NEW ORLEANS - In a city filled with tourists and revelers, people rely on cabs to get home safely. But one woman who hailed a cab at Bourbon and Bienville last year says the driver videotaped her without permission, and then blackmailed her.
Cab driver Hervey Farrell, 38, was arrested this week on charges of voyeurism and extortion, a felony.
New Orleans police say the 32-year-old victim was inebriated when she got into the cab around 4 a.m. in April 2012.
According to police, the victim was allowed to get into the passenger seat, where she started consensually kissing Farrell.
Farrell then pulled over at Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Louis XIV Street and started videotaping the victim with her skirt lifted, showing her underwear and exposed genitalia.
Court records say Farrell later emailed the cell phone video to the victim's lawyer, demanding $1,000 to make the video go away.
Police said Farrell was working for White Fleet at the time, but his latest job is with Nawlins Cab. His current boss is shocked.
“Hervey is really one of our best drivers. I think he's one of the most respectful, polite people that is in our fleet. He’s always one of the top performers, going out there, picking up the people. We’ve even featured him in our training videos to help other drivers,” said Sheree Kerner, president of Nawlins Cab. “It just doesn't fit what was described as what he did.”
There are two sides to every story, said Kerner, and she urges people not to rush to judgment as this plays out in the legal system.
Still, Kerner says, cab driver behavior can be an issue.
“There definitely is a problem with male cab drivers not respecting female passengers that are intoxicated in the cars,” said Kerner, though she added it’s rare for incidents to escalate to a criminal level.
So how can women protect themselves? An inebriated woman should never get into a cab alone, suggests Mary Claire Landry, head of the Family Justice Center.
“Always have a partner, make sure you always have access to someone you can call if you know you're going to be drinking to really make sure that you have a safe place to return and have someone to return with you,” said Landry.
Advocates say cases like this aren't the norm but you can never be too careful.
Any woman who feels violated in a cab should call police.
The city suspended Farrell's driver's permit Wednesday in accordance with a new city law that allows the Taxi Bureau to immediately remove for-hire drivers from the streets if they have been arrested, charged or convicted of a felony.
A revocation hearing has been scheduled for next week.
“The city is committed to providing safe and efficient transportation services, and will not tolerate any action that threatens the safety of our residents and visitors,” said Tyler Gamble, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s press secretary.
Our calls to the victim and her attorney have not been returned.