Waffle House CEO in Lurid Lawsuit
MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) - Attorneys helped a housekeeper record her sexual encounters with Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers Jr., and tried to extort money from him under threat of releasing the tapes, Rogers claims in court.
Rogers sued Georgia attorneys David M. Cohen, Hylton B. Dupree Jr. and John C. Butters, and their firms, in Cobb County Superior Court.
Joe Rogers Jr. is chief executive officer of the Georgia-based Waffle House. The company, co-founded in 1955 by Rogers' father, owns more than 1,700 diner-style restaurants across the Southern United States.
Rogers made headlines in 2012 when a woman who claimed to be his former personal assistant accused him of sexually harassing her for years and of demanding sex from her in order to keep her job.
The woman, identified as Mye Brindle in Rogers' lawsuit, worked as a housekeeper in Rogers' home from May 2003 to January 2009, according to the complaint.
Rogers claims Brindle had consensual sex with him over the years and often initiated it.
Their sexual encounters resumed when Brindle became Rogers' "house manager" in October 2009, according to the lawsuit.
Rogers claims Brindle had financial trouble in late 2011 and early 2012, and her work performance deteriorated.
Shortly thereafter, he claims, Brindle decided to record her sex acts with him and use the recordings, and used towels she took from his house, to extort money from him.
Cohen, Dupree and Butters, who agreed to represent Brindle in late spring 2012, designed a scheme to intimidate Rogers and pressure him to settle Brindle's claims, according to the lawsuit.
"Brindle provided defendants with recordings and stolen towels," the complaint states. "Recognizing that there was no evidence to support any legal claims, defendants designed a scheme and conspired to extort money from Rogers.
"The scheme designed by defendants would include obtaining evidence via illegal means, misrepresenting the existence of evidence, filing false police reports if necessary, threatening the public disclosure of the sexual encounters between Rogers and Brindle, demanding an exorbitant sum from Rogers, and, if necessary, causing the public disclosure of the sexual relationship to pressure Rogers into meeting their demands.
"As part of their scheme, defendants decided that a video clearly depicting the sexual encounters would enable them to force Rogers to pay exorbitant sums under the threat that they would disclose publicly the sexual encounters which had occurred between Brindle and Rogers.
"Defendants convinced Brindle to make a video of her sexual activity with Rogers without his knowledge or consent, and advised her on how to obtain this illegal evidence."
Brindle got a spy camera disguised as a cell phone from a private investigator and used it to make a video of herself having sex with Rogers in June 2012, according to the lawsuit.
The private investigator, an alleged co-conspirator, is not identified in the complaint.
"After Rogers' wife left the house, Brindle entered Rogers' bathroom, and began filming him as he shaved without clothes," the complaint states.
"Rogers asked Brindle to adjust his back, and Rogers lay down on the bed in his bedroom. Brindle positioned the illegal spy camera to capture the activity and continued recording. After Brindle adjusted Rogers' back, Brindle and Rogers engaged in a consensual sex act which was recorded by the illegal spy camera."
Brindle resigned a week later and took sensitive financial information from Rogers' house, according to the lawsuit.
After receiving Brindle's recording, Cohen allegedly sent Rogers a letter demanding a meeting to discuss Brindle's claims.
The letter, cited in the complaint, refers to a "long history of unwelcome sexual demands and other sexual harassment and abuse toward Ms. Brindle as a condition of her employment" and claims that Brindle was not the only employee subjected to such "harassment." It suggests that Rogers should settle outside of court to avoid a public scandal and other negative repercussions.
Rogers claims that he and his attorneys met with Cohen and his co-defendants, who showed them the June 2012 video, but refused to show any other recordings they claimed to have. Rogers refused to settle after the defendants asked him to pay $12 million, according to the lawsuit.
Rogers then sued Brindle in Cobb County Superior Court to enjoin the distribution of the sex recording.
Brindle, represented by the defendant attorneys, sued Rogers in Fulton County Court, making her sexual relationship with Rogers public.
Both courts agreed to seal the record, but Cohen got Brindle to file a police report reiterating the false claims she had made in the Fulton County lawsuit, which was then leaked to the media, according to Rogers' lawsuit.
Brindle's complaint, which was voluntarily dismissed in October 2012, was also disclosed to the press.
Rogers claims Brindle and her attorneys also made public documents they attached to their appeal of the record-sealing to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Those exhibits were emailed to the Marietta Daily Journal, which published an article containing Brindle's false accusations against Rogers, according to the complaint.
The Cobb County Court last year took custody of Brindle's June 2012 recording and other evidence she claimed to have, and ruled that Brindle was a willing participant in the sex acts and not a victim of sexual battery.
A Fulton County judge meanwhile ordered Brindle and Cohen to pay more than $142,000 in attorneys' fees to Rogers, according to his complaint.
Brindle appealed that order and the Cobb County judge's ruling. The appeals are pending in the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Rogers claims that Cohen submitted a false affidavit in the previous Cobb County lawsuit, claiming that he was aware of only one recording, after having represented that there were multiple videos.
He seeks punitive damages for invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, RICO violations, aiding and abetting breach of confidential relationship and negligence.
Rogers is represented by William Hill with Polsinelli of Atlanta.
The defendant law firms are Complex Law Group LLC, D. M. Cohen Inc., Dupree & Kimbrough LLP and Hylton B. Dupree Jr. P.C.
Cohen and Dupree did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.