A local attorney and former radio personality avoided jail time Wednesday in a bizarre case in which she was accused of filing a bogus police report against a taxi driver who filmed her making sexual advances in his cab.
The lawyer, Jennifer Gaubert, faced up to six months in jail for criminal mischief — a lesser offense she was convicted of last month after standing trial on the felony charge of making a false statement. But Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter, who handled the proceedings without a jury, sentenced Gaubert to a suspended sentence of one day in Orleans Parish Prison and one day of probation.
Hunter, who convicted Gaubert without comment, was similarly tight-lipped at Wednesday’s sentencing, summarily denying a defense motion for new trial.
“I certainly didn’t expect for him to put her in jail,” said Cameron Mary, one of Gaubert’s defense attorneys. “In the grand scheme of things, I think this is more of a Pyrrhic victory for the state.”
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, noted that prosecutors had “no control” over Hunter’s decision on punishment. “It wasn’t an agreed-upon sentence,” Bowman said. “The judge was within his legal right to give her that.”
The sentence capped a saga that began in April 2012 with Gaubert’s drunken cab ride to Lakeview from Galatoire’s restaurant on Bourbon Street, where she had enjoyed several drinks during a three-hour lunch.
The cab driver, Hervey Farrell, shot a cellphone video, since published online, in which Gaubert, having climbed into the front seat, pleads for sex while exposing her genitals to him.
“Mr. Farrell videotaped the incident,” a police report says, “and can clearly be seen verbally and physically denying (her) advances.”
Gaubert was convicted of simple battery last year in Municipal Court. Gaubert initially told police that Farrell tried to extort her by threatening to release the racy video and that he emailed her lawyer saying he would drop his battery complaint in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.
Farrell was briefly jailed before the authorities found holes in Gaubert’s story and accused her of filing a false complaint.
Mary, the defense attorney, said Wednesday that he is considering an appeal even though Gaubert avoided jail time. He said he is particularly concerned that Hunter allowed Gaubert’s former defense attorney, Brigid Collins, to testify at last month’s trial, citing concerns over attorney-client privilege. The state’s case, he said, would have been “woefully insufficient” to support a criminal mischief conviction without Collins’ testimony.
Even without an appeal, Wednesday’s sentence seems unlikely to bring an end to the courtroom drama.
Farrell last year filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming he was the victim of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and kidnapping. His lawsuit named as defendants Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas and three police officers, in addition to Gaubert.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.