On October 30th, Levi Johnston predicted to the Guardian that he and Bristol Palin would be "going to court" over custody of their son, Tripp. Prophetic! Less than a week later, Bristol secretly sued him for full custody of Tripp.
The Alaska Dispatch reports that the proceedings were made public last week, after a judge overturned a previous court's ruling that the trial would be closed at Palin's request. That Palin and Johnston will duke it out in court over 1 year-old Tripp doesn't come as a surprise, given Levi's prognosticating and the very public spats he's been having with Bristol's mom over her apparent reluctance to let him visit Tripp. Palin's custody claim (which would grant Johnston scheduled visiting rights) is similarly unremarkable in that it hews closely to the old deadbeat dad narrative:
The evidence will show that Levi is not ready for the demands of parenthood and the sacrifices that would entail to a 19 year old aspiring actor/model. Levi remains without a regular job or steady source of income. He has obtained money by selling stories to the media about his son Tripp, ex-fiance Bristol and the Palin family in general, but otherwise has not gone to school to learn a trade or obtain a degree. Recently he has engaged in modeling, including risque modeling for Playgirl magazine.
What's most interesting is the fact that Bristol wanted the proceedings closed, while Levi fought for them to be open—and eventually won. Why? According to Levi's statement in opposition to a closed proceeding:
I do not feel protected against Sarah Palin in a closed proceeding. I hope that if its open she will stay out of it... I think a public case might go a long way in reducing Sarah Palin's instinct to attack and allow the real parties in this litigation, Bristol and I, to work things out a lot more peacefully than we could if there is any more meddling from Sarah Palin...
I know that public scrutiny will simplify this matter and act as a check against anyone's need to be overly vindictive, aggressive or malicious, not that Bristol would ever be that way... but her mother is powerful, politically ambitious and has a reputation for being extremely vindictive. So, I think a public case might go a long way in reducing Sarah Palin's instinct to attack...
Here is a 19 year-old kid who is either utterly terrified of his ex-potential-mother-in-law or extremely savvy about the hazard a public, drawn-out custody battle could present her carefully calibrated image. Levi has admitted some of the mean things he said to Vanity Fair about Palin was "retaliation" for her keeping him away from Tripp. Now he gets to say mean things under oath! And anything Sarah Palin could do in her defense will just reinforce Levi's "meddling" and "vindictive" claims.
But if publicity is Levi's best friend in the upcoming custody battle, it will also be his biggest liability. Consider the evidence offered by Bristol's lawyer, which includes not only numerous references to his dressing-down Sarah Palin in interviews, but also incriminating tweets and—lo, and behold!—a few posts from our own, very in-depth coverage of Levi's Playgirl shoot:
(In his response, Johnston claims the Twitter feed was not in fact his.)
In an ingenious move, Palin's camp also included a sampling of blog comments to suggest that a public trial would poison young Tripp forever via exposing his case to the wrath of a million anonymous commenters. (We kind of agree!)
But it's all come crashing spectacularly into the open. (Feel free to read the Palin-Johnston legal documents in full at the Alaska Dispatch website.) We'll see if the threat of negative publicity keeps Sarah Palin from "meddling" in the proceedings, and if Levi's past publicity keeps him from retaining custody of his kid.
Palin-Johnston... four more years?