It took a California jury only 40 minutes in January to declare former esthetician-to-the-stars Dawn DaLuise innocent of solicitation of murder and solicitation of assault – but her arrest at the center of a murder-for-hire plot has left her “completely indigent” as she faces a cancer diagnosis, DaLuise tells PEOPLE exclusively.
DaLuise, 56, has filed two legal actions – an April lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and a tort claim against Los Angeles County. A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy told PEOPLE that the office does not comment on pending litigation, and PEOPLE’s calls to the county counsel were not returned.
DaLuise was arrested in March 2014 and jailed for more than 10 months after authorities accused her of ordering a hit on competitor Gabriel Suarez, who she incorrectly believed was engaged in a campaign of harassment against her.
DaLuise’s clients have reportedly included Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alicia Silverstone, Michelle Trachtenberg and Alyson Hannigan.
“The miscarriage of justice is insane and overwhelming,” she tells PEOPLE. “My life is decimated. [Authorities] shot first and asked questions later.”
However, DaLuise says she was relieved to learn that the men who she claims helped put her behind bars have now been charged.
Edward Feinstein, 31, and Nicholas Prugo, 24, have each been charged with one count of solicitation to commit sexual assault and three counts of stalking DaLuise and her two daughters, Dayne and Darian, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
Feinstein turned himself in to the Los Angeles Police Department on Sept. 15, after an arrest warrant was issued, and was later released on bond. Feinstein’s next court date is set for Oct. 6. Prugo, also known as a member of the so-called Bling Ring, which burglarized the homes of Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and others, was taken into custody Tuesday and is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. Prosecutors are asking for bail to be set at $485,000.
Feinstein was previously arrested on suspicion of stalking DaLuise in March 2014. (He was initially released from jail after the arrest pending charges, according to police.) Investigators accused Feinstein at that time of harassing DaLuise while leading her to believe that Suarez was the harasser, potentially instigating plans for the alleged hit.
Prugo was sentenced to two years in prison in connection to the Bling Ring case and served one year before being released on parole.
DaLuise’s April suit lays out her version of the tangled tale in grim detail.
In it, she says she believes she was arrested based on the flimsiest of evidence given by Feinstein, who, she claims, has a history of complaints, arrests and incarceration. (In 2009, Feinstein pleaded guilty to two counts of grand theft and one count of identity theft and was sentenced to 16 months in state prison.)
DaLuise says that shortly after her competitor, Suarez, moved his business, Smooth Cheeks, into the neighborhood, her tires were slashed and someone placed a Craigslist ad inviting men to stop by her home for free sex services. She says she contacted the police for help.
Instead of tracking down her stalker, she alleges, authorities arrested her for hiring a hit on Suarez.
In her suit, DaLuise alleges that she was taken into custody after a sheriff’s detective had one conversation with Feinstein, who told him that “DaLuise had requested that he engage in the cyberstalking to make it look like a business competitor, Gabriel Suarez, was stalking her.”
She claims Feinstein also provided police with a text message sent to him by DaLuise and “presumably” told the detective that she had “hired ex-Detroit [Lions] quarterback Chris Geile to kill Suarez.”
DaLuise claims that the text messages, used as evidence at trial, which said Geile was going to “take Gabriel out,” lacked context and were just venting.
In one example, she says the messages even ended with “LOL.”
DaLuise says she was harassed again virtually as soon as she left prison.
“I immediately started getting text and phone calls, then the pizza deliveries began at my ex-husband s house,” she says. “I feel terrible… I have severe medical issues, and now here come the horrors of what I left behind, this thing I was trying to get away from.”
For Suarez, the experience has also been detrimental to his life, he tells PEOPLE. He claims that he’s also been a victim of fake Craigslist ads inviting people to his home for sex, has had his car keyed, and believes DaLuise is “dangerous” and has “dragged [his] name through the mud.”
DaLuise claims her medical issues are dire, and that she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in June.
Through her attorney, DaLuise has filed a tort claim against Los Angeles County alleging that her complaints of rectal bleeding while in jail went unheeded, and her treatment was delayed for so long that her cancer advanced further than it otherwise would have.
If she’d gotten treatment sooner, she claims, “We could’ve just gone in and removed the cancer. But now it’s stage 2, and I need chemo, radiation, and surgery. Sometimes I feel like I’m not part of the land of the living. It’s a strange, no man s land I occupy. It’s very sad and disheartening to me.”
But DaLuise says her skills as a skin care expert did come in handy when she was incarcerated. Although she says she was locked up alone 23 hours a day and took her one hour outside to “shower, make phone calls, shop from the commissary,” she says there were some inmates who used their hour to socialize, stopping by DaLuise’s cell to seek advice on skincare.
“They’d come by and complain to about that pimple they had, how to apply their jail makeup,” she says. “You could buy a bar of Neutrogena soap which I think is too harsh, and you could buy skin lotion, and bran cereal that had no sweeteners and preservatives, you could grind it up and make exfoliant.
“I got a lot of inquiries about beauty from the women,” she says. “We could buy plain black eyeliner, a crayon. And a choice of a very dark lipstick or light lipstick. We learned to use those things in various ways.”
DaLuise says she s decided to share her story now to help others who might be victims of stalking or harassment.
“I’m a mother,” she says. “From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to [speak out] so there aren t other victims. There s no reason why it has to happen to other people.”
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