A Channel 4 I-Team investigation has obtained official audio recordings of former employees of the law firm now representing Vanderbilt rape suspect Brandon Vandenburg, claiming lead attorney Fletcher Long sexually harassed them and used racial slurs.
The recording, obtained through the Open Records Act, comes from an unemployment hearing. In the recording Long admits to using a racial slur but denies directing the slur toward his employees.
The Channel 4 I-Team obtained the recording after Long was arrested last week on a harassment charge from his former office manager Christie Hill.
Hill also obtained an order of protection saying Long sent her threatening text messages that included racial slurs.
Long denied sending those texts to Hill.
The audio recording documented an unemployment hearing in May of Long's former paralegal who asked the Channel 4 I-Team not to reveal her name because she fears retaliation.
The state hearing was to determine if the employee should receive unemployment benefits after she claimed she was forced to quit her job because of hostile conditions.
That employee, along with another former employee and Long all were questioned by attorneys.
In the hearing, the first employee said, "He [Long] referred to the employees as n----."
The second employee testified she was present when Long used the racial slur.
The first employee said in her claim to the state that she wrote Long a note that reads, "We are employees not 'n----' as you have at times described your employees."
"They [the two former employees] testified as to what became unbearable conditions," said Pete Napolitano, attorney for the first employee.
In the audio recording, Long admits to using a racial slur in the questioning phase of the hearing.
"There was testimony about your use of the word n----. How do you respond?" asked Long's law partner, John Herbison.
"I'm not going to sit here and insult anyone's intelligence and tell you that I've never used the word n---- before," Long said. "I have used the word before. I'm not going to say that I haven't. There's a line from a movie, where Denzel Washington played a police officer and he makes that reference of his white companion," Long said.
In that hearing, Long denies referring to his employees as his n----s.
Long also denied that he sexually harassed the two former employees.
Both the former employees testified otherwise.
"On the day I gave my two week notice, he [Long] made the comment that he only had two weeks left to sleep with his paralegal," said the first employee.
"Did that happen or not happen?" Herbison asked Long.
"Did not happen," Long said.
At the end of the hearing, the hearing officer granted the first employee her unemployment. The hearing officer wrote in her findings, "The managing attorney admitted to using racial slurs in reference to employees…employees were subject to sexual comments…as well as requests for sexual favors."
Long had the chance to appeal the hearing officer's ruling but did not.
For two days, the Channel 4 I-Team contacted Long's attorney for comment, but we have yet to receive a return call or a statement.
Also, in part of the unemployment hearing, Hill answered questions and admitted to Long using coarse language, but said, "I can testify that the office environment during my time was not as it's being portrayed."
Hill could not comment on Tuesday on advice from her attorneys, but in an earlier statement to the Channel 4 I-Team about what happened at the hearing, she wrote: "Our [Long's] firm met and discussed at length what would be said during that hearing. We were given a script and Fletcher told us we would go by that script. I had a family to feed and wanted to keep my job. I did what my boss told me to do."
"Attorney John Herbison has contacted WSMV to state that neither he nor his law firm scripted any testimony in the unemployment compensation hearing reported in WSMV's news story. The Channel Four I-Team did contact Mr. Long's attorney for comment on the matters in the news story, including Ms. Hill's claims, but he chose not to comment. Mr. Herbison states that he should have been contacted as well.
WSMV did not report as fact the point that Mr. Herbison has objected to. Nevertheless, WSMV is glad to make this clarification."
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