Diane and Daniel Schuler on their wedding day. (Family photo)
By Aman Ali and Shawn Cohen, The Journal News
New York -- A cash-strapped Daniel Schuler has signed a deal
reportedly to have his wife's body exhumed for an HBO movie, infuriating a family that lost two relatives to the woman whose drunken crash killed eight people.
"Daniel Schuler actually sold his wife's body for money," Michael Bastardi Jr. declared Monday, hours after visiting the Taconic State Parkway site where his father and brother perished a year earlier. "We know what was wrong with her and what wasn't wrong with her because of the toxicology report. I
think it's a disgrace and it's disgusting."
The New York Post reported that the movie deal would net Schuler $100,000 that he would use to support his 6-year-old son, the sole survivor of the crash.
HBO confirmed Monday that the film is being produced by Moxie Firecracker Films, a Brooklyn- based film company co-founded by Rory Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
Kennedy and other people at Moxie Films could not be reached for comment, but the company put out a statement saying the New York Post report was "wildly exaggerated," specifically about the money going to Schuler.
"A modest stipend was paid for activities related to making the film," the statement said. "It's not uncommon to pay for materials and research when investing in a film."
HBO spokeswoman Lana Iny said she did not know the focus of the film or how much money was going to Schuler. She said the film was in "early production" and no air date had been set.
Iny also was asked about the exhumation, which the Post reported would be for the documentary. The exhumation would be carried out to determine whether Diane Schuler suffered a stroke before the crash.
"An exhumation could only take place if it's ordered by a court, next of kin or a legal representative," she said. "It's not something that the filmmakers would be doing."
Daniel Schuler has long disputed the Westchester County medical examiner's finding that his wife was severely drunk and high when she crashed her minivan into head-on traffic.
Diane Schuler, the couple's 2-year-old daughter, her three young nieces and three Yonkers men - including Michael Bastardi Sr. and son Guy Bastardi - were killed.
But Daniel Schuler and his lawyer, Dominic Barbara, asserted without evidence that Diane Schuler had a stroke, tooth pain and other maladies that may have caused her erratic behavior. Last year, they announced on CNN's "Larry King Live" that they
would seek to exhume her body and retest autopsy samples.
But Schuler, a security guard, couldn't afford to exhume the body, said Thomas Ruskin, an investigator for the family.
"They just didn't have the money at the time," Ruskin said. "Danny's a very modest-living guy. Diane was the source of income threefold over Danny, so upon Diane's death died the major income producer of the family."
Ruskin said he has been working for free for most of his investigation because of Schuler's financial situation.
"I think he is struggling," he said. "The last time it came up, six to seven months ago, he was worried about how he was going to put things together, how he was going to care for Bryan."
Medical experts have discounted Shuler's claims that a stroke or other malady caused his wife to speed into oncoming traffic for 1.7 miles before crashing.