Fans were instantly attracted to and entertained by McSweeney’s spicy personality and willingness to open up about her past. McSweeney addressed her 2002 arrest and mugshot in the season premiere. In subsequent episodes, she has also revealed tidbits about her rebellious teenage years, including that she went to rehab right after high school.
Here’s what you need to know:
A Police Officer Punched McSweeney In the Face After She Threw a Water Bottle That Hit Him In the Back
McSweeney’s mugshot, which first aired during the RHONY season 12 premiere, dates back to the Fourth of July in 2002. McSweeney was 19 years old when she was arrested outside of the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.
She attended a concert that night and had been dancing with a man she had a crush on at the time. The event wrapped up around 4 a.m. and the concertgoers gathered in the street outside. McSweeney said she and her crush were kissing when the police decided to clear the crowd and they were pulled away from each other.
McSweeney explained in a confessional that she witnessed five officers “beating” her crush. “I had a knee jerk reaction, I had a half-empty water bottle, threw it, it hit one of the cops in the back, and he punched me in the face, slammed my face into the subway grates three times. And they locked me up.” McSweeney has long insisted she hadn’t meant to hit the police officer with the water bottle, as she explained to Fox Business in 2012. The violent arrest knocked out one tooth, broke a second, and left her with a bruised face.
McSweeney told People magazine the arrest was a wake-up call. “It was really bad. And what’s worst, it was the 4th of July! And I was in this cell doing situps, like, ‘What is life?’ How am I locked up on Independence Day? Leah, get your s— together!'”
McSweeney ended up suing the New York City Police Department for brutality and demanded $4 million in damages. According to Radar Online, she claimed she was handcuffed to a chair for several hours at Bellevue Hospital following the arrest.
She was ultimately cleared of any charges and reached a settlement with the NYPD for $75,000. McSweeney used the money to launch her clothing business, Married to the MOB. The company became a major success and McSweeney became a millionaire in 2007 after selling a portion of the business, the New York Post reported.
Her Daughter Found the Mugshot Online
McSweeney has admitted that she felt embarrassed about having her mugshot in the public eye. But she told People that having the image broadcast on the reality show was not as big of a deal as when her daughter found it online.
McSweeney said her daughter, Keir, whom McSweeney shares with ex-boyfriend Rob Cristofaro, googled her and inadvertently found the image. “I guess for a school project she needed a photo of me,” McSweeney told the magazine. “And she was basically like, ‘Mom, why do you have a mugshot?’ So I had to tell her.” McSweeney said Keir took the information in stride.
One person who likely did not take the news of McSweeney’s arrest very well would have been her mother, Bunny. McSweeney has described the relationship with her mother as a difficult one on RHONY. She has also apologized to her parents multiple times on Instagram for her past behavior. In May 2018, McSweeney shared the above photo with her mother and wrote, “Love you hot mama Bunny. Sorry for the teen years. Thanks for never giving up.”
Her father, Bryan, appears to have developed a sense of humor about his daughter’s arrest, at least in hindsight. He recreated the mugshot on a sketch pad in March 2019. McSweeney shared it on Instagram and described him as “the artist.”
McSweeney Was Expelled From Her First High School & Has Described Herself as a ‘Juvenile Delinquent’
McSweeney has been open about the fact that she struggled as a teenager. She was expelled from her first high school, the all-girls Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic school, when she was 14. McSweeney has not (yet) disclosed why she was ejected from the school but has described the reasoning as “total bullsh*t. She told the New York Post, “They made me the scapegoat and said I was a bad influence on the class.”
McSweeney’s parents decided to move the family to Newtown, Connecticut, after she was expelled. But the teenage McSweeney wasn’t a fan of her new surroundings and was prone to acting out. In an editorial for HypeBae in 2016, McSweeney acknowledged that she used drugs during her teenage years.
She even went to rehab after finishing high school. McSweeney opened up to her castmates on RHONY during a trip to a winery about spending three months in rehab as a teen. She explained that her parents would not allow her back in the house because they believed she was “disturbing” her brother and sister’s lives. McSweeney said her parents drove her to a halfway house run by nuns in upstate New York and that the experience was a gamechanger. “Now I realize that my mother was trying to save my life,” McSweeney explained. “Because she had to push me out and go ‘you need to face the consequences of all your actions all your behaviors.'”
In an interview with The Cut before season 12 began, McSweeney described herself as having been a “juvenile delinquent.” She also alluded to a specific incident that occurred in Connecticut that created a divide between herself and her mother. McSweeney told the outlet at the time that she didn’t wish to share details because the incident would be addressed on RHONY when she and her mother had a “come to Jesus” moment.