Anti-HERO Ringleader Defends Man Sued For Photographing Women in a Bathroom
Jared Woodfill, the former Harris County Republican Party leader who successfully championed the fight against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by proclaiming "no men in women's restrooms," is representing a man in court who has admitted to taking photos of women changing clothes without their knowledge—in a bathroom.
Ten years ago, at a pool party at a private home, seven women went into the master bathroom to change into their bathing suits. Following them were three drunk men, including local tech-company owner BJ Farmer, who sat in the shower, took out their cell phones, and began snapping pictures while the women changed. Earlier this year, one of those women, Andrea Villarreal, sued Farmer after his ex-wife found the pictures on his laptop, shortly before their divorce proceedings, and brought them to Villarreal's attention.
Villarreal is suing Farmer for invasion of privacy, negligence for having never deleted those photos, and defamation, alleging Farmer made false, misogynistic comments about her with fake user names on a Houston Press article about the case last year (tech experts traced online comments calling her a "gold digger" and a "disgusting worm who flashes her breasts to get attention from every guy" back to Farmer's computer). Three months later, in February 2015, Farmer admitted in a deposition to taking the photos of Villarreal without her knowledge. He said it was just a "stupid, you know, idea at the time while we were drinking." In that deposition, Farmer also admitted to doing this on more than one occasion, and to having pictures of himself fondling an unconscious nude woman at another party.
Woodfill, who is defending Farmer in the lawsuit, is the same man who managed to convince 61 percent of Houston voters, more than 160,000 people, to vote against HERO with one simple message: "No men in women's bathrooms."
Defending his client, Woodfill has called the lawsuit against Farmer—which he says in legal filings is "frivolous," "harassing" and "brought in bad faith"—nothing more than an attempt by Farmer's ex-wife to obtain full custody of their children by slandering her ex-husband's reputation.
Woodfill wrote in one filing that Villarreal had “full knowledge” of the photographs Farmer took of her, even though Farmer already said on record that he "did not know" if Villarreal was aware of the photos and that he never told her he had them. At another point, Woodfill jumps into the apparent slut-shaming portion of Farmer's defense: the woman was asking for it.
“Surely if it bothered her, she would not have been in front of multiple other people, including men,” Woodfill writes in one filing. “If she was so concerned about her privacy, she would not have been an active participant."
Woodfill did not respond to questions from the Houston Press. In an email, he referred us to his associate Kristen Coleman, saying she was handling the lawsuit against Farmer. Half of the defense filings in the case carry Woodfill's signature as the attorney representing Farmer.
After Woodfill and Coleman ignored two court orders to turn over evidence in the case—such as the photos themselves and passwords to the computer they were on—Villarreal's attorney, Tommy Hastings, filed a motion for sanctions because of Farmer's counsel's "callous disregard for the responsibility of discovery."
Woodfill filed his response, still fighting the court order, three days after the Texas Supreme Court ordered that Houston repeal the equal rights ordinance or put it to a vote—a decision prompted by a lawsuit against Mayor Annise Parker that Woodfill himself had filed. But unlike with the legal challenge against HERO, Woodfill didn't win. The judge ordered that, if Farmer wasn't going to give up his password, he'd have to pay for an expert to hack into his computer.
Four months later, a small crowd at the anti-HERO election night party would applaud Woodfill for his efforts to keep Houston safe from bathroom predators. At the podium, he said, "Houston has spoken loudly and clearly that we don't want men in women's restrooms."
That is, unless it's at a private residence and the person is his client—in which case, the matter evidently becomes "frivolous."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.