Monday, February 11, 2019
The taxi cab sex, lies and videotape saga has resulted in a year and a day suspension from the Louisiana Supreme Court
On April 6, 2012, respondent was a passenger in a taxi cab driven by Hervey Farrell. Respondent was highly intoxicated. At some point, Mr. Farrell and respondent had a sexual encounter in the vehicle. Mr. Farrell then used his cell phone to take a sexually explicit video of respondent.
Following the encounter, Mr. Farrell called 911 to report that he had been sexually assaulted by respondent. As a result, respondent was charged in New Orleans Municipal Court with simple battery. Mr. Farrell also filed a civil suit against respondent on March 1, 2013, alleging that he suffered tort damages as a result of her sexual advances in the cab.
On April 5, 2013, one year after the incident, respondent went to the Third District Station of the New Orleans Police Department to report that she was the victim of the crimes of extortion and video voyeurism perpetrated by Mr. Farrell.
According to the police report, respondent claimed that her friend and attorney, Brigid Collins, flagged down a cab in the French Quarter and told the driver, Mr. Farrell, to take respondent to an address in Lakeview. Respondent admitted that she was intoxicated during the ride and got into the front seat and began kissing Mr. Farrell. Mr. Farrell later stopped the cab in the Lakeview area and used his cell phone to record a video of respondent, during which she exposed her genitalia.
Respondent claimed that Ms. Collins received a copy of the video via e-mail and that Mr. Farrell indicated that if he received $1,000, the video and the charges he filed would “go away.”
Mr. Farrell was later arrested on charges of video voyeurism and extortion. As a result of his arrest, Mr. Farrell spent about thirty hours in jail.
Following an investigation of respondent’s complaint against Mr. Farrell, on October 1, 2013, the state charged respondent with one count of false swearing for the purposes of denying a constitutional right, a felony, in violation of La. R.S. 14:126.2. Respondent was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. She subsequently elected a bench trial.
On April 2, 2014, while the state charges were pending, respondent was tried in Municipal Court on the simple battery charge brought by Mr. Farrell. She was found guilty of that offense and fined costs. Following the denial of respondent’s motion for new trial, her conviction of simple battery became final.
On June 13, 2014, the state amended the bill of information to charge respondent with one count of false swearing for the purposes of violating public health or safety, a felony, in violation of La. R.S. 14:126.1. On the same day, respondent pleaded not guilty to that charge.
On January 16, 2015, a one-day bench trial was held in Criminal District Court before Judge Arthur Hunter. The state called two witnesses: Ms. Collins and the police officer who took respondent’s criminal complaint. Ms. Collins testified that she never received an e-mail or any other communication from Mr. Farrell or his attorney requesting $1,000 for the charges and the video to “go away.” She stated that she did receive a copy of the video and that she received a demand for between $50,000 and $60,000 in connection with the settlement negotiations of the civil suit.
At the close of the state’s case, respondent moved for a judgment of acquittal. Judge Hunter deferred his ruling. Respondent then called several witnesses who testified to seeing the sexual encounter in the cab. The witnesses denied having any knowledge of the extortion attempt. Respondent also testified on her own behalf.
At the end of the trial, Judge Hunter denied respondent’s motion for a judgment of acquittal. Finding no evidence that Mr. Farrell or his attorney ever made a demand for $1,000 and crediting Ms. Collins’ testimony that the $60,000 demand was in connection with the civil suit, Judge Hunter found respondent guilty of the lesser included offense of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, based on her false report of extortion. On February 25, 2015, Judge Hunter denied respondent’s motions for new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal. Judge Hunter sentenced respondent to serve one day in parish prison, suspended; one day of inactive probation with the condition that she not purchase or possess a gun during probation; and ordered her to pay costs.
The conviction was affirmed on appeal.
Respondent was convicted of simple battery and criminal mischief, thereby violating Rule 8.4(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. By her convictions, respondent violated duties owed to the legal profession, causing substantial actual injury to the public and to Mr. Farrell, who spent about thirty hours in jail as a result of respondent’s false accusations of video voyeurism and extortion. These crimes, by definition, involve intentional acts. The baseline sanction in this case is suspension. The record supports the aggravating and mitigating factors as found by the disciplinary board... we agree that the one year and one day suspension recommended by the board is appropriate.
Justice Crichton concurred
I agree with the Court’s imposition of a one year and one day suspension in this matter. I write separately to point out, as I have in the past, that I consider it troublesome when
attorney respondents fail to participate meaningfully in the proceedings against them. See In re: Klaila, 18-0093 (La. 3/23/18), 239 So. 3d 949 (Crichton, J., additionally concurring); In re: Reid, 18-0849 (La. 12/5/18), --- So. 3d --- (Crichton., J., dissenting) (noting that “lack of cooperation with ODC, the Hearing Committee, the Disciplinary Board, and this Court demonstrates [a] stunning indifference to this noble profession”). In my view, respondent’s disdain for the disciplinary process and her disregard for the Rules of Professional Conduct warrant the suspension imposed.