Evicted 'Big Brother' Member Had Prior Arrests

ByABC News

July 17, 2001 -- While producers of Big Brother 2 deny that last week's dramatic knife-wielding incident was staged, they are now having to answer why their background checks failed to turn up previous violent arrests for expelled contestant Justin Sebik.

The Associated Press reports that Sebik, who threatened a fellow contestant by holding a knife to her throat and saying, "Would you mind if I killed you?" has been arrested five times in his hometown of Bayonne, N.J. — twice for theft and three times for simple assault.

An executive familiar with the network's procedures who asked not to be identified told the AP that CBS hired a private investigator who checked with the Bayonne court before the show went on the air and was told that Sebik had no arrest record. A second check, done after the show had begun airing, revealed that Sebik had only one arrest for theft, the executive said.

CBS spokesman Gil Schwartz defended the network, calling the background check "professional" and saying that "we have full confidence in the process." He declined to name the firm in question, however.

Scandal Fails to Boost Ratings

Poorly screened contestants are par for the course for the new breed of reality shows. Shady pasts brought to light by the media spotlight include multimillionaire groom Rick Rockwell's alleged assaults on an ex-girlfriend, the child supposedly kept secret from Temptation Island's producers, and the various legal run-ins of Survivor's Kelly Wiglesworth.

Adding insult to injury, despite the dramatic turn of events on Big Brother 2, ratings for the CBS show, which airs three times a week, have not improved.

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