Local News

Barbecue Chain Exec Denies Advances to Ex-Employee

Posted September 28, 2007 10:36 a.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2007 7:02 p.m. EDT

— The chief executive of the Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q chain on Friday denied making sexual advances to a former male employee.

Jason Hallaman sued Gregory Moore three years ago for sexual harassment, alleging he was fired as Moore's personal assistant in 2002 after he rebuffed several advances from Moore.

After a week of testimony in which Hallaman and four other former employees said they were fired after they rejected Moore's overtures, including suggestive comments, unwanted physical contact and surprise appearances in the nude, Moore took the witness stand Friday morning to defend himself.

Moore tearfully acknowledged to jurors Friday that he is bisexual, but he denied the allegations of wrongdoing.

"I did not touch him in any kind of inappropriate way," he testified.

One of Hallaman's allegations was that Moore climbed into the shower with him during a stay at Moore's beach house.

"It didn't happen," he said, repeatedly apologizing to jurors about the graphic nature of his testimony.

"This is a lot of personal stuff. (It's) in my personal home, and you're talking about someone's personal body parts and things like this. I'm sorry," he said.

Defense attorneys have said Hallaman was fired because of poor job performance and because he had signed Moore's name to a check for auto detailing services.

Moore testified Friday that he confronted Hallaman about the check when they were driving back from the beach house. Hallaman began to drive erratically, he testified, adding that he decided not to argue about the issue because he feared for his and his daughter's lives.

After he fired Hallaman, he said, the former aide made it clear what he was after.

"He called me saying that, if I didn't give him $1 million, he would expose me," Moore testified. "He was going to tell everybody that I was gay, expose all the issues with my divorce and ruin me and my business."

On Wednesday and Thursday, the defense called several witnesses, including one of Moore's daughters, to chip away at the credibility of Hallaman and the other former employees.

The trial is expected to continue Monday, when Moore will likely be questioned by Hallaman's attorney.