Bravo's RHOP Airs Footage of Moments Seemingly After Michael Darby's Encounter with Cameraman
Michael Darby was previously cleared of felony assault as well as misdemeanor improper sexual contact, after a Montgomery County court dismissed the charges due to insufficient evidence
Sunday’s episode of Real Housewives of Potomac ended by airing previously unseen footage that appeared to show Michael Darby seconds after an incident that a cameraman alleged to be sexual assault.
On Sept. 4, 2018, a cameraman named Orville Palmer claimed in court documents that Michael, 59 — who is married to Housewife Ashley Darby, 31 — had “grabbed and groped” his butt three days earlier, during cast member Monique Samuels‘ rainbow baby shower.
He claimed in the documents, obtained by TMZ, that as he turned around, Michael “smiled and gave me a flirtatious look.” Palmer said he then instructed Michael to stop and told a supervisor.
Michael was charged with felony assault as well as misdemeanor improper sexual contact, the maximum punishment for which was 11 years in prison. However, on Oct. 4, a Montgomery County court dismissed the charges due to insufficient evidence.
RHOP‘s footage did not capture any physical contact between Palmer and Michael, but seemed to record a cameraman’s response to Michael.
“Hey bud?” Michael said in the clip, smiling and giggling as he passed the crew member. “You alright?”
“Please don’t do that,” the man said directly.
“Okay,” Michael responded.
“Please don’t do that,” the man reiterated.
“Okay,” Michael said, before walking over to greet Ashley.
More previously unseen footage later showed a man confronting Michael, in what appeared to be an attempt to discuss what happened.
“Hey Mike,” the man said as Michael walked away. “Hold on. Mike, Mike, hold on. Hold on!”
“I didn’t touch your butt. I didn’t touch your butt!” Michael shouted back, smiling. “Come on, I’ll get a beer.”
In an exclusive comment to PEOPLE on Sunday, Michael responded to the episode:
“On one hand, I was amused by the production company’s amateurish attempt to affect the viewers opinion by first showing video that clearly does not show any improper action by me and then try to couple that with another video which was taken 4 hours later by a different cameraman of a conversation with a cousin of a cast member — not the cameraman — who whenever I see him refers to a well-documented, harmless event that occurred in season one,” Michael said. “On the other hand it shows the level people will stoop to in order to get ratings.”
“This was a serious situation where an employee of the production company tried to take advantage of my wife and I by making up a story to try to profit from it,” Michael added. “The fact that the production company appears to endorse his actions by splicing together disconnected and unrelated events in order to also profit is really scary for people in my position.”
A representative for Truly Original, RHOP‘s production company, responded to PEOPLE about Michael’s claims on Monday:
“Pertaining to Michael Darby’s scenes in last night’s Real Housewives of Potomac, there was no manipulation of audio or video; the footage that aired in last night’s episode depicted events exactly as they occurred,” they said in a statement.
In addition to seeking criminal charges, Palmer had also filed a restraining order against Michael, which was denied on Sept. 28.
“The charges were dropped. They were baseless. There were a number of alleged witnesses who said it did not happen,” Michael’s attorney Mike Rowan said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE in October. “The peace order request by the alleged victim was also denied. There was simply nothing that happened, and nothing here.”
Days later, Michael appeared on FOX 5 D.C. where he admitted he did “bump into the cameraman” at Samuels’ house as he walked out of their basement and into their backyard.
In the interview, Michael alleged that the cameraman “saw a way to make money” and claimed that “he quit the day after he filed charges.”
“The scenario that happened was there were three cameramen lined up in the line and we were taking a couple’s picture and Michael had to get through and he moved by the cameraman,” Ashley said on Sunday’s RHOP. “So when he grazed the cameraman, he said, ‘I’m sorry.'”
PEOPLE reached out to Palmer for comment at the time but never heard back. His social media accounts have since been deleted.
Ramon Korionoff, Public Affairs Director for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, told PEOPLE in October that none of Palmer’s supervisors had ever followed up with investigators. Korionoff also said the cameraman himself never responded either.
“The case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence,” he told PEOPLE. “The complaining witness states there were no witnesses who actually saw the incident, however, that he did inform his supervisors immediately after. He provided several contact numbers for his supervisors, however, no one ever called us back. We called the complaining witness to update him, however, he hasn’t returned our call.”
Representatives for Truly Original denied that though. “Truly Original responded to every request from the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office and complied fully,” they said in a statement. to PEOPLE in October. “To clarify and correct Mr. Korionoff’s statement, two supervisors, after being subpoenaed, testified at the hearing relating to [the cameraman’s] request for a peace order (the court ultimately denied [his] request for a peace order).”
“Subsequent to that, one of the supervisors was contacted by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office,” Truly Original continued. “Counsel responded to the State’s Attorney’s call on two separate occasions and the State’s Attorney failed to respond to those calls. The charges against Mr. Darby were then dropped.”
In confessionals on Sunday’s RHOP, Robyn Dixon, Candiace Dillard, Gizelle Bryant and Karen Huger reacted to the charges being dropped and shared their own theories about what happened.
“Anyone with a brain knows that just because the charges are dropped it doesn’t mean you didn’t do it,” said Dixon. “Lucky Michael.”
“We know what it is,” Bryant added. “That privilege worked out for you this time, honey. … You’re not denying any of this. … Something happened. I just don’t know what.”
RELATED VIDEO: ‘RHOP’ Recap: Bravo Airs Footage of Moments Seemingly After Michael Darby’s Encounter with Cameraman
Dillard hinted at darker explanations, without, however, offering any evidence for her suspicion. “Money talks,” she said. “Does this exonerate Michael? Absolutely not. And I will still look at him with a side-eye. … Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
“He admitted there was contact. That didn’t help me believe in his innocence. I will never know,” Huger said. “[There’s going to be] a question mark left over your character forever… Zebras don’t change their stripes.”
Only Samuels appeared to be on Ashley’s side.
“I’m going to support Ashley because I’m putting myself in her shoes,” Samuels said. “I had cameras all over my house but there were no cameras in that position. I’m staying neutral because I don’t know what happened. None of us do.”
As for Ashley, she assured viewers she was staying strong. “This is not going to destroy my husband, my marriage — we know who we are,” she said. “It’s just kind of like a Band-Aid, we just have to rip it off and keep it moving.”
The Real Housewives of Potomac airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.