A video released this week of a taxicab encounter shows a flirty woman lift her skirt and make sexual advances on a driver, who for his part, politely rebuffs her. The restrained tenor between the two, at the end of a ride from the French Quarter to Lakeview, offers little hint of the legal troubles to come.
In the three-minute video, both acknowledge they kissed. But the passenger, who later claimed she did not know she was being filmed, tries to keep the sexual momentum going, pulling on her underwear and lifting her dress, saying "Baby," and "Please." Meanwhile, the driver, who hit record on his cell phone, asks where he should drop her off and insists he is faithful to his girlfriend. After he drops her off, he curses her and indicates she made him sexually excited.
The fallout from the video has been dramatic. After viewing the video at a trial last week, a judge convicted the passenger, Jennifer Gaubert, 33, a New Orleans attorney and former radio show host, of simple battery, a misdemeanor. The same week, the taxi driver filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against her and the city. And next month, she is set to stand trial on a charge that she lied about the cabbie blackmailing her just to have him arrested. The felony charges carries up to five years in prison.
As a result of Gaubert's claims, the cabbie, Hervey Farrell, spent 27 hours in Orleans Parish Prison. His mug shot appeared in the local news with stories about a rogue taxi driver who filmed his passenger's private parts without her permission and later tried to extort her. Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro refused to charge Farrell, and instead charged Gaubert with filing false statements, a felony.
View full sizeTaxi driver Hervey Farrell, 39, is suing his onetime passenger Jennifer Gaubert, 33, in connection with legal troubles stemming from a video he filmed during an encounter in his taxi.Video provided by Municipal Court records
Farrell, 39, is fighting back, against Gaubert and the New Orleans Police Department, in a the federal lawsuit filed April 4. The suit alleges the city does not adequately train or supervise police officers, and claims Farrell was a victim of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and kidnapping.
After his arrest, Farrell was forced to surrender his taxicab license, putting him out of work for several months while the New Orleans Taxicab Bureau conducted an investigation.
The suit names Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas and three police officer involved in August 2013 arrest. The cabbie claims the officers did not check the initial police report he filed on April 6, 2012, the day of the videotaped incident, which would have shown Gaubert was already facing the misdemeanor battery charge for touching his genitals.
"Mayor Landrieu and Superintendent Serpas did not even require the minimal step of requiring a search of prior reports regarding this incident, or open criminal litigation in the parish in which these officers operate, prior to issuing a baseless arrest warrant," the suit says.
Only Gaubert and Farrell know what came before Farrell pressed record.
Gaubert has acknowledged in a previous interview with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that she was drunk when Farrell picked her up in his White Fleet taxi near Bourbon and Bienville streets on the morning of April 6, 2012. In her version, she and Farrell were consensually fooling around near her home in Lakeview before he started filming.
According to Farrell's suit, Gaubert aggressively hit on him and refused his orders to leave his taxi several times, including on video. But the video does not show him order her out of the cab, as his suit claims.
He asks her repeatedly where he should take her and says he wants to go home.
The video shows Gaubert, in the front seat, leaning toward the driver, with her legs spread and dress raised. "Please," she pleads,
"Come here," as she pulls on her underwear.
"Please stop," Farrell says.
"What's your problem?" she says.
"I have a girlfriend," he says.
Later, Gaubert says, "Can you chill out for two seconds? You're hot. You're a (expletive) hot guy. I'm a girl. It happens."
"No, I'm a faithful man and uh," he says, before telling her he needed to drop her off.
"You were kissing me before," she says.
"No, you were kissing me," he says.
After Farrell drives Gaubert back to her house, she leaves and tells him, "Your girlfriend's a lucky girl."
As he drives away, Farrell can be heard muttering, "You made me blow a (expletive) load, you (expletive) whore."
After the car ride, Farrell called New Orleans police and filed a report, causing them to cite Gaubert for simple battery. After considering the video and other evidence, Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens found her guilty at trial on April 2. She is appealing.
A year after the incident, on April 5, 2013, Gaubert called police and reported to Officer Alfred Moran that she and Farrell were making out while she was drunk in his cab a year earlier. She told Moran that Farrell filmed her with her skirt lifted and genitals exposed without her permission. She also said Farrell emailed her attorney at the time, Brigid Collins, a copy of the video and offered to make her pending battery charge and the video disappear in exchange for $1,000, according to court records.
Moran and his supervisor, Sgt. Richard Hunter, then secured an arrest warrant for Farrell on counts of video voyeurism and extortion. The new federal lawsuit says the officers never asked Gaubert to show them Farrell's threatening email, "which did not exist." The officers also failed to contact Farrell about the allegations, view the video, or seek out the initial police report on the incident that had led to Gaubert's battery charge, the lawsuit says.
A spokesman for the Landrieu administration declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Farrell's arrest came after a traffic stop in August 2013. Officer Jack Manning ran the driver's name and found the active arrest warrant. The suit says his reputation was damaged and he had to pay some costs associated with a $21,000 bail bond.
After the arrest, Gaubert told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that she waited a year to report her allegations because she was too ashamed to call police. She said she had openly discussed her local radio show -- "Law Out Loud," which aired on WGSO -- with the cabdriver, which she believed made her a target.
She also said Farrell had initially demanded $60,000, but lowered it to $1,000.
Records show Farrell filed a civil suit against Gaubert in March 2013, seven months after the taxicab encounter. The outcome of that case is unclear. Farrell's attorney, Timothy Richardson, who filed both suits, did not respond to requests for comment.
"What I did was embarrassing and stupid, but it wasn't a crime," she said at the time. "What he did to me was criminal."
Gaubert's bench trial in the criminal case is set for May 9 before Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter.
Gaubert's attorney, Cameron Mary, declined to comment on her pending case. Gaubert is appealing her battery conviction, and is set for sentencing on May 7.