Former Yankees and Mets pitcher David Cone’s partner has been accused in a lawsuit of setting a fire at the couple’s Manhattan home in order to land a role on The Real Housewives of New York City.
The fire broke out on November 6, 2019 on the 14th floor of Cone and his partner Taja Abitbol’s apartment block in a luxury high-rise building in Lincoln Square – the day before Abitbol was scheduled to appear on Tamron Hall’s ABC talk show.
The blazes also caused significant damage to the home of Daniel Rice, an Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, he alleges in his lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday.
Rice claims Abitbol, a real estate agent, used the fire to promote her upcoming TV appearance and “advance” her candidacy for the Bravo reality show.
“Abitbol’s desire for fame and notoriety is well known,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Tamron Hall Show Twitter account. had posted on the day of the fire: “We speak to Taja Abitbol. She is obsessed with astrology and recently didn’t think what her astrologers said would come true, but it did.”
In her appearance on the show, Abitbol then explained how her astrologers told her she would be moving out of the apartment she had just moved into – a prediction that came true when she was forced to move to a hotel after the fire suit states.
“Yesterday morning I basically lit the house during Mercury retrograde and I had to move. I came here from my hotel room,” the filing reads, Abitbol told Hall.
She also explained on the show that she “kept her candles burning while Mercury was retrograde.”
Abitbol posted a photo of themselves in the studio on Instagram with the caption ‘What zodiac sign are you? I’m a double Aries with Leo Rising all fire… Tune in @Tamronhallshow on ABC.”
The lawsuit claims her post, which included ten fire emojis, “was an explicit reference to the fire in Unit 14B that damaged Unit 12G.”
Rice accused Abitbol and Cone of “willfully, knowingly, intentionally, and/or recklessly” “causing the fire … so that Abitbol could discuss a story on The Tamron Hall Show and/or advance Abitbol’s candidacy to castmate the real housewives of New York.” [City] TV show, among other things.”
Abitbol, 50, tried to get on “RHONY” at least four times, the lawsuit alleges, citing Page Six.
Rice – who is suing for at least $320,000 in damages – says he won’t be able to return to the West End Avenue unit until this year.
The fire damage forced him to “intestinally clean up” the house, according to court records. He said during that time he was forced to find “alternative forms of temporary housing.”
Rice alleges the couple “negligently and willfully left candles lit in Unit 14B, which started a fire and caused significant damage to Unit 12G,” the filing says.
According to a fire department report available to the Post, the fire was ruled an accident.
Rice received a Purple Heart when he was injured by an improvised explosive device in 2005 after completing several tours in the Middle East.
He is currently serving as special adviser to the Supreme Commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyy, in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, court filings say.
Eric Lerner, an attorney for Cone and Abitbol, said: “You have been wrongly charged with a felony, although the FDNY, upon completion of the investigation, ruled it an accident. And the insurance company also classified this as an accident after an investigation.”
Todd Shapiro, an Abitbol representative, said any claims she caused the fire on purpose to advance her career were “misguided and untrue”.
Shapiro also noted that Abitbol had been paid for by an insurance company for sprinkler-induced flooding.
“There was a defective candle that was causing smoke and flames,” Abitbol told The Post. “The sprinklers went off immediately and there was no fire damage – it was clearly an accident.”
He said the damage was caused by broken sprinklers in the building, which caused flooding.
Abitbol’s other representative Brian Finnegan said: “Taja has reached out to others in the building and feels terrible that they have suffered property damage, as has Taja. Taja suffered hundreds of thousands of property damages as a result of the water and has essentially struggled to make sure others are okay.”
Cone, 59, retired from MLB in 2003 and is currently a commentator for the Yankees on YES Network and WPIX. He and Abitbol have been together for 10 years.
The company that owned the unit that Cone and Abitbol rented did not immediately return a message left with the building.
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