DOCUMENT: Crime

Nanny Sues Imus Over Ranch Wrangle

Toy gun, tiny knife triggered woman's firing by radio star

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Nanny Sues Imus Over Ranch Wrangle

NOVEMBER 30--A New York woman who briefly worked as a nanny for Don Imus has sued the radio host for wrongful termination, claiming she was canned for bringing a harmless cap gun and pocketknife with her during a trip last Thanksgiving to the family's sprawling New Mexico ranch. Nichole Mallette, 24, also claimed in her New York State Supreme Court lawsuit, a copy of which you'll find below, that she was defamed when Imus later announced on his program that he had been forced to "disarm" his nanny, whom he labeled as dangerous and a "terrorist." In her complaint, filed yesterday by the lawyer who represented the woman who recently accused Bill O'Reilly of various improprieties, Mallette claimed that she brought the cap gun with her so that she and Imus's five-year-old son could "play cowboys" at the 4000-acre ranch. As for the pocketknife, Mallette noted that the 1-1/2-inch item was never unsheathed from a leather harness affixed to her belt. In her lawsuit, Mallette alleged that she endured "frenzied questioning" by Imus and his wife Deirdre, who woke her at 1 AM to grill her about the pocketknife and the cap gun, which Mallette said she did not use nor show to Imus's son. After Deirdre Imus told her, "Pack your things, you're terminated," Mallette was escorted off the property at 4:15 AM by a ranch employee and the radio host. Mallette, a Brooklyn resident, was hired by Imus last October 23 and cared for the star's son at homes in Manhattan and Connecticut, as well as the New Mexico property (according to its mission statement, the "sole purpose" of the so-called Imus Ranch is "to provide the experience of the great American cowboy" to seriously ill boys and girls and children who have lost siblings to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Mallette noted that during two separate stays at the ranch, which features a 14,000-square-foot adobe hacienda, "neither sick children nor children who had lost brothers and sisters to SIDS were present," just Imus, his family, and ranch employees. Along with Imus and his wife, Mallete named as defendants the radio syndicator Westwood One and NBC, which simulcasts Imus's show on its MSNBC cable network. (18 pages)