Four months after he was arrested, former Brewery Bhavana and Bida Manda beverage director Jordan Hester had his day in court at the Wake County Justice Center. Hester pleaded guilty to four counts of felony secret peeping and installing/using a photo device in a room.
“I ask the court to please consider the impact on my son and planned future children if I am forced to register as a sex offender,” Hester said, after offering a brief apology to the women he had filmed.
This plea for leniency echoed similar accounts from women he had come into contact with, who had not gone public with allegations of sexual misconduct years ago upon his mention of being a parent.
Despite Hester pleading guilty to multiple felonies, on Friday a Wake County judge sentenced him to a mere eight days in jail. Hester will be required to register as a sex offender.
In August, the INDY spoke with three of the four women who had filed charges against Hester for secretly recording their sexual encounters. The INDY also spoke with several other women—some of them employed by Hester at the two famous Raleigh restaurants, and many of them much younger than Hester—who alleged sexual misconduct from the beverage director. These employees allege that Hester, a prominent leader in the Raleigh restaurant world, was protected by Brewery Bhavana and Bida Manda management—a position that gave him access to and authority over women, who he often said he liked to hire in order to “give a leg up” in the cocktail world.
In June, owner Vansana Nolintha stepped down from the restaurant, when these and other allegations of restaurant mismanagement came to light. Hester was let go; his younger brother, manager Casey Hester, also parted ways with the restaurant after accusations surfaced about his behavior with women. Brewery Bhavana and Bida Manda have since reopened with new leadership; though Vansana’s sister, Vanvisa Nolintha, remains co-owner alongside Patrick Woodson.
Wake County Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley permitted several women to make victim impact statements in favor of Hester being required to register as a sex offender.
“Jordan taped me without my consent, and that’s what he’s pleading guilty to today,” Madison Roberts, who had dated Hester in 2010 and 2011, told the court on Friday. “That action changed the way I interact with the world. I don’t enter a room the same way; when I go home with a date for the first time, I scan the room for cameras. I keep tape over my webcams at home. I get nervous about security cameras and being observed in public. I feel reflexive anxiety in the back of my mind years later.”
In the end, Judge Shirley ruled that Hester must register as a sex offender. He is also receiving 60 months probation and four consecutive weekends of jail time—one weekend for each woman he filmed non-consensually.
“When his own expert tells me that she would not want to be supervised by him—that he should not supervise women—I’m being told that he should not supervise 51.9% of the workforce in this state,” Judge Shirley said in his ruling, continuing, “For those reasons and all the evidence we have, the court finds that he is a danger to the public and is going to require him to register on the sex offender registry for a period of 30 years.”
Since June, the story of Jordan Hester has had a widespread ripple effect, exposing deep fault lines of sexual misconduct in a Raleigh restaurant world that contains acute tiers of influence and power. The allegations were part of the impetus for social media advocacy account, the NC Protection Alliance—an Instagram account that exposes predators when other avenues of accountability fail.
Lauren C. Phillips, one of the women filmed by Hester, was blunt about the pervasiveness of the misconduct, when she spoke to the INDY in August.
“I want some light shed on the fact that this is not a unique story,” Phillips said of the allegations. “I want a discussion started about how this happens all the time. And this is not okay. It is not acceptable on any level. For this to not only happen but for these places to harbor these men, even after knowing what they’re doing. So many times I’ve seen people in prominent positions screw up in Raleigh, but just go to New York and then do it all over again to another set of women.”
A couple days before the sentencing, the account made a call for women to show up in solidarity—both virtually and, as the court room and COVID-19 restrictions permitted, in-person. According to Madison Roberts, when the sentence was given, numerous women broke into tears.
Follow Deputy Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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