Defense in sex tape trial fires at Waffle House chairman’s credibility

In a fiery cross-examination on Thursday, defense attorneys for the woman accused of making a secret sex tape of Waffle House Chairman Joe Rogers Jr. tried to discredit Rogers’ testimony using prior sexual harassment allegations he was involved in.

Mye Brindle, Rogers’ former housekeeper, has alleged it was Rogers’ ongoing harassment of her that prompted her to secretly record herself performing a sexual act on him in his bedroom in 2012.

Attorney Reid Thomson (right) talks with defendant Mye Brindle while Brindle’s former employer Joe Rogers Jr. testifies during Day 3 of their trial at the Fulton County Courthouse on April 5, 2018. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

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She and her two attorneys, David Cohen and John Butters, are on trial in Fulton County for unlawful surveillance, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Cohen and Butters are each charged with one count; Brindle is charged with two.

Brindle was given the additional charge because a portion of the video also captured Rogers’ then 20-year-old stepdaughter, Katherine Maynard. Maynard, who testified Thursday, began crying when she saw herself in the tape.

Amid multiple objections from prosecutors, defense attorneys questioned Rogers for more than three hours on the third day of testimony about apparent sexual harassment allegations Rogers was involved in prior to this trial. One of these was brought by a former housekeeper who worked for Rogers before Brindle did.

Members of the defense team have sought to present Rogers as a callous predator who used his power to gratify himself, and whom Brindle was justified in filming as evidence of sexual assault. Jurors watched the tape on Wednesday.

“You prey on people you can manipulate and who are under your economic power,” defense attorney Brian Steel told Rogers.

Attorney Brian Steel asks questions of witness Joe Rogers Jr. during Day 3 of their trial at the Fulton County Courthouse on April 5, 2018. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

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Steel homed in on a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in 1991 against Waffle House in a Dallas, Texas, court. The plaintiff was a former employee who accused three of the company’s executives of abuse. The judge in that case found that Rogers — who testified as a witness, but was not named as a defendant — had given false testimony about the Gwinnett-based restaurant chain’s sexual harassment policies, court records show. His testimony was discounted, and the suit ultimately settled out of court in 1999.

Rogers said he was not part of that case beyond testifying in it, and he denied the accusations of perjury. “There was no attempt to hush it up,” he said.

Steel, however, would not allow Rogers to distance himself from the lawsuit, shooting back: “You were not a part of a lot of things. Do you just travel blindly through life?”

Waffle House Chairman Joe Rogers Jr. answers questions from the defense during Day 3 of the trial at the Fulton County Courthouse on April 5, 2018. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

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Steel also questioned Rogers about Dawn White, a former live-in housekeeper who worked for Rogers in the 1980s and 90s, who has also alleged Rogers harassed her in a way that mirrors Brindle’s own accusations.

Dawn White’s ex-husband, Jeffrey White, testified that his then-wife had confided in 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 said Dawn White, like Brindle, gave him massages in addition to her regular duties, although he denies accusations he ever touched her inappropriately during these massages. Rogers said he apologized to Jeffrey White, who also worked as Rogers’ house manager, after Jeffrey White confronted him about the incident. Dawn White never worked with Rogers again after that, her husband said.

Rogers and Brindle have each sued the other over the sex tape in Cobb County court. Both lawsuits are still pending.

» The trial will resume Friday. Come back to for more coverage.