CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y., July 3, 2008— -- In a stunning climax to a dramatic day of testimony in her high-stakes bitter divorce trial, Christie Brinkley forgave her husband's teenage girlfriend.
"I can't help but think of Diana Bianchi," Brinkley told reporters as she left the courtroom. "I want her and her family to know that I feel for her. I forgive her -- she was manipulated."
Brinkley's words of forgiveness capped a day full of emotional testimony from the supermodel as she described how devastating it was to find out that her architect husband, Peter Cook, had carried on an affair with an 18-year-old girl and spent thousands of dollars a month on Internet porn.
Both sides finished calling witnesses and finished the divorce phase of the trial, with Cook's lawyers agreeing to divorce on the grounds of adultery and cruel and inhuman punishment without admitting to all the claims made by Brinkley. On Monday, the two sides begin the next phases -- custody and assets -- of the trial.
In dramatic court testimony this morning, Christie Brinkley took the stand in her divorce trial and reprised the confrontation with her cheating husband the day she found out about his affair with an 18-year-old girl.
The supermodel, in a blue sweater over a light-blue shirt and perfectly coiffed blond hair, turned and faced Peter Cook, in tears, and clenched her fists as she recounted asking him, "How could you? How could you?"
She held her hands out toward him before a hushed crowd at her divorce trial as she recounted the shock of being told about the affair by the teenager's police officer stepfather after she gave a commencement speech in Southampton, N.Y., on June 25, 2006.
"And I looked at Peter. And he was just whispering, 'No, no,'" she sobbed. "I knew from his face that the feelings I'd been trying not to feel were true. I felt my knees were going to buckle."
When they got home, Brinkley demanded the car keys from Cook so she could drive to the police station to question the teenager's stepfather, she recounted. When Cook refused to turn over the keys, she recalled grabbing the pocket of his shirt, one of his favorite pieces of clothing, and said, "I'll tear your shirt if you won't let me do this. And he got out."
Holding her hands to the side of her head, Brinkley sobbed as she recalled driving away in tears. "I started driving away from my perfect life. I thought I had the picket fence," she said.
She was so upset that she pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car and started sobbing on her hands and knees.
"The car door was open, but Christie was lying on the ground, huddled over, her hands on her knees, sobbing but almost catatonic," testified her friend Jill Rappaport, who came to take care of her for several days.
"I can't believe this is happening to me," Brinkley told Rappaport, who recounted that Brinkley's knees were bloodied by the groveling.
Brinkley claimed that when she got home, the master bedroom was a mess and that money had been taken from the safe by Cook, who she said left behind only some jewelry and the couple's passports.
In a shocked voice, Brinkley recounted demanding Cook's computer passwords and usernames, and her subsequent search revealed Cook's admitted fascination with the deepest, most depraved parts of the Internet.
Reading her husband's e-mails to girlfriend Diana Bianchi, and to see his naked photos, was crushing, Brinkley told the court. "To come across that was beyond devastating. It was beyond humiliating. It was beyond your wildest nightmare one could ever imagine," she said. " He's cheating on me with a teenager. He's trolling the Internet."
Brinkley described her shattered reaction, while sobbing uncontrollably.
"I felt like the man who I was living with, I just didn't know who he was ... anymore. Who is he? Who is this man who comes down and sits at the dining room table and acts like he's been at work?"
She later claimed that Cook had tried to commit suicide and that she talked him out of it as he drove erratically along the north shore of Long Island.
"I'm going to plow my car right into a tree. I'm going to kill myself. I'm too embarrassed. ... I have nowhere to live. I have no friends," she recounted him telling her. "And I said, 'You can go to your parents — parents will always love you unconditionally,'"she said.
Brinkley also described how the affair affected her career, forcing her to postpone cover shoots for Cover Girl cosmetics and to cancel the Chicago launch of the couple's "family-friendly furntiure line."
In the year before the fateful day of revelation, there were plenty of hints that something was wrong, that the beautiful supermodel didn't seem attractive any longer to her husband of 10 years.
Most dramatically, Brinkley recounted visiting in the spring of 2006 one of her empty properties that had been used by Cook and Bianchi for sex and finding wine and cheese in the fridge, blown-out candles on a table and "a bed. The windows were blacked out, the sheets were rumpled and there was a long black hair in the bed."
When she asked Cook, he blamed it on the gardener, saying that "John" was having relationship problems.
Brinkley also described noticing a change in Cook's attitude, that he got grouchy with her and didn't visit her when she was in the hospital after she got an infection when her tooth broke in 2005.
Most tellingly, she noticed that their romantic life was suffering, breaking down in tears at the memory. "We used to sleep like spoons together. And I'd ask him, 'Why don't you snuggle with me like that anymore?'"
She claimed that he stopped taking her out on date nights. "I would try to look nice and make a special effort and he'd say he's tired and that he'd put in a big day at the office.
Cook would get upset when she asked him if everything was OK, according to Brinkley. She recounted telling him, "I feel that somehow something's wrong and he'd say, "That's so unflattering. I can't stand it when you talk like that."
On his way out of court during a break for lunch, Cook dismissed his wife's testimony, quipping, "Shreck was more believable."
And his lawyers attacked Brinkley on cross-examination, accusing her of being blind with anger, adding that a court-ordered psychiatrist had found that Brinkley "couldn't see straight because you were so angry at Peter."
She responded by trying to justify her feelings. "I supported this man for almost 10 years. He never paid for a single thing. He lived a wonderful life. All the while, he was carrying on like this behind my back. It goes without saying that there would be a certain amount of anger."
She added, "You don't have time when you're a mother of three to sit around and lick your wounds and feel sorry for yourself."
Sherensky continued to focus on that theme, claiming that she once interrupted a phone call between Cook and sonJack to yell at Cook, "Tell him about your whores!"
When he later asked Brinkley if she was an actress, implying that she was overdramatizing her testimony, the supermodel replied, "I think that would be stretching it. ... I'm no Meryl Streep" and jokingly mentioned her appearance in the '80s comedy "National Lampoon's National Vacation."
The defense presented only one witness -- Cook, who denied most of the charges made by Brinkley. He claimed that he'd spent days at Brinkley's bedside when she was hospitalized and that Brinkley once told him to keep her good friend Jill Rappaport out of the room, saying, "You have to keep her out of here. I didn't get any sleep last night."
He also refuted charges made by Brinkley's daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, that he was cruel to her, denying that he shoved her head into a bucket and forced her to clean up a water leak.
Cook turned the tables, accusing Brinkley of being critical of her then-teenage daughter and slamming Joel as a spoiled brat who never once used a music studio built for her in a guesthouse on the couple's property.
He said Brinkley continuously criticized her daughter's habits at the dinner table, such as eating with her mouth open and "whipping food out of her mouth and cleaning her teeth," comparing her unfavorably to her father, Billy Joel, according to Cook. "She said, 'You're just like your father."
Today's riveting testimony came on the second day of the trial being held in a Long Island, N.Y., courthouse.
If there were any secrets left to discover about the fairy-tale marriage and nightmare divorce of Brinkley and Cook, it's hard to imagine they could be any more titillating or embarrassing than the tidbits unveiled in the courtroom during the first two days.
Both sides — the spurned supermodel and the admitted adulterer husband — came armed for battle at this drab courtroom, determined to fire off the most damaging charges and allegations about their behavior behind closed doors.
An all-star lineup of witnesses, from Cook himself, his alleged teenage mistress and from Brinkley's daughter with Billy Joel, they all unloaded a torrent of torrid tales that included: Cook's tearful admission on the stand Wednesday that he enjoyed oral sex with his 18-year-old girlfriend whose silence he allegedly bought with a $300,000 confidentiality agreement; and his admission that he had a fondness for masturbating via a Webcam for an Internet audience.
Alexa Ray Joel, Brinkley's daughter from her marriage to Bill Joel, testified Wednesday that Cook once pulled her out of the shower and shoved her head into a bucket. There were charges that Brinkley ransacked Cook's office and copied his hard drive; that she scratched his face out of family photographs in front of the children; and allegations that the supermodel spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private detectives to dig up dirt on Cook.
Brinkley lawyers plan to call 44 witnesses, including another of Cook's purported girlfriends, in her battle to get full custody of their two children. And Cook's team plans to call 20 of his own witnesses in his attempt to share custody of Jack, his stepson, and Sailor, his daughter with Brinkley.
To ramp up the pressure on Cook, Brinkley took the unusual step of pushing to open the divorce trial to the public where all of the couple's dirty laundry can be aired.
Cook's lawyer, Norman Sheresky, could not hide his scorn, telling the court Wednesday, "It's as good as having the children in the front row to listen to all of this ... That's not good parenting."
Brinkley's lawyer, Robert Stephan Cohen, portrayed his client as a hard-working full-time mom, whose "knight in shining armor" turned into a debauched devil by cheating on her with a teenager and spending up to $3,000 a month on Internet porn.
He cited Brinkley's National Mother of the Year award in 2000 and claimed that Cook charged the cost of the flowers he gave her for Mother's Day to her account.
Sheresky, painted Brinkley as a wife blinded with rage at her husband's cheating (comparing him to famed adulterers Eliot Spitzer, Jim McGreevey and Bill Clinton) and a lazy mother who slept late while Cook woke up their children and got them dressed for school.
The players in the divorce drama are straight out of central casting: Brinkley, in a white blouse, tan skirt and her perfectly coiffed blonde hair, strode into court with the grace of a longtime runway model.
Cook, the architect, with his dark suit, powered tie and tan cheeks, seemed like a Ken doll caught with his pants down, clasping his hands in front of him.
And it seemed an ideal cinematic twist of fate that the too-good-looking perfect blonde couple's 10-year marriage would be undone by his affair with Brinkley's complete physical opposite: Diana Bianchi a petite, 18-year-old Italian brunette, who was still a teen when she met Cook.
Bianchi, who hid behind stylish sunglasses, donned 5-inch pink high heels but still seemed tiny. When she walked into the courtroom, Brinkley's turned her face a half-turn as her icy gaze came to rest on the young woman.
Last but not least, Bianchi's father, Brian Platt, presented himself as the defender of his daughter's dignity and the symbol of small-town integrity facing off against a egomaniacal elitist. Platt, with his thick neck and mustache, forcefully walked into court and vented his feelings, ignoring lawyer's instructions to stick to yes and no answers.
This made-for-Hollywood drama's climactic moment was June 25, 2006. That was the day that Brinkley's "entire world began to unravel," according to her lawyer. And the day that Cook had feared for weeks, just after he had two memorable confrontations with Bianchi's dad, who had learned about the affair and demanded that he "stay away from my daughter."
On that day, the supermodel was giving the commencement address at Southampton High School, the first woman ever to be given that honor.
After her speech, she stepped off the dais and shook hands with people while Cook and their son, Jack, stood in the front row and led the applause.
And then comes the moment made for a film editor's mise-en-scene: Platt, who was attending the ceremony with his youngest daughter, cut into line and whispered into Brinkley's ear the fateful words that will forever haunt the couple, according to the testimony of Cook, Brinkley's lawyer and Platt:
"That bastard husband of yours is having an affair with my stepdaughter. He won't knock it off. She's only 19 years old. This is no joke."
Brinkley felt sick to her stomach and Cook's face was slowly drained of color as he witnessed the encounter, according to her lawyer. (Platt's memory: "She was obviously shaken to get news like that. He looked like he'd urinated his pants.")
Brinkley walked up to Cook and said, "How could you? How could you?" and he responded by shaking his head back and forth and saying, "Are you going to believe him or me?" according to Cohen. The lawyer added that in that moment, Brinkley realized Cook just confessed to the affair since she hadn't yet told him about her conversation with Platt.
Of course, Cook has a slightly different recollection, telling the court that Brinkley simply said, "Get me out of here," and he drove her home.
Brinkley's lawyer claimed that she was overcome with sadness and was on her knees sobbing by the side of a busy road later that day. After unsuccessfully searching for Platt, she drove home and found Cook had left the house.
Cohen claimed that Cook kept denying the affair but the truth was slowly unwrapped as his story changed from "I gave her a job" to "She took off her clothes."
Cook claims that within 24 hours, he provided Brinkley with usernames and passwords to his computer, explaining: "If she's going to divorce me, she needs to know everything and she was accusing me of things that go so much further."
The move backfired, with Brinkley becoming more enraged as she discovered that he was spending $2,000 to $3,000 a month on Internet porn, posting messages like, "Hey there, I'm a horny guy. Spare me the philosophy and f**k me."
Brinkley's legal team made much of his pornographic habits, claiming that Christie once witnessed their son Jack inadvertently open a slideshow containing pornographic images of young girls.
Later, Cook, sobbing on the stand, recalled Jack telling him, "Mom was looking at naked pictures of your girlfriends on the computer."
Cook emphasized that he never looked at porn while the children were around, though he did troll the Web, sometimes in Christie's office at their lavish home. And he said that the couple used pornography as a "precursor to intimacy between Christie and me in the last half of the marriage."
And he said that Brinkley once suggested he had a sexual addiction problem and should check out the Meadows, the elite Arizona based rehab center, saying that Michael Douglas had treated his addiction there.
Brinkley's lawyer also emphasized the discrepancy in age between Cook, 49, and Bianchi, now 21, repeatedly focusing on her teenage status when they had their affair.
Recollections on all sides differed, with Cook claiming that he used to shop at a toy store where Bianchi worked in 2004 and didn't really meet her until 2005.
During her testimony, Bianchi claimed that she met him in the summer of 2003 and once sang him a song over the phone when she was still 17.
He eventually gave her a job in his architectural office, paying her $20,000, and admitting that the potential for sex was an "inducement to hiring her."
They ended up having sex in his office and at two houses owned by Brinkley between 10 and 12 times, according to their testimony, and he showered Bianchi with gifts, buying her a Nissan Maxima in 2005, a $2,000 watch, Victoria's Secret lingerie and leaving $500 for her under a rock and behind a small painting titled "Zeus" in his office.
The car proved to be his undoing, since Platt became upset that Cook had given such a gift to his daughter, whose driving privileges had been recently removed by her parents.
The burly police officer testified that he ran into Cook at Schmitt Brothers Produce in Southampton, N.Y., in the summer of 2005, told him to step outside to the parking lot to talk and berated him, telling him to stay away from Bianchi.
Later, in the spring of 2006, Platt said he was sitting on a bench outside Village Cheese Shop in the town when Cook walked down the sidewalk past him.
"You're still not staying away from my daughter. I hear you've been leaving love notes for her," Platt testified he told Cook.
"And he [Cook] told me I had no class and was a disgrace to the uniform."
Around that time, a desperate Cook reached out to Bianchi and coached her to lie, "It would be nice if we got our stories straight but since nothing happened physically, who cares? Got it?" Cook testified.
Later, after the second confrontation with Platt, Cook e-mailed her, "Your stepdad is out of control. I am serious," and leaving notes for her at her new apartment in Brooklyn, according to his testimony.
Brinkley's daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, testified that Cook could be cruel to her, criticizing her for chewing her food too loud or for the way she played the piano. And she said that he once forced her naked out of the shower and made her clean up a water leak in the kitchen and shoved her head into a bucket.
By the end of the day, both parties were worn down and beaten. Cook, in tears, said, "These are not fond memories I keep close to my heart."
As she left the courthouse, Brinkley declined to comment to reporters, explaining "It's been a really long day. I heard a lot of things I didn't know."