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Lawyer faces two criminal cases and civil rights suit over 2012 taxicab incident

Posted Apr 10, 2014 11:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Louisiana lawyer has been caught up in a complex legal situation after an April 2012 taxicab incident resulted in criminal charges against both the attorney, who was a passenger in the vehicle, and its driver.

Jennifer Gaubert, 33, was convicted last week in a bench trial of simple battery concerning unwanted contact with the driver, Hervey Ferrell. The driver's account of rebuffing an unwanted sexual advance was supported by a cellphone video he took of part of the incident, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Gaubert says she will appeal the misdemeanor conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.

Meanwhile, a felony trial still looms next month for Gaubert, a New Orleans lawyer and former radio show host, who is accused of lying about the taxicab incident to authorities last year in order to get Ferrell arrested.

And Ferrell filed a federal civil rights suit (PDF) last week against both Gaubert and city officials. He alleges that he spent 27 hours in Orleans Parish Prison; was publicly humiliated in the news media; and lost his taxi license for several months during an administrative investigation of false claims by Gaubert that were not adequately investigated by law enforcement before his 2013 arrest.

The criminal case against Ferrell, now 39, was dropped when Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro refused to pursue it and instead charged Ferrell with filing false statements, the newspaper reports.

An earlier Times-Picayune article provides additional details about Gaubert's accusations against Ferrell. She claimed he shot explicit upskirt footage of her without her permission during a consensual encounter after she had been drinking, and then sought to obtain money from her in return for turning over the film.

In his suit, Ferrell says he was arrested for video voyeurism and extortion based on unsubstantiated claims by Gaubert. For example, she claimed he had sent a demanding email "which did not exist," the suit says, yet authorities did not insist on seeing it before proceeding with the case against him.

Ferrell also complains that law enforcement did not talk to him, look at the cellphone video or review the police report he made at the time of the 2012 incident before arresting him.

Those in charge of the criminal investigation of Ferrell "did not even require the minimal step of requiring a search of prior reports regarding this incident, or open criminal litigation in the parish in which these officers operate, prior to issuing a baseless arrest warrant," his lawsuit says.

Gaubert's attorney declined to comment. Gaubert herself told the newspaper last year that she regretted her actions concerning the taxicab incident but had done nothing wrong.

"What I did was embarrassing and stupid, but it wasn't a crime," she said then. "What he did to me was criminal."

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