BR attorney Joel Porter absolved of violating protective order

Joel Porter Show caption
Joel Porter

Woman claims stalking by attorney

Joel Porter, a defense lawyer who previously ran for City Court judge, was arrested Wednesday after a 25-year-old woman reported Porter violated a temporary restraining order she had against him.

Within hours, though, City Court Judge Yvette Alexander, who granted the 10-day protective order April 7, ruled Porter did not violate the terms of the order.

Shortly after 7 p.m., about six hours after Porter was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, he posted a $500 bail and was released, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

In Alexander’s courtroom on Wednesday, Porter’s attorney, Donna Grodner, claimed her client’s arrest was orchestrated by John Dauthier, a Baton Rouge police detective investigating the unsolved 1985 stabbing death of Porter’s wife.

“But John Dauthier doesn’t have anything to do with this case,” said Ashley Smith, 25, a former client of Porter’s who said the attorney began harassing and stalking her in November, leading her to seek a restraining order against Porter.

After Wednesday’s hearing, Smith said she met Porter in 2012 when he represented her as an attorney. At the time, he identified himself as “Joel Portman,” Smith said.

During some of the time Porter represented her, Smith said, the two had a sexual relationship. Once her case ran its course, she said she ended contact with him.

Attempts to reach Porter on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Baton Rouge police arrested Porter, 56, after his attorney, Grodner, contacted Smith several times while the protective order was in effect.

The order spelled out that Porter could not contact Smith personally, electronically, by phone, in writing, or through a third party, according to a warrant for his arrest.

Grodner sought information such as the identities of people Smith said witnessed Porter’s stalking behavior in preparation for a Thursday morning court hearing related to the allegations.

And because Smith has not yet secured legal representation in the matter, Grodner said she had no choice but to contact Smith to get the witness list.

Alexander agreed, ruling that Grodner had the right to obtain the witness list.

Although absolved of violating the temporary restraining order, Porter still faces the hearing Thursday to determine whether to extend the restraining order.

Grodner in a text message to Smith said that should “(Smith) lose the hearing against (Porter),” then he would seek court costs and attorney fees for three subpoenas, each costing $100, according to a warrant for his arrest.

“The costs are rising as we speak,” Grodner told Smith, according to Wednesday’s arrest warrant.

Alexander said the messages were not harassing, because telling Smith that she could be liable for court costs is a factual statement.

Smith also said Grodner told her in a text message that if she dropped her claim and admitted that Dauthier had encouraged her to malign Porter, then they would absolve her financial liability.

“She was using my financial situation to intimidate me into dropping the restraining order,” Smith said.

Smith requested the restraining order because she said Porter began harassing and stalking her in November. She filed a police report, but Porter was never arrested.

Smith said she felt the investigating officer wasn’t taking her case seriously, so she attempted to report it to internal affairs and met Dauthier at the police department. But she insisted the cold case detective had no role in the protective order case.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Dauthier said, “The only connection I have to Mr. Porter is that I am investigating the 1985 brutal stabbing of his wife, Denise.”

In January, Porter filed a federal lawsuit against Dauthier, accusing the cold case detective of defaming him and using too much force when serving a search warrant to him last March in a renewed probe into the 1985 stabbing death of Denise Porter.