Alycia Lane, fired yesterday from CBS3, is likely to fire back in court.
The anchor, accused of assaulting a plainclothes policewoman in a middle-of-the-night encounter three weeks ago on a New York City street, received no severance from the station, where she had coanchored the 6 and 11 p.m. news since arriving from Miami in September 2003.
Last week, after the station made it clear that her contract would be terminated, Lane hired Philadelphia attorney Paul Rosen to represent her in what's expected to be a wrongful-dismissal suit for what Rosen yesterday called the station's "unfair" and "unwarranted" move. Lane, 35, has nearly four years left on a contract believed to be worth $700,000 a year.
Lane, keeping a low profile late yesterday in her Washington Square condominium, referred calls to Rosen and to David Smith, the New York lawyer handling her criminal case.
In other newsrooms around town, the reaction ranged from glee to sober recognition that TV personalities live under intense scrutiny.
Station sources said the Dec. 16 arrest seemed to be the final straw in a CBS3 career marked by high ratings but also high drama, including an incident in the spring in which she e-mailed vacation photos of herself in a bikini to Rich Eisen, an NFL Network host. Eisen's wife's snippy e-mailed response to Lane made its way to the New York Post. The Post also lovingly detailed Lane's relationship last summer with WCBS anchor Chris Wragge, who was legally separated from his wife, a Swedish model.
Lane also made news with two personal appearances on Dr. Phil - both encouraged by her station - as well as reports surrounding her short-lived second marriage.
"After assessing the overall impact of a series of incidents resulting from judgments she has made, we have concluded that it would be impossible for Alycia to continue to report the news as she, herself, has become the focus of so many news stories," said CBS3 general manager Michael Colleran in a statement.
"We wish to make clear that we are not prejudging the outcome of the criminal case against Alycia that is pending in New York. We understand that Alycia expects to be fully vindicated in that proceeding."
CBS3 managers wrestled with her fate for two weeks, weighing Lane's impressive on-camera presence - one story noted her resemblance to Eva Longoria - against the fallout surrounding her arrest.
Adding to the mess were allegations that Lane had used a slur in addressing an arresting officer as well as Lane's phone call to Gov. Rendell after her arrest. Though Rendell emphasized that she did not ask him for help, even her supporters in CBS3's newsroom were upset at what was perceived as the crossing of a journalistic line.
To station management, Lane's firing was a means of restoring credibility to the city's No. 2-rated nightly newscasts, mere weeks before the February sweeps.
Rosen said in a statement that the termination comes "when there has been absolutely no determination that Alycia is guilty of any wrongful conduct, and after KYW-TV has aired her categorical denial of the alleged charge that is pending against her. The termination is unfair because Alycia has never had an opportunity to defend against this charge, and tell her side of the story publicly."
The termination of her CBS3 contract likely would allow another station to hire her immediately.
Lane, who has not spoken publicly about the allegations or about her ouster, faces an April 3 hearing on a felony charge of striking a police officer the morning of Dec. 16.
Lane's replacement has not been named. Her co-anchor Larry Mendte, who announced word of Lane's termination on the newcasts, anchored solo last night, as he had during her vacations. The station will rotate other anchors into her job until a replacement is found.
Lane was last seen on-air Dec. 14, the night she also attended a Toys for Tots benefit hosted by her boyfriend, Q102 disc jockey Chris Booker, at Kildare's, a local pub. The next day, she and Booker were in New York with Sirius Satellite Radio executive Ross Zapin and his wife, Melissa. About 2 a.m. on Dec. 16, their cab was behind a car being driven erratically.
When both vehicles stopped for a light, Zapin got out of the cab to confront the car's occupants. The police report, which does not name Zapin, says the three occupants identified themselves as police officers and ordered the man back to the cab.
It is not clear how Lane became involved. The report says Lane placed her camera against a male officer's face. A female officer grabbed Lane's arm in an attempt to move it, and Lane said, according to the police report: "I don't give a f- who you are I am a reporter you f-ing dyke."
The report said Lane was seen striking the female officer in the face. The female officer suffered two cuts. Ross Zapin, his wife and Booker were not charged in the incident.
"What [Lane] did was wrong - and seriously wrong," said Chris Harper, a Temple University journalism professor and former correspondent for ABC. He was unsurprised by her firing. "The attack against police was bad enough, but then there was the slur against gays. . . . I hope it sends a message to journalists who behave badly that there are repercussions." Still, he said, Lane is employable: "Other people have made comebacks."