They say that April is the cruelest month, but May was merciless for Steve Harvey. The comedian and TV personality first came under fire after a scathing memo surfaced in which he ordered his daytime talk show staff not to approach or speak with him without making an appointment. Just a week later, Steve’s sunny, on-air persona suffered an even bigger blow when his second ex-wife, Mary Vaughn, slapped him with a $60 million lawsuit, claiming that he inflicted such severe pain and suffering during their nine-year marriage that it amounted to “soul murder.”
In a document filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 17, Mary, 56, whose nasty divorce from the Family Feud host, 60, was finalized in 2005, accuses Steve of a string of offenses, including infidelity, cheating her out of her fair share of his $100 million fortune, and “kidnapping” their son and turning him against her. The filing alleges that Steve has “continued to threaten, manipulate and cause intentional emotional distress” in the wake of their split, which drove Mary to attempt suicide. “The plaintiff’s mind never found peace,” the suit claims, adding that Steve had committed “soul murder… by a combination of torture, deprivation and brainwashing.”
a bigamy deal
According to the suit, Steve began his “prolonged torture” when he admitted to Mary three years into their relationship that he was still married to his first wife, Marcia, whom he finally divorced in 1994. After he and Mary wed in 1996, “the emotional distress continued with the acknowledgment of a nine-year affair with a woman that produced a child,” the filing claims, referring to Steve’s reported liaison with author Terri Smith, who successfully sued him in 2007 over rights to a scandalous tell-all she wrote about their relationship, Men Will Lie When the Truth Will Do, which Steve reportedly feared would hurt his affable, good-guy image.
The new allegations aren’t the first time Steve has taken a pounding in public about his messy personal life. In 2008, Mary accused him of beating their son, Wynton, then 11; a police report classified the incident as child abuse, but no legal action was taken. In 2011, Mary uploaded videos to YouTube accusing Steve of cheating on her with his current wife, Marjorie Harvey, 52, who he married in 2007. While Mary later served 30 days in jail for violating a confidentiality clause, Steve was forced to do some serious damage control by asking the court to release documents proving that he had paid Mary a $1.5 million settlement and given her three of his homes.
smear and loathing
In a statement, Steve’s attorney denied the allegations in the new court filing, calling them “meritless, frivolous [and] completely false,” and legal experts believe it’s unlikely the case will go to trial. “There is no such crime as ‘soul murdering,’ and there’s no cause of action here,” explains L.A.-based lawyer Kelly Chang Rickert, who is not involved in the suit. “I expect it will be immediately dismissed — but even if that happens, this still denigrates Steve in the eyes of the public.”
And once again, he may have to fight to redeem his reputation. “Mary has become more jealous over time because Steve has gone on to have a successful life without her,” an insider says. “But he’s tired of Mary pestering him for money and trying to tarnish his good name, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he files a countersuit.” Given her past behavior, that might not deter Mary for long. Adds a friend: “Mary was devastated by Steve’s actions and feels she has been seriously wronged. She refuses to go quietly — and I suspect Steve could be tormented by her for a long time.”