The city quietly coughed up $40,000 last year to a cab driver who claimed he was jailed on bogus charges based on the word of a local radio host who had implored him to have sex with her in the front seat of his taxi — a lubricious encounter he videotaped on his cell phone.
The city cut a check to Hervey Farrell last summer to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit over his August 2013 arrest on voyeurism and extortion counts, according to records obtained Monday, The city attorney’s office had earlier refused to turn over the settlement terms, citing ongoing litigation that ended last week when a judge formally dismissed Farrell’s related claims against the radio show host and attorney, Jennifer Gaubert.
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Gaubert, 35, had gotten into Farrell’s White Fleet cab early on April 6, 2012 after a night of drinking at Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street for a ride to her Lakeview home.
She proceeded to crawl over the seat and, as Farrell’s video showed, lift her skirt while urging the cabbie to engage in sexual intercourse. In the video, which captures only a portion of the encounter, Farrell repeatedly rebuffs Gaubert’s slurring advances before she exits the cab.
Since his call to 911 shortly after the fare — “She whipped out my penis and was trying to give me oral sex and I said no” — Farrell has maintained he was a victim of Gaubert’s drunken aggression. He quickly filed a civil claim against Gaubert, whose radio show on WGSO, “Law Out Loud,” ended shortly after the cab ride.
Nearly a year later, Gaubert sought help from police. She told New Orleans Police Department Officer Alfred Moran that Farrell was extorting her under threat of releasing the video.
Gaubert told the officer that her attorney had received an email documenting the extortion threat.
Based solely on her statement, Moran and his supervisor, Sgt. Richard Hunter, secured an arrest warrant for the cabbie, his attorneys alleged.
Farrell sat in jail for more than 27 hours before making a $21,000 bond. He suffered depression and emotional distress from his arrest and the media coverage surrounding it, his lawsuit stated. Farrell claimed he was the victim of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and kidnapping.
Farrell’s federal lawsuit named Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, three police officers and Gaubert as defendants. The city admitted no fault in a 5-page settlement agreement.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office refused the charges against Farrell a little more than a month after his arrest. Gaubert, who maintained that the sexual encounter was consensual, then became the target of criminal allegations.
In 2014, she was convicted in Municipal Court on a simple battery count from the incident. And in a trial last year, Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter convicted Gaubert of misdemeanor criminal mischief, a lesser charge from the felony count she faced for allegedly filing a false police report. The judge sentenced Gaubert to a suspended one-day jail term.
No email documenting the alleged extortion attempt turned up at Gaubert’s trial, though she testified that a video was sent to her attorney and friend, Brigid Collins, with a clear message: Pay or else.
Collins, now an Orleans Parish magistrate commissioner, testified that she never received an explicit “pay or play” threat from Farrell or his lawyer, though she said she did receive the video and a money demand as part of Farrell’s bid to settle his state civil suit. The first solicitation was for $60,000, Collins testified.
Uncertain is whether the officers who secured Farrell’s arrest were disciplined over what the lawsuit described as a reckless bid to afford Gaubert preferential treatment.
An NOPD spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about any discipline. The Civil Service Department said it had no records indicating disciplinary action for Moran or Hunter over the incident.
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