In the latest twist in the nasty battle over custody of 14-year-old Modern Family actress Ariel Winter, her mother has sued an actor who works for her adult daughter charging he defamed her and placed her in a false light when he wrote in the comments section of a blog post on the Los Angeles Times website that she was an “abusive monster.”
Chrisoula “Chrystal” Workman, Winter's mother, filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday against Mathew Borlenghi, a soap opera actor and acting teacher at the school run by her oldest daughter, Shanelle Workman Gray.
Borienghi posted a comment in response to a story on the paper's LA Now blog that said Workman had reported to the L.A. County Sheriff that she had caught her underage daughter having sex with an 18-year-old boy. The story said that not only was the Sheriff's Special Victims Unit investigating possible statutory rape but also whether Workman had physically and emotionally abused her daughter.
Only three days earlier, Workman had lost legal custody of her daughter, whose real name is Ariel Workman, to her older daughter. A judge said that a preliminary investigation had given him sufficient reason to take the girl away from her mother, and to order Workman not to have any contact with Winter.
Working in film, TV and voice overs, Winter had found fame in her role as Alex Dunphy on the hit ABC comedy, Modern Family. The suit filed on behalf of Ariel by Gray, her older sister, estimated the child performer's wealth at $500,000. It charged the mother with on-going physical and emotional abuse.
Workman adamantly denies any abuse and in her defamation suit lists statements from nearly two dozen people testifying to how good a mother she has been, and that they never saw any signs of abuse. Workman insists that her daughter is rebelling because she interfered with her first love affair.
Borlenghi's comment on the L.A. Times website implied Workman calling the cops to protect her daughter was "a total falsehood."
"The mother is grasping and clawing to find a way not to lose her money-maker, and hide the fact that she is an abusive monster," the comment continues. "Having spent time with her, and seeing the way she acted adoringly towards the boy, these accusations are disgusting, just as she is."
The libel suit comes only two days before a judge is set to hear the next phase of Winter's attempt to live permanently with her sister.
The suit charges that Borlenghi posted his comments about Workman “with personal animosity, hatred and ill will” and with the “knowledge that they (were) false and without any reasonable grounds for believing that they were true.”
Workman says in the suit as a result of the posting, she suffered a loss of reputation as well as “shame, mortification and hurt feeling,” for which she now wants damages to be determined by the court. The L.A. Times is not a defendant.
In the lawsuit, the mother lists statements from family friends, neighbors, service providers (such as hairdressers, babysitters, a tailor, restaurant owners, etc.) saying they never saw any signs of abuse. Winter's pediatrician said that he had never seen “any evidence of an abusive relationship in regards to Ariel.”
One of the statements is from a woman who says she has known Winter her entire life, and that in 2004 when the mother had breast cancer she took Winter to school and provided care for her. She said not only did she see no abuse but “Chris’s main focus was getting well and healthy so that she could take care of Ariel again.”
After she lost custody of Ariel, the mother reportedly sought out a publicist to help her make public nude photos of her older daughter to prove she wasn’t a fit guardian. Workman has denied she tried to leak the photos.
A message seeking comment left at Gray’s Studio for Borlenghi was not returned.