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Oleg Cassini's widow testifies at hearing in estate battle

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The widow of fashion designer Oleg Cassini appeared in a Long Island court on Friday to testify in a hearing after Cassini’s daughter asked the court to remove her stepmother as the executor of her late father’s estate.

Cassini’s widow, Marianne Nestor Cassini, was called Friday to testify at a hearing at the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court after being suspended as the executor of her late husband’s more than $50 million estate. The hearing, Judge Edward McCarty said, would focus on allegations that Nestor Cassini had allegedly hid and took assets, deselected her duty, failed to maintain insurance on a home, disregarded court orders and possibly committed perjury. The judge also insisted that the case “should be settled” and said he wanted lawyers involved in “dispute resolution.”

When called to the witness stand, Nestor Cassini – who stayed in the courtroom for six hours straight – said she couldn’t recall specific details about paperwork completed after her husband died and repeatedly told her stepdaughter’s lawyer it “was a terribly difficult time.” She testified that she placed many of her husband’s documents in the basement of a house in Oyster Bay Cove and said many of them were destroyed in 2008 when a fire ripped through the Gold Coast mansion.

Cassini’s daughter, Christina Cassini, who lives in Paris, claims there was no insurance on the $30 million home. Nestor Cassini said she was still attempting to insure the property on Friday. She also maintained that any money she spent was hers and that she “did what Oleg wanted.”

At times during her testimony, Nestor Cassini was chided by the judge, who at one point told her: “It would move a lot faster if you just answer the question.” When asked about one of her company’s tax returns, she banged on the witness stand and shook her hands. She later apologized to the judge for her conduct, saying: “I’m so sorry, please excuse me.”

Nestor Cassini maintains she has not “moved or sold” any of her late husband’s assets, except for artwork she provided to her stepdaughter under court order. Nestor Cassini said she hadn’t seen her stepdaughter for more than eight years, but spoke with her a few weeks ago during a court deposition in Paris.

During a lunch break, Nestor Cassini and others involved in the case remained in the courtroom. Reporters were told they were not permitted inside the courtroom during that time. Officials later reversed course after repeated calls to a court system spokesman.

When the hearing concluded for the day, shortly after 4 p.m., Nestor Cassini’s lawyers asked the judge if they could take their client through a back exit of the courthouse. The judge denied their request and suggested to Nestor Cassini that she not try to hide from waiting news photographers. Despite the judge’s advice, she used a large bag to try and shield her face while attempting to navigate through the courthouse and into a waiting sport utility vehicle. The hearing is expected to continue Monday.