Before Scandoval Lawsuit, Rachel Leviss’ Lawyer Sent Letter Discouraging Bravo From Airing Sex Tape Discussion With Tom Sandoval (EXCLUSIVE)

On Feb. 29, ex-“Vanderpump Rules” star Rachel Leviss filed an explosive lawsuit against her former castmates Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix for eavesdropping, revenge porn, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. At the core of Leviss’ lawsuit is Sandoval’s recording of “sexually explicit videos of her without her knowledge or consent, which were then distributed, disseminated, and discussed publicly by a scorned women seeking vengeance, catalyzing the scandal.”

Though Leviss is not suing Bravo, NBCUniversal or Evolution, the production company behind “Vanderpump Rules,” the lawsuit, filed by her attorneys Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos, claims these companies “sanitized the story to ensure Leviss would be seen as the arch-villain.”

But in contradiction to part of Leviss’ suit, Variety has reviewed an email from her former attorney dated March 6, 2023. In the letter, sent to Evolution’s parent company, MGM, Leviss’ then-lawyer insisted that the “right thing” to do is not to air any discussion of the recording of Leviss.

“Giving life to a recording that was illegally obtained by allowing discussion of it on-air would be tantamount to rewarding someone for robbing a bank or shooting someone,” wrote Lawrence M Kopeikin, who represented Leviss during this period. “We would hope that Evolution and Bravo have sufficient character and restraint to not air any discussion of this illegally obtained recording.”

Asked to comment on this apparent discrepancy, Freedman — Leviss’ current lawyer — wrote: “Clearly, you do not understand what this case is about? If you did understand the actual legal claim, you would not be asking questions about a letter sent to a production company that is not even named as a defendant in the complaint. This case is about Revenge Porn arising from illegally recording and disseminating a sexual video without the knowledge or consent of our client. It is not only a civil wrong but likely a crime. Let me know if you care to ask a question about the case that is actually being litigated.”

When contacted by Variety, Kopeikin confirmed he no longer represents Leviss, and spokespeople for NBCUniversal and MGM declined to comment.

The video in question of Leviss and Sandoval was briefly mentioned in the finale of Season 10 of “Vanderpump Rules,” which was filmed spontaneously after the news of Leviss and Sandoval’s affair broke in early March 2023.

In the May 17 episode, without detailing its contents, Madix describes (using “Raquel,” Leviss’ formerly preferred first name) how she’d found in Sandoval’s camera roll “a screen recording of Raquel and Tom on Facetime.” Her discovery served as the catalyst for the so-called Scandoval, the cheating scandal that propelled “Vanderpump Rules” into the zeitgeist and the ratings stratosphere last year. The nature of the video Madix had found wasn’t widely known until March 7, 2023, when a TMZ story with the headline “’VANDERPUMP RULES’ RAQUEL LEVISS INTIMATE FACETIME SESH WITH TOM … She Says Was Recorded Without Permission” went viral, after members of the cast had been sent letters warning them not to share the video.

In Leviss’ Feb. 29 lawsuit, filed in L.A. County Superior Court, her attorneys claim that a key element of a scene between Leviss and Sandoval was edited out — at Sandoval’s insistence. According to the lawsuit, during a scene at Leviss’ apartment on March 4, 2023, “Leviss confronted Sandoval for secretly recording pornographic videos of her and storing them unprotected on his phone” on camera.

“Sandoval had not only invaded her privacy and breached her trust, but had also left her enormously vulnerable to a nightmare scenario of the videos leaking on the internet,” the lawsuit reads. “Sandoval responded to Leviss’ fury with cowardice and lies, claiming falsely that he had obtained her permission to record her. Seeing that Leviss was having none of it, however, Sandoval ultimately offered a reluctant admission and a sheepish apology.”

The lawsuit cites media reports that Sandoval threatened to stop filming unless he was “granted editing rights over the scene. Shockingly, Bravo and Evolution obliged his demand. The scene was selectively edited to omit any mention of Sandoval’s illicit recording or Leviss’ lack of consent.”

The lawsuit goes on. “This was part of a pattern and practice of Bravo and Evolution throwing Leviss under the bus in favor of Sandoval,” it states. “Recording someone engaged in sex acts without their consent is a crime, and Sandoval appears to have admitted it on camera. Portraying the confrontation as it actually occurred instead of protecting sleazy Sandoval would not only have been truthful, it would have also been ‘good television.’ But Bravo and Evolution apparently decided that Leviss would be their sacrificial lamb.”

In the scene as it played out in the May 17 finale, filmed on March 4, at her apartment, Leviss and Sandoval commiserate about what’s happened, express regrets about how they could have done things differently and agree not to kiss on camera. They then profess their love to one another. “I feel so isolated,” Leviss says as Sandoval embraces her. After the scene ends, a chyron says, “After filming this scene, Raquel turned off her phone and was not seen or heard from for weeks.”

The March 6, 2023 letter from Leviss’ then-lawyer begins by acknowledging that the secret affair between Leviss and Sandoval would be featured on the show, and would be “the subject of on-camera discussion among the cast of ‘Vanderpump Rules.’”

Kopeikin then informs the company that Sandoval had “illegally recorded an intimate Facetime exchange,” which is illegal under California law. He adds that they think “one or more cast members have shared this recording among themselves, which is a violation of several California statutes, including without limitation, California Penal Code Section 647(J)(4) (the so-called ‘revenge porn’ law).”

The letter goes on to say that they “know that Bravo would not air any part of this recording (whether blurred or pixelated or otherwise obscured) since that could subject Evolution/MGM and Bravo to possible civil and criminal liability.” But Kopeikin tells the company that it’s “inappropriate for Evolution and Bravo to put on air any discussion among the cast of this illegally obtained recording. Here we are drawing a distinction between discussion of the affair between Raquel and Tom Sandoval, which we understand will be discussed on the show, as differentiated from a discussion of an illegally obtained recording which we feel should not be discussed on the show.”

Addressing the MGM executive, Kopeikin writes: “We would hope that Evolution and Bravo have sufficient character and restraint to not air any discussion of this illegally obtained recording. This is especially important given the nature of this illegally obtained recording. Once you’ve had an opportunity to discuss this with Evolution and Bravo we would appreciate your confirming that discussion of this illegally obtained recording will not be aired on the show.”

Kopeikin closes with this.

“Thank you and the people at Evolution and Bravo in advance for your understanding and for doing the right thing.”

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