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Jason Hoppy Apologizes to Bethenny Frankel During Custody Trial, Defends His Drug Test Request

People logo People 3/5/2019 Natalie Stone

two people sitting posing for the camera: Jason Hoppy and Bethenny Frankel | Noel Vasquez/Getty © Noel Vasquez/Getty Jason Hoppy and Bethenny Frankel | Noel Vasquez/Getty As Bethenny Frankel and ex Jason Hoppy begin their custody trial, the Real Housewives of New York City star is remaining focused on her daughter.

Ahead of Monday’s custody trial over their 8-year-old daughter Bryn, which is only expected to last a few days, Frankel, 48, FaceTimed the little girl and told her, “I love you so much.”

While in the courtroom, attorneys for the exes, who settled their divorce in July 2016, presented their respective cases: Frankel is seeking primary custody and full decision-making power over Bryn, while Hoppy wants to keep the current joint custody arrangement the same.

Here’s a look inside day one of their custody trial, during which Hoppy, 48, apologized to Frankel after his lawyer shared a litany of accusations — and stood by his request to have her tested for drugs after on-off boyfriend Dennis Shields’ death.

In his opening statement, Frankel’s attorney, Allan Mayefsky, said they want to modify the decision-making agreement so that Frankel would be awarded sole custody and sole decision-making power to prevent further harm to Bryn, as well as minimize Hoppy’s interaction with Bryn or have it supervised.

Mayefsky accused Hoppy of cruel treatment and disdain of Frankel in front of the child, which he argued will affect Bryn’s relationship not only with them but with other people in the future. He called what Hoppy has done to Frankel “domestic violence” to “cause emotional and psychological harm,” and alleged that it continues to this day.

During her attorney’s statements, Mayefsky accused Hoppy of physically pulling Bryn away from Frankel when they were living together; that he would leave out cruel press about Frankel for the Skinnygirl mogul to see; and he locked up their dog Cookie in a storage closet for hours and withheld her whereabouts.

Among his claims, Mayefsky said Hoppy sent cruel texts and emails to Frankel, calling her desperate and saying things like, “ugh, this is what 43 looks like.” Additionally, Mayefsky alleged Hoppy attacked Frankel’s romantic relationships, saying they won’t last, and even sent attacks directly to the significant others. Over a one day and night period, Mayefsky claimed that Hoppy sent Frankel over 500 emails.

Frankel’s attorney also claimed that Hoppy sent his attacks of Frankel to Bryn’s school and has said things to Bryn like, “Don’t worry, you’ll soon be back with Daddy who loves you,” and “Mommy won’t let me call you.”

Mayefsky alleged that Hoppy, who he referred to as Frankel’s “abuser,” insists on being at the same place at the same time as Frankel; Hoppy also allegedly told the reality star to ensure that her life insurance was in place.

The attorney argued that Hoppy’s behavior hasn’t gotten any better after their financial settlement and initial custody agreement, but will only change with a consequence. (The therapist, Dr. Ravitz, called his behavior “outrageous” and said no change is forthcoming.) Mayefsky argued that Frankel is the parent who can move forward and make decisions without the need to punish Hoppy and will promote a positive relationship between Bryn and her father.

Mayefsky further alleged that Hoppy is controlled by his emotions and hovers over Bryn during her communications with Frankel, even when Bryn is doing her homework. “Even the child has expressed discomfort with this behavior,” Mayefsky said.

Although Frankel is seeking to change the current agreement, Hoppy’s attorney Robert Wallack said that there has been no change in circumstance to justify that.

“They knew the deal, they agreed to the deal, more importantly they knew each other, yet they entered into this binding agreement,” Wallack said.

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Although Wallack said that he wouldn’t expand on Frankel’s “provocations, inflexibility” and “need for attention,” he alleged that the mother of one and her team want the court to believe the former couple is so hostile with each other that they need to throw out the old agreement.

Wallack alleged that Frankel sent emails of fights with Hoppy about phone access to Bryn to her assistants and told them to print them and keep them in her file. Then, in 2017, she went to the police with packet of emails, and Hoppy was arrested on stalking and harassment charges. (“I didn’t think the mother of my child would want to have me arrested,”  he said during his cross-examination. “When I was arrested, that scared the s— out of me.”) When the charges were dismissed, she demanded full custody three days later, Wallack claimed, citing the timing as suspicious.

While Wallack alleged that Frankel hasn’t been innocent of wrongdoing in the case, he said that Hoppy was also wrong too and accepts responsibility for his behavior.

Hoppy’s attorney argued that the pair’s communication has been less hostile than in the past and said that co-parenting is working.

He went on to argue that while Bryn is doing great, Frankel is intent on making this about her and Hoppy. “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” said Wallack, who said the current agreement is “working reasonably well.”

He closed by stating that Frankel is seeking publicity and called the trial an “unnecessary evil.”

During Hoppy’s cross-examination by Frankel’s attorney, the father of one said, “I think we are both good parents” and “I just want to move on.”

“There are probably some statements we both made to each other that we regret,” Hoppy said.

The cross-examination also saw an apology from Hoppy, who said, “I take full responsibility for the comments I have made,” referencing the custody agreement that prevents both from disparaging each other.

Mayefsky proceeded to read numerous disparaging texts that Hoppy sent to Frankel from 2015-2017 — they included, “A happy person doesn’t do what you do”; “You’re exactly like your mother”; “You’re a sad bitter person for keeping a child away from her father”; and “Which boyfriend do you have now Bethenny?” — all of which he took responsibility for and said he regretted sending them.

He also looked at Frankel and apologized to her directly a few times.

Bethenny Frankel et al. posing for the camera: Bethenny Frankel's Ex Jason Hoppy Apologizes During Custody Trial © Provided by TIME Inc. Bethenny Frankel's Ex Jason Hoppy Apologizes During Custody Trial The cross-examination also addressed Frankel’s late ex, Shields — he was found dead of a suspected overdose in his Trump Tower apartment on Aug. 10, 2018, at age 51 — whom Hoppy eventually started texting. (Hoppy said he did so in the hopes Dennis would convince Frankel to have Bryn call him.)

In January 2017, Hoppy said things to Frankel and Shields, such as,  “You’ll be sorry … You’ve been warned … She’s pure evil … don’t say I didn’t warn you … there’s nothing you can do to stop me,” which Hoppy admitted to sending because he was shocked that Shields was at the playground with Bryn.

Mayefsky alleged that he sent messages like this to upset Frankel and pull Bryn away from her.

Hoppy said, “As I look back at a lot of these I regret a lot of what I sent to her and want to move past that.”

At one point in 2015, Hoppy allegedly said to her and Bryn, “Bethenny, you’re just like your mom, remember that sweetheart.” While Hoppy that said he doesn’t remember that, he told the court, “we’ve all said things in front of our child that we shouldn’t have.”

Hoppy admitted that the way he was contacting and talking to Frankel was “wrong and inappropriate” and said that he now contacts Frankel through his surrogate every other day if he hasn’t heard from Bryn.

“You don’t see any more communication like this” from 2017 on, claimed Hoppy, who said he was trying to not use attorneys to bring up issues he had with their agreements and he was trying to meet with her so they wouldn’t have to use lawyers, but admitted his emails and texts were “a horrible approach.”

Following Shields death, Hoppy and his legal team had argued Frankel’s drinking on the Bravo show — and the apparent fatal overdose of Shields — should require her to submit to an emergency drug test, previously citing “downright dangerous parenting.” Frankel’s lawyer, however, insisted that she had no evidence that Shields had a drug problem, adding that her on-screen drinking was simply entertainment for the show.

a man standing next to a building: Bethenny Frankel and Dennis Shields | Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty © Provided by TIME Inc. Bethenny Frankel and Dennis Shields | Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty

“With respect to Dennis, the judge said [Hoppy and his team] were trying to use his death to their advantage,” a source familiar with the case told PEOPLE. “The clear implication being that it was inappropriate that they were trying to use that tragedy.”

Still, Hoppy stood by his previous request in the cross-examination.

“If this were reversed, I believe Bethenny would do the same,” said Hoppy, who argued that any parent would have some concern when their co-parent’s boyfriend dies of an overdose.

Ahead of the trial, Hoppy said that he “was hoping to meet with Bethenny” and that he “never wanted to be here” or have it “escalate to this level” as “our daughter will see this.”

“My approach is Bryn should be with both of us,” said Hoppy, who added, “There have been a lot of emails that have been positive co-parenting.”

In November 2016, Hoppy claimed he sent Frankel an email about doing better and co-parenting better; and as of January 2017, he had stopped with the nasty texts because he was tired of it and wanted to move on.

But Mayefsky argued that wasn’t the case, and in October and November 2016, Hoppy was asking Frankel for full custody of Bryn.

Months later, in January 2017, Mayefsky said Hoppy took the issues between him and Frankel to Bryn’s school, sending an email to Bryn’s teacher saying he hasn’t heard from Bryn or Frankel. While Mayefsky said the only reason the disparaging contact stopped in January 2017 is because an order of protection was issued against him, Hoppy disagreed.

“It’s something I tell my daughter, if you’ve done something wrong,” Hoppy said about taking responsibility for his texts and emails, “admit it and learn from it.”

Frankel and Hoppy have been fighting over custody of Brynn for years. After a whirlwind romance, the Skinnygirl mogul learned she was pregnant, and they got married in a lavish televised wedding in 2010, welcoming their baby girl shortly after. Then, things turned ugly. They separated in December 2012, and their protracted divorce was finalized in July 2016, though they’ve been stuck in messy court proceedings; she accused him of stalking and harassing her in 2017. Hoppy agreed to a plea deal in the case.

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