- Bill Rankin The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated criminal charges against the ex-housekeeper of Waffle House Chairman Joe Rogers Jr. and her two Marietta attorneys for allegedly conspiring to secretly videotape Rogers engaging in sex acts.
The high court, in a 9-0 opinion, partly overturned a Fulton County judge’s decision that dismissed all charges against former housekeeper Mye Brindle and her attorneys, David Cohen and John Butters.
“We believe this case involves constitutional privacy rights important to every citizen of this state,” Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said. “We feel this decision provides a major victory for the privacy rights of every Georgia citizen.”
The hotly contested case has resulted in protracted litigation for almost five years. And now that the criminal charges have been reinstated, it will likely result in a sensational trial.
Brindle secretly recorded the June 20, 2012, video of Rogers in compromising situations in the bedroom of his Fulton County home. She also filmed Rogers as he stood naked shaving his face in his bathroom, according to court records.
According to Rogers’ lawyers, Cohen had purchased the video camera for Brindle before she made the recordings and investigators had warned Brindle’s attorneys that secretly videotaping Rogers would be illegal.
At the outset of the case, Brindle accused Rogers of sexual harassment. Cohen also sent Rogers a letter, advising him to end the matter with a financial settlement and warning what could happen if the sensitive information was made public. This included the potential for intrusive government investigations, criminal charges, incarceration, divorce and “the destruction of families.”
Brindle’s lawyers demanded $12 million to settle the case, an offer Rogers flatly rejected, court records show. Rogers has said he had “infrequent sexual encounters” with Brindle that were consensual. He has denied sexually harassing her.
On Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld Fulton Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk’s decision to dismiss extortion claims against the defendants.
But the court overturned Newkirk’s decision to throw out criminal charges that allege Brindle, Cohen and Butters conspired to illegally videotape Rogers. The “plain language” of Georgia law makes it illegal to video record a person in the privacy of his or her home, out of public view and without his or her consent, Justice Harold Melton wrote for the majority.
The opinion also reinstated a single count against Brindle for allegedly conducting unlawful surveillance of Rogers.
Rogers’ lawyer, Robert Ingram, said he was pleased with the court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court has sent a very clear message to lawyers that illegal acts will not be tolerated, even if they occur in the course of representing a client,” Ingram said.
Three Supreme Court justices — David Nahmias, Keith Blackwell and Britt Grant — wrote separate, concurring opinions, agreeing with the ultimate result of Melton’s decision but not necessarily his reasoning.