At work, his rages were legendary. More than once he stormed out, either quitting or threatening to quit. He once threw a stapler at a colleague he believed had insulted him and lunged at another so ferociously he tore his shirt, co-workers say. That time, Steve Paulus, NY1’s general manager and Carter’s TV mentor, suspended him for a week and gave him a lecture about impulsiveness, nothing worse. “Steve has made Dominic his pet project, and really tried to save him from himself,” a fellow NY1 employee tells me. Paulus doesn’t disagree, but points out that his mentoring worked. “Dominic has not had any kind of violent outbursts in the newsroom for at least ten years. I’ve seen reporters throw typewriters, I’ve seen fistfights. News stations are violent places sometimes. He managed that situation, and he’s been totally a gentlemen for years and years and years.”
It is true that Carter became a respected figure at NY1. But he was also legendary for the screechy phone calls to his wife—often belittling and harsh. “He was an asshole to her,” says an old friend who requested anonymity, “but this is important: Nobody ever said, ‘Wow, I bet he goes home and splits her upper lip.’ ” Another said, “They’re like an over-the-top couple at war with each other, but they’re totally involved with each other. They break up, they get back together.” Most people assumed the clashes stemmed from the detailed rumors of infidelity, specifically that he had a parallel family: two children, one of whom he also reportedly named Dominic Jr. No one I talked to at NY1 reported firsthand knowledge of this, and Dominic denies every aspect of this story to me emphatically, saying he has only ever fathered two children. He also emphatically denies ever assaulting his wife.
At first, Marilyn told me the same thing; more recently, she says it happened once. But court records and interviews with friends indicate that the police were regularly called at least since the mid-nineties. Sometimes it was Marilyn making the calls, sometimes her children, no doubt rattled with fear. In 1997, she swore out charges against Dominic for hitting and choking her and forbidding her from going to work or taking her son to school—or even leaving her bedroom. She said he sat outside the door on a chair like a demonic jailer, warning her against opening it. Apparently he admitted all this to the officers who responded, but when they moved to arrest him, according to the judge, he reportedly growled, “I am not your boy!”
Carter has often seen his situation in racial terms, though in this instance there seem to be little grounds. The case was resolved with apologies to Marilyn, an agreement to enter therapy, and an ACD, or “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” a legal status that means if he stays out of trouble for a number of months, which he did, his record is wiped clean.
There were more allegations of choking, kicking, hitting, and verbal abuse between 2003 and 2008. Marilyn never told anybody about these police reports, and few suspected anything. “It seemed like he’d outgrown it: The risky-tempered, angry Dominic had matured,” says a former colleague. “For all of Dominic’s quirks and personal indiscretions, I don’t think anybody would have pegged him as a quote unquote wife-beater.”
Perplexingly, Marilyn can seem more concerned with guarding the secret than ending it. Early on, she did tell me about Dominic’s entering therapy, but didn’t mention the assault allegation that precipitated it. In addition to his private sessions, they were attending marriage counseling, she said, and she began to see a therapist as well. Both say the benefits of the couch were limited. The marriage had deteriorated to the point where others might have called it quits, but neither was ready to give up. Marilyn began to believe that if Dominic could resolve his relationship to his own history, their unhealthy bond would improve—yet in all their hours of therapy, he never once mentioned what Laverne did to him. “He’s running from everything: Laverne’s mental illness, his dad not being in the picture, just not having much happiness as a child. That’s one of the reasons why he got off the bus and said, ‘I’m going to marry you and make you my wife.’ He wanted family,” she says. “I would say to him, ‘Dominic, we have to deal with this, you just can’t keep running and running and running.’ ”
Finally, an idea came to her. “I said to him, ‘If you’re not going to talk to me about it, you’re not going to talk to your therapist about it, why don’t you put your thoughts down on paper? Do something that will help you settle down.’ ”