Armed with affidavits and a federal judge’s ruling, two Atlanta-area lawyers and their former client are battling felony charges by attacking their chief accuser—Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers Jr.
In advance of a pretrial hearing Thursday, the legal team defending attorneys David Cohen, John Butters and their former client Mye Brindle have petitioned a Fulton County Superior Court judge to allow them to introduce evidence they claim shows Rogers’ previous “bad acts.”
Claiming in a Feb. 16 filing that “not all is beautiful in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood,” the defense claimed the Waffle House CEO engaged in “signature sexual-related crimes” with a former employee, allegations mirroring those of Brindle—Rogers’ longtime former housekeeper.
The motion also said Rogers obstructed justice in order to hide his misdeeds and punish his accusers. It also accused him of having “bribed witnesses and attempted to suborn perjury.”
“This is Mr. Rogers’ pattern and practice,” the motion alleges. “Mr. Rogers will stop at nothing in order to win the litigation.”
Cohen, Butters and Brindle are scheduled to go to trial in April on charges that they violated the state’s eavesdropping and surveillance law after Brindle secretly videotaped a sexual liaison with Rogers. Brindle recorded the interlude shortly after she retained Cohen and Butters, a former Cobb County prosecutor, in June 2012.
The defense team includes Atlanta attorney Brian Steel, who is representing Cohen; Bruce Morris of Atlanta’s Finestone Morris & White and Marietta attorneyJimmy Berry who are defending Butters, and Marietta lawyer Reid Thompson who is defending Brindle.
Cohen then sent a letter to Rogers accusing him of sexual harassment and sought to quietly settle Brindle’s claims. The attorneys later suggested she wanted $12 million. That letter initiated what grew into a legal imbroglio involving competing civil claims, counterclaims and criminal charges in two counties and the state appellate courts.
The defense also has filed a second motion asking Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk to release the 2012 sex tape. That tape, which serves as the basis for the criminal charges, was sealed by judges in Cobb and Fulton counties, both of whom ruled the recording was illegal. Cobb County Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard, who later recused, ruled after viewing the tape that the sexual liaison appeared to be consensual.
Court records described the recording as depicting Rogers nude in his bathroom, shaving and then lying on his bed as Brindle manually serviced him.
On Wednesday, Rogers’ lead counsel, Robert Ingram of Marietta firm Moore Ingram Johnson & Steele called the defense allegations “false.”
“Cohen, Butters and Brindle are following through on their threats made in their initial extortion letter to use illegally obtained ‘video recordings’ to cause ‘injurious publicity’ unless the matter ‘resolved early and outside public litigation,’” he said. “This is an obvious effort to deflect away from their own criminal conduct.”
Citing exhibits attached to the motion, the defense claims that Rogers’ testimony as the alleged victim and chief prosecution witness is suspect and that he has a documented track record of harassment that would bolster Brindle’s claims.
Those exhibits include:
- An affidavit from Dawn White, who worked for Rogers as a nanny, housekeeper and part-time masseuse from 1990-1994. White said she quit her job after Rogers groped her during a massage session. She also said Rogers made sexually offensive comments that she was “probably hot and he would bet that I could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch.”
- An opinion by Chief Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, of the Northern District of Texas, that was vacated as a condition of an $8 million sexual harassment settlement between Waffle House and a former employee. In that opinion, Buchmeyer called Therese Scribner’s treatment ‘severe, pervasive and disgusting,” and said it was “committed, witnessed and condoned by the company’s top executives,” including the CEO. The judge also called out Waffle House executives for lying, bribing at least two witnesses and attempting to suborn perjury.
- An affidavit Rogers filed in the 2002 divorce case of his current wife, Frances Maynard, from her then-husband, denying an affair that appeared to be contradicted by a private detective’s surveillance report. The private detective claimed he saw Maynard and Rogers playing footsie while dining and then adjourning to a cabin where they remained for at least five hours while Maynard was still married. Rogers claimed he was misidentified and was not physically intimate with Maynard.
The defense team also claimed Rogers attempted to intimidate another former Waffle House employee, Dr. Ann Parker, who was deposed during the underlying civil litigation arising from Brindle’s harassment claims. The motion claims that, after Parker testified and Maynard would have lost her divorce case if she were found to have been having an affair, she was summoned to meet with Rogers. The Waffle House CEO pressured her to change her testimony and sign a confidentiality agreement.
When she refused, Rogers allegedly threatened to make the shares of Waffle House stock she held “become valueless,” according to the motion.