The curse of transgressions past has hit "American Idol" again. A 2001 domestic violence charge against finalist Scott Savol has surfaced, according to the Smoking Gun Web site.
Papers on the site show that 28-year-old Savol was arrested for felony domestic violence after an altercation with girlfriend Michele Martin at her Shaker Heights, Ohio, home on February 14, 2001. According to the report, the couple — whose son, Brandon, was then three weeks old — had decided to "split up their living arrangement." When Savol arrived to remove his belongings from Martin's mother's house, he reportedly called the then-21-year-old woman "several vulgar names," grabbed her hand and pulled off her engagement ring.
The singer, who has survived on the show using his velvet voice and soft-spoken persona, then told Martin that he was going to take their son with him.
According to the police report, when Martin told him that she was going to call 911, Savol shoved her, pulled the phone from her hand and threw it at her, striking her in the chest. The phone broke after hitting Martin, according to the report. Savol left following the altercation, and when police arrived at Martin's home to take a statement, she reportedly told them that Savol had "made verbal threats to her in the past by telling her to 'watch her back.' "
At first, Martin said she didn't want Savol prosecuted, but wanted a restraining order against him, though she signed an arrest warrant the next day.
Savol pleaded down to a reduced misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, was fined $500, ordered to complete an anger management or domestic violence program, placed on a year's probation and sentenced to a suspended 20-day jail term, according to the Smoking Gun.
The temporary protective order for Martin and their son was extended an additional year in July 2001.
The site also reports that Savol pleaded no contest in 1995 to a misdemeanor trespass charge after being arrested for entering Shaker Heights High School though he'd been warned "both verbally and by letter" not to.
Unlike past skeletons that have caught the show's producers off guard, Savol's arrest was not a surprise. "Scott Savol was forthcoming to the 'American Idol' producers and the network regarding his misdemeanor," according to a statement released by the show Thursday night. "After reviewing the facts ... we felt that considering Scott's honesty and his remorse, the situation did not warrant his disqualification."
"Idol" is no stranger to controversial contestants. In February, finalist Mario Vazquez mysteriously quit the show amidst a swirl of rumors (see "Mario Vazquez Quits 'Idol' — 'It Wasn't Right For Me' "), and several other finalists have been booted for past indiscretions.
One of season two's 32 finalists, Jaered Andrews, was charged with assault in connection with a bar fight and disqualified from the show (see "Former 'American Idol' Contestant Faces Possible Involuntary Manslaughter Charge"
); he was subsequently acquitted of the charges. During season two, Corey Clark made it into the top 10 only to be eliminated when producers found out about a past assault allegation (see " 'Idol' Dismisses Corey Clark After Battery Charges Surface"). One of that season's top contenders, Frenchie Davis, was booted after it emerged that she had posed topless on an adult Web site.
Last year, Donnie Williams was disqualified following an arrest on suspicion of drunk driving.
When asked in a Q&A section on the official "Idol" Web site about his "most embarrassing moment," Savol said, "I don't have any." An "Idol" spokesperson could not be reached for comment at press time.