Julia Salazar is the Democratic Socialist poised to win a seat in the New York State Senate. On September 13, Salazar won the Democratic primary, beating long-standing incumbent Martin Dilan by 58 percent to 42 percent. No Republican is running for that seat, which has long been a Democratic stronghold — so Salazar is apparently on her way to the New York State Senate. The district includes the recently gentrified neighborhoods of Bushwick, Greepoint, and Williamsburg and borders on Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Salazar first moved to New York City as a college student, when she attended Columbia University. Before that, she lived in Jupiter,Florida — which is where she ran into a complicated mess with her mother’s next door neighbor, Keith Hernandez. New Yorkers may remember Hernndez as a first baseman for the Mets who shared the MVP one year; others may remember him for his guest appearances on Seinfeld.
Salazar initially had a friendly relationship with Keith Hernandez and his then-wife, Kai. But the relationship fell apart when Kai accused Salazar of stealing — and Salazar retaliated by suing her for defamation. Heavy has obtained court documents which detail a bizarre feud between Salazar and Kai Hernandez, spanning years. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Salazar Says That Kai Hernandez Accused Her of Having an Affair With Keith, Which She and Keith Both Deny
What happened between Julia Salazar and Kai Hernandez is complicated, to say the least. But it all began when Salazar was house-sitting for Kai in August and September of 2010. That’s when Salazar allegedly found drugs, guns, and thousands of dollars in gift cards laying around the Hernandez home.
Months later, Kai called the police and said that Salazar had stolen money from her — and tried to steal her identity. Nothing ever came of the complaint; police dismissed it quickly. But Salazar said she was humiliated after being put through the system, and she filed a defamation lawsuit against Kai.
In the lawsuit, Salazar said that Kai had accused her of having an affair with her then-husband, Keith Hernandez. Hernandez is about 37 years older than Kai, who was 19 years old and a student at Columbia at the time. (Her lawsuit says that Salazar had no previous criminal history and had graduated at the top of her high school class.) Salazar says that this was “defamation” and that she never had a romantic relationship with Hernandez.
2. Salazar Says She Found Drugs in the House While She Was Taking Care of the Dogs One Week
In August 2010, Salazar house-sat for Kai for a week. Salazar’s mother, Christine, lived next door to the Hernandez home, and it wasn’t unusual for Salazar to take care of the family pets when nobody was home. By 2010, Keith and Kai Hernandez were splitting up; court documents say that Keith was “living up north” while Kai was living in the marital home in Tequesta, Florida with her then-fiance Barry Silverman.
In court documents filed in Palm Beach county in 2013, Salazar claimed that she saw “drug paraphernalia,” including open syringes, in various spots around the house. She also claimed that she found several guns — as well as over a thousand dollars in Potttery Barn gift cards.
Salazar called Keith Hernandez to let him know what she had found. At his request, she took photos of the drugs and guns and sent him a list of all the items. About a month later, on September 20, when she was house-sitting again, Keith Hernandez came over to the house with police, and they took an inventory of all the items in the house.
Several months later — on December 16 — Kai contacted the Tequesta Police Department and accused Salazar of trying to steal her identity, along with thousands of dollars in cash.
3. Kai Hernandez Said Salazar Tried to Steal Her Identity
On March 23, 2011, while Salazar was home during a school break, Tequesta police contacted her for an interview. After questioning her, they cuffed her and arrested her.
Kai Hernandez claimed that Salazar had tried (unsuccessfully) to access her bank account using information she gathered while house-sitting. Kai claimed, in a police report of December 16 2010, that her bank had received a call from someone who had nearly enough information to access the account. The unnamed caller missed only one of the many security questions. They weren’t able to get into the account, bcause they didn’t have enough information. But the call was recorded, and the bank contacted Kai.
Kai identified the voice as belonging to Salazar (Salazar completely denies that she ever called the bank and says the whole thing is false). Kai contacted the police and said Salazar had tried to steal her identity. She also said Salazar had stolen thousands of dollars from her home.
The charges were soon dismissed. But Salazar said she was “humiliated” by being cuffed, arrested, and fingerprinted, and she sued Kai for damages.
4. Salazar Implied That Kai’s Boyfriend, Barry, Probably Stole Kai’s Money
At the time that all this trouble took place, Kai was separated from Keith Hernandez and was living with her then-fiance, Barry Silverman. (Just a few years later, Kai filed an injunction against Silverman, claiming that he had beaten her. You can read that here.)
Salazar’s defamation suit says, “upon information and belief, Barry [Silverman] has a criminal history to include fraud and theft.” The suit notes that Kai had reported several “suspicious claims” with her insurance company, including theft. This all happened well before Salazar ever stayed in the home.
Salazar’s complaint doesn’t spell it out — but the implication appears to be that Barry Silverman stole Kai’s money, and possibly got an accomplice to try to steal Kai’s identity and access her bank account.
5. Kai Eventually Settled the Case for Twenty Thousand Dollars
The defamation case against Kai Hernandez dragged on for years. Originally filed in 2013, the case wasn’t closed until March 2017, when it was “dismissed with prejudice.”
The New York Post reports that the case closed when Kai agreed to pay Salazer 20 thousand dollars. “Kai Hernandez’s bizarre and fraudulent attempts to defame and victimize Julia were recognized as baseless by the authorities, who declined to file charges, and this matter was resolved with a monetary settlement of $20,000 in Julia’s favor,” Salazar’s lawyer, Adam Hecht, said in a statement.
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