Baldwins’ Mom, Photographer in Court Battle

BY LUIS PEREZ
Newsday Staff Writer
December 13, 2006

A Suffolk County jury heard opening statements yesterday in the trial between Carol Baldwin, the mother of the famed actor siblings of the same surname, and a celebrity photographer who says she duped him out of a $100,000 snapshot.

It took 10 years for their bitter dispute, which also involves the breast cancer research center at Stony Brook University Medical Center bearing Baldwin’s name, to come to trial in Riverhead.

Yesterday, after eight hours of questions and testimony, Manhattan photographer James Edstrom walked from the courthouse and said, “I just wish it never got this far.”

Back in 1996, Edstrom told the jury, he and Baldwin, who raised her sons in Massapequa but now lives in Syracuse, were intimate friends.

Their dispute, as Edstrom and his attorney, John McHugh of Manhattan, described it, centers around a promised photograph Edstrom was to take of the four Baldwin brothers — Alec, Daniel, Stephen and William. The single picture was to be payment for Edstrom organizing a 1997 benefit gala for the mother’s fledgling breast cancer charity, they said.

Edstrom, also a publicist, said the group photo would have been the first celebrity photo of all the brothers and could have fetched a six-figure sum by being sold over and over around the globe.

His bond with Carol Baldwin came to an end, Edstrom testified, after the family reneged on the deal and let another photographer take the picture.

“I’m not going to give this to a paparazzi,” Edstrom said Alec Baldwin told him. Alec Baldwin was named in the original suit, which is being appealed.

“I started crying,” Edstrom added. “I was in shock because that was my payday.”

Carol Baldwin and her attorney, Neil H. Greenberg of Westbury, however, say that there never was an explicit deal for a photo.

Greenberg, whose own mother accompanied the frail Baldwin in and out of court, argued that Edstrom himself invited the other photographer to come along and missed his chance to take the picture because he was away drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette.

Greenberg added that Edstrom was not a celebrity photographer but rather was primarily employed as a waiter at the time.

Joan Hudson, a former director of the Suffolk County Office of Women’s Services and director of the charity, also testified.

Baldwin, who is expected to testify today along with at least one of her sons, appeared tired and at times bored in court. During Edstrom’s testimony, she whispered “Never” after he said he had given her receipts for picking up meals for her on his credit cards.