops,” while Casiraghi’s camp has undoubtedly watched in horror as he was painted the bad guy.

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So it’s a prince with a reputation to uphold and a New York businessman with money to lose. The rest is just another tabloid circus.