The Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills

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Rolling Stone received the following letter from Lisette Lee following the publication of "The Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills" in the August 30, 2012 issue:

I realize that the article written about me ["The Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills" RS 1164] was not going be a puff-piece; that, like any normal human being, there would be things that I would not like hearing about myself. Fair enough. This was a time in my life when I was involved with some pretty unsavory characters, and my actions were completely out-of-integrity for myself. This is indisputable.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely had been "tracking this story" and contacting me since 2010 to gain my participation for an article she had been paid to write for Rolling Stone. Sabrina explained that she had "always been intrigued" by my story and "wondered why does a person of privilege take such an unexpected turn with her life?" Sabrina specifically promised to "humanize me" and write about a "very complex character with a lot of richness and depth." These are Sabrina's own words, and the exact promises she made to me.

After her many, many exhortations and overtures to land an interview with me, and with the promise that I would be "well served" to participate, I believed that Sabrina would write a fair and accurate portrayal of what actually happened and why. In hindsight, it was a mistake to trust Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

Understandably, I didn't want anything to impact my appeal to the Court, so I held off participating. But Sabrina went ahead anyway, wrote a first draft and submitted it to her editors. By her own admission, she only had half the story (again, her words verbatim): "All I have is the point of view of other people, as well as the portrait that's been painted in legal documents, and they are not particularly kind" and that the theory she had about me was "kind of speculative."

When I agreed to sit down to tell my side of the story with Sabrina in early May, no topic was off-the-table. Even though there were some private family matters that Sabrina knew, in advance, that I would need to dance around. Immediately afterwards, Sabrina told my people that I was "terrific," "wonderful," "enchanting" and "great to meet in person." Apparently, the colored contact lenses matching my regulation blues and supposed penchant for "slippery talk" was not an issue then, when Sabrina literally squealed with delight in finally securing her interview.

My greatest fear was that this would be a "takedown piece": a total hatchet job. That fear, unfortunately, has been realized.

There are so many things I dispute about the article. Three things jump out. First, the overall context Sabrina creates: hardly the "richness and depth" she promised. Sabrina takes every cheap shot possible to make me look like a complete head case. Second, the article is not a fair and accurate portrayal of me; instead, it relies on a very small subset of people who knew me, and apparently not very well. Then, even after she confided that calling someone a liar is a "terrible thing to ascribe to a person," she proceeds to call me a "sociopath," a "great liar," a "master of deception" and an expensive tart. All completely defamatory, salacious and, frankly, catty. Third, the article closes with a glib statement – notice no quotation marks whatsoever – that I expect my prison sentence to be shortened by a judge any day now. I never said that, nor would I ever presume the judge in my case to treat me any differently than he always has; which has been nothing but professional and fair.

Thank you for the opportunity to rebut the article, its context and content.
Lisette Lee
Dublin, California

Sabrina Rubin Erdely responds:

I spent two years working on this story, and tried to include Lee from the beginning, inviting her to participate at every turn. Only when we were on the brink of publication did she finally agree to be interviewed, and even then I found her to be evasive. I never misled Lee to believe that I'd portray her in a falsely positive light or in any way contrary to the truth; my intent, as I repeatedly told her, was to paint a full portrait of a person who is nothing if not complex. The resulting article is far from a hatchet job – rather, I was as sympathetic as I possibly could have been, given everything I've learned about Lee.

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