As opening statements go, it was cringeworthy. Jurors in Cobb County were told they’d hear audio recordings of X-rated pillow talk, and be shown a sex tape featuring the chairman of Waffle House and his former housekeeper.
It wouldn’t be the first time this sordid tale of power, money, jealousy and conceit would play out in front of the public eye. But it may have been the last.
About 20 minutes after Joe Rogers Jr.’s attorney, completed his opening statement late Tuesday morning, the two sides emerged to announce they had reached a confidential settlement. The civil trial of Mye Brindle, accused of extortion and invading her ex-boss’ privacy, would be over one day after it started.
Terms were not disclosed. Attorneys for both Rogers and Brindle declined to comment.
“There’s no way to know who blinked, or why,” said Atlanta attorney Esther Panitch, who was in the courtroom when the deal was announced.
It’s not unusual for parties to settle right before a trial, or during it. Panitch said she can’t ever recall one being reached in between opening statements.
Rogers’ lawyer Robert Ingram had offered a methodical narrative detailing what he maintained was a consensual relationship. It turned sexual in 2003, a year after Brindle was hired to work at Rogers’ home, and continued, on and off, for nine years.
“Ms. Brindle never objected to any sexual activity,” Ingram said. “She admits when she said no Joe honored it every time.”
During that time, Rogers remarried. His wife, Fran Rogers, was in the courtroom Tuesday offering her support.
The couple shared a hug and kiss after court was adjourned. Brindle showed little emotion as she left the courtroom, surrounded by her attorneys.
Her motives remain in question. Was she driven by jealously and greed, as Ingram alleged Tuesday? Or was she a victim of workplace harassment, a woman with few options backed into a corner by a seasoned predator?
Last year, while being tried, along with her former lawyers for unlawful surveillance in Fulton County, Brindle’s defense team called on the ex-husband of another former live-in housekeeper, Dawn White. Jeffrey White testified that his then-wife told him about an incident in which Rogers allegedly “put his hands on her, pulled her shirt up and put his hand up her back.”
Rogers denied accusations he touched Dawn White inappropriately. Brindle, along with her former counsel, David Cohen and John Butters, were acquitted. The attorneys had advised Brindle to secretly videotape herself engaging sexually with Rogers.
The tape, filmed in Rogers’ home without his knowledge, was shown to jurors in the 2018 trial. And it would’ve been shown again had a settlement not been reached.
Rogers grew emotional when questioned about the tape last year. Soon after it was recorded, the corporate executive said he received a letter encouraging him to pay Brindle a $12 million settlement to avoid media exposure and criminal charges stemming from the sexual harassment allegations she was prepared to make.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.