NEW ORLEANS - Hervey Farrell, 38, was seen as such a good cab driver, his boss featured him in training videos.
“He's always been the best driver for Nawlins Cab,” said company president Sheree Kerner.
That's why Kerner thought something was fishy when Farrell was accused of taking lewd cell phone video of a drunk passenger, then trying to use it as blackmail. Now, the district attorney's office says Kerner was right.
After reviewing the evidence, they cleared Farrell of all charges and instead charged his accuser, Jennifer Gaubert, 32, with making false statements.
“He's crumbled,” said Kerner. “He was facing 15 years of imprisonment based on a lie.”
Farrell may be cleared now, but his arrest prompted the city to revoke his driver's permit in August, leaving him for weeks without a job. He spent two days in jail, all for a crime the district attorney's office ultimately believes he didn't commit.
“The city took action to protect the public following serious allegations against a taxicab driver. Now that the district attorney has [refused] the charges, the Taxicab Bureau is actively reviewing the case and will take appropriate action,” said Tyler Gamble, city of New Orleans press secretary.
According to police, Gaubert, a lawyer and former radio personality, said she was consensually kissing Farrell in his cab in April 2012 when he began to take lewd cell phone video of her that showed her genitalia.
But Farrell said he took the video to prove he was thwarting Gaubert’s advances, and to justify dropping her off before they arrived at her desired location, according to Kerner.
Gaubert then accused Farrell of sending the video to her attorney and asking for $1,000 to make the video go away. Farrell was charged with extortion and voyeurism, which have both been refused.
Cab driver advocates say Farrell's case shows the need for a “driver’s bill of rights.”
Kerner hopes the City Council will consider allowing drivers to avoid destinations or routes they believe are unsafe, end a trip if they feel threatened, or refuse rides to passengers who are smoking, eating, drinking or who appear to be so intoxicated that they pose a threat to the driver, themselves, or the cleanliness of the vehicle.
“There isn't anything in the law right now that protects a driver from the public,” said Kerner.
“Under Mayor Landrieu’s taxicab reforms, security camera systems protect drivers and customers and provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to resolve these types of cases quickly,” said Gamble.
Gaubert has not yet been arrested. Her attorney, Bobby Spell, said he is negotiating her surrender.
An arraignment is scheduled for next week. Spell said his client plans to plead not guilty.