A week before the bench trial was to begin last fall, Dominic instructed his lawyer to take the deal. Only now the D.A. was asking for 100 hours of community service on top of the ACD. “To which I said, ‘No, we’re going to trial,’ ” he tells me. Then, the day before the trial, “Page Six” broke the news of his case, and his predicament became a tabloid feast. An hour before trial, his lawyer accepted the second deal but instead was offered a third: a plea to simple harassment, plus community service and domestic-violence classes. The ACD was off the table.
The guilty verdict came down in November. Judge Arnold P. Etelson deemed Marilyn’s story about a “day laborer” beyond “preposterous.”
In January, Dominic’s NY1 contract expired and the station declined to offer a new one. For his old friend Steve Paulus, it was a painful but necessary decision. “It’s sad,” Paulus tells me. “I miss him, but this is something he has to figure out.”
Before sentencing, family members reported two further incidents of violent behavior, generating more bad press. (Both say the fights were noisy but not physical.) “It was crazy,” he says. “I lost my head.”
A few weeks ago, as he headed for sentencing, Dominic was prepared for the worst. “I’m not feeling good,” he wrote me in an e-mail that morning. “I have no idea what will happen, and in my heart I know there is a real possibility I can go to jail.” Dominic had apparently irritated Judge Etelson when the press wasn’t looking by accusing him of racism. He was hollering, over and over, “I’m being railroaded! This is America! I’m a black man in America! I’m being railroaded!”
The sentence was harsh. As part of a ruling so peculiar it will likely be overturned on appeal, Judge Etelson sentenced him to undergo psychiatric counseling and to take unspecified medications to reduce his violent tendencies. Additionally, he ordered Dominic to attend 52 weeks of domestic-violence classes and imposed a restraining order to keep the Carters apart for up to two years, a very unusual step. Addressing Marilyn, he said, “This is not a private matter—your life is at stake.” Then he sent Dominic to county jail for 30 days.
Dominic turned in my direction and mouthed to me across the room, “I told you.” Court officers circled him with their handcuffs as tears rolled down his cheek. Without looking at him, Marilyn, who had made a plea for leniency, stood and left the gallery.
Later, she told me that Dominic had gone “ballistic” before court that morning, accusing her of having wanted to see him in jail for years, which she denied. “Even in the final hours, he’s still berating me,” she says. For a while she threatened to let him face the music alone, but ultimately she relented and accompanied him to the sentencing. She admits she can’t shed her feelings of guilt, but she now recognizes that the fault isn’t hers. “I keep saying this: This did not have to happen. But those demons that he’s carrying were turned on me. I truly believe he wasn’t striking out at me, he was striking out at his mother all these years, no doubt about it. And I got tired of being his mother.” Mostly now she describes the marriage as over. “I’m done with all that,” Marilyn told me late last month; last week she waivered, saying, “After I get some semblance of my life back and get Dominic back on track, then we can address the marriage.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I sat across from Dominic one last time, in a cinder-block visiting center at the Rockland County Jail. It had been startling to see him shuffle into the room, unshaven and wearing a bright-orange jumpsuit. Oddly, he seemed at peace. He had decided to serve out the jail time in part because he lacked money for bail. “People think because you’re on television you’re a millionaire,” he says. He was released last Tuesday for good behavior.
“This is all behind me now,” Carter writes in an e-mail. “I am taking domestic-violence classes, and they are very helpful. I’m writing a new chapter in my life. I’m very sorry for what my family has been through. I’m looking forward to jump-starting my career in the immediate future. I’m also looking forward to a successful appeal.”
But the other reason he was content to be behind bars was to deal with the demise of his marriage, which has him oscillating from anger to despair.
“I should have ended the marriage a long time ago. But I love my wife,” he says. “She was the rock. She couldn’t show emotion, but she made it possible for me to shoot to the top.” Tears fill his eyes, but he quickly tightens up. “The problem is, I went to the top and she didn’t know how to handle it.”
He still hasn’t figured out what happened.