The stars say there has never been domestic abuse in their relationship
Former Real Housewives of New Jersey stars Amber and Jim Marchese say all is right with their marriage, despite allegations of a domestic assault.
On April 20, the couple was pulled off of a Virgin America flight at Los Angles International Airport and Jim was arrested for alleged domestic assault against Amber.
At the time, LAX Police told PEOPLE that Jim “had grabbed [Amber] by the throat and made threats against her.” He was taken into custody and later released on $50,000 bail. Days later, Amber shared a public statement, saying Jim had not abused her, but rather they had been engaged in some PDA on the plane.
Now the couple tells PEOPLE they plan on filing a $100 million lawsuit against Virgin America, saying they never should have been booted from the flight. Officials this week declined to press charges against Jim in the case.
Amber, 38, and Jim, 46, say they were tired after spending three weeks shooting in Los Angeles for a new reality project, and were returning home on an overnight flight to New Jersey. They reclined their first class seats all the way back, and made a few jokes about joining the Mile High Club, the couple says.
“Jim put his hand behind my neck and leanED me closer to him. It was hard to hear. So he pulled me closer so he could whisper to me so the other passengers couldn’t hear us,” Amber tells PEOPLE.
Jim says he made a flirtatious comment to his wife, and then the flight attendant came to offer them a drink. He declined, as he was going to catch some sleep, but Amber ordered a glass of wine and put on her headphones to relax during the flight. About 10 minutes later, while the plane was still on the tarmac, Jim says he was awoken by officers.
“My understanding is that flight attendant saw my arm around the back of Amber [during the PDA], and that where the accusation came from,” says Jim. “I don’t know definitely if it was [the flight attendant], but I assume it was her because she’s the only one who could notify the captain and call the police.”
Virgin America did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Jim and Amber say they were taken off the flight and separated, though they were still in sight of each other. Officers asked Jim if they knew why he had pulled him off the flight, and he said he didn’t. Amber says another pair of officers tried to get her to say Jim attacked her.
“[An officer] says, ‘You’re not going anywhere until you’re tell me what happened,’ ” says Amber. “People are watching, it’s embarrassing and humiliating. I’m sitting there and say, ‘Officer, nothing happened.’ He bluntly says, ‘Why don’t you tell me how your husband attacked you.’ ”
Amber and Jim say that when Amber attempted to walk toward her husband, an officer handcuffed her to prevent her from speaking to Jim.
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[The officer says], ‘If you tell us how you’re husband choked you, we’ll take the handcuffs off you,’ ” says Amber. “I said, ‘Well then, I guess we’re not going to get the handcuffs off me.’ ”
Jim and Amber say though they were met by LAX officers, there was no medical assistance there, which makes them question if whoever alerted the police truly believed domestic violence had taken place. They did not see the officers question their fellow passengers about the alleged incident or take statements from them.
Jim was eventually taken to jail, and says that he was treated well by the LAPD, who helped Amber navigate the process of arranging her husband’s $50,000 bail. Police took pictures of Amber’s neck for evidence, and later the couple took pictures as well.
Amber and Jim say there were no signs of bruising or injury and the parents of four maintain there has never been an instance of domestic violence in their 10-year marriage.
“There’s never been the police, there’s never been anyone coming to our house for it. There’s never been any issue,” says Jim, with Amber adding, “I am no victim.”
Amber and Jim say though they are strong supporters of police, the experience has made them more aware of the possibility of abuse within the system, and they recognize they were fortunate to have the financial resources to navigate the legal system. Amber says her thoughts are with those who are not as lucky.
“Cops are whipping guns out and shooting poor kids in the street who didn’t anything,” says Amber. “It’s really scary. I could never imagine a mother who lost their child because they couldn’t keep their guns in their harness.”