The jury in the felony eavesdropping trial of a woman and her two lawyers accused of illegally recording former Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers Jr. in a sexual encounter were able to hear the former housekeeper and assistant tell her side of the story Monday.
Mye Brindle and her two former lawyers, David Cohen and former Cobb County prosecutor John Butters, are charged with using a hidden camera to record Rogers in his bedroom while Brindle masturbated him in one of many such encounters, according to the defense.
Brindle, who began working for Rogers in 2003, said she had not been working for Rogers for very long when he began asking her to give him massages. A cosmetologist by training, Brindle said she told Rogers she knew nothing about massage and resisted the demand, but he insisted.
Brindle suggested Rogers hire a masseuse and even gave him a phone number for one, she said. He apparently called and had one massage, she said, then again instructed her to give him rubdowns.
“I tried every way in the world not to do it,” said Brindle, “but I didn’t think I had an option.”
“I didn’t think anything improper would happen,” said Brindle, 49.
Rogers insisted on having his massages in the nude, but Brindle said she was always careful to keep a bedsheet over his lower buttocks and lower body.
But after giving him massages for about six months, she said one day he asked her to massage a groin muscle and was ostensibly showing her where it was when he grabbed her hand, wrapped it around his penis and held it there as he forced her to masturbate him.
“I was stunned,” said Brindle, dabbing her eye with a tissue. “I couldn’t process it.”
A single mother with an array of heath issues, Brindle said she feared losing a job that she otherwise found pleasant enough. She said Rogers fired her after she broke her leg in 2009, then rehired her several months later for higher pay and with greater responsibilities.
Rogers would continue to demand such service throughout the years until 2012, when Brindle sought advice from Butters and Cohen. They met with her and an investigator to instruct her how to set up the hidden camera.
Brindle hoped to “hold Joe accountable,” she said, by suing him for sexual harassment.
Under questioning by her attorney, Reid Thompson, as to whether she ever “flat out told him ‘no,’” Brindle admitted that she acquiesced, albeit grudgingly.
“Nobody says no to Joe,” said Brindle, saying she knew there would be “consequences” if she crossed her powerful boss.
Did Rogers ever kiss her, hold her hand or take her on a date?
“No,” she said, and she certainly had no interest in Rogers, who was 20 years her senior.
The only thing he ever did was try to put his hand up her shirt or down her pants, which she said she rebuffed. He asked her to perform oral and vaginal sex, she said, but she refused.
Assistant Fulton County District Attorney Melissa Redmond asked Brindle how her story squared with evidence that she willingly traveled to Sea Island with Rogers, where he and his wife had a condo and a house and where Brindle said two sexual incidents occurred.
Brindle had brought an audio recorder on that trip in her first effort to gather “evidence,” and Redmond said the barely audible recording indicated that Brindle and Rogers had an amicable encounter and that Brindle had even laughed and said she wanted her boss to ejaculate.
Wouldn’t Rogers or any “reasonable person” think the encounter had been consensual, Redmond asked.
Brindle reiterated that she felt powerless to say no and knew that if she ever complained publicly, Rogers would simply deny everything and punish her.
“It would just be my word against his,” Brindle said.
Cohen’s attorney, Brian Steel, briefly quizzed Brindle to establish that she had consulted the lawyers about trying to get evidence that Rogers was sexually abusing the woman and that she and they were absolutely convinced that their actions were legal.
Former Cobb County DA Pat Head made a brief appearance to lend support to Butters’ defense; the two worked together for years as prosecutors before Butters went into private practice.
The defense rested Monday afternoon and Judge Henry Newkirk dismissed the jury for the day. Afterward Steel once again asked Newkirk for a directed verdict for all three defendants, arguing that the law clearly allowed Brindle to video record Rogers.
Steel said Rogers forfeited any assumption of privacy he had when he invited Brindle into his bedroom where he stood naked.
Newkirk did not rule on the motion and set closing arguments for Tuesday morning.