After a month of wrangling over the admissibility of a tape in which former J. Walter Thompson chief executive Gustavo Martinez makes a rape joke at an internal meeting in Miami, lawyers for Erin Johnson have submitted a sealed copy of the video to the court and a redacted version to the public.
As ordered by District Judge Paul Oeken earlier this week, Johnson’s legal team filed an un-doctored copy of the video for the court’s review and a public version that blurs the faces of everyone but Martinez to protect their identities.
The two sides in the discrimination case had been arguing over the tape’s admissibility since mid-March, when lawyers for Johnson, JWT’s chief communications officer, confirmed its existence. Filmed at an internal JWT meeting last May, the tape allegedly shows Martinez joking about his fear that he would be raped "but not in a nice way" by attendees of a rowdy Miami Life hip-hop party held at the hotel the night before.
The tape also allegedly shows several top JWT executives — including president of JWT New York Lynn Power and chief executive of JWT Lisbon Susana Carvalho — who were in the audience to witness the comment.
Johnson’s lawyers had claimed the tape was essential to the case, which alleges Martinez regularly made racist and misogynistic comments in front of Johnson, staff and the media. WPP and JWT initially claimed the tape merely showed Martinez trying to "ease the tension" among his staff with a misguided joke, and filed affidavits from several JWT executives’ who witnessed the comment declaring it innocuous.
In WPP’s most recent memo regarding the tape, its lawyers said they would drop their objection to the tape being admitted as evidence if the faces of JWT executives other than Martinez were blurred.
Johnson remains on administrative leave from JWT. Martinez resigned one week after the lawsuit was filed, and was replaced as chief executive by Tamara Ingram, the former WPP chief client team officer.
Lawyers for WPP and Johnson did not immediately return calls for comment.