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Former WBOK radio talk-show host arrested on forgery and theft charges

15th April 2014   ·   0 Comments

Former WBOK morning radio talk-show host Gerod Stevens, who was once one of the Black-owned radio station’s most popular hosts, was arrested earlier this month and booked on forgery and theft charges involving more than $1,500.

Stevens, born Gerald Neely, turned himself in to authorities on April 4. He was later released on his own recognizance.

FOX 8 News reported recently that the NOPD indicated that an arrest warrant was issued for the Durham, North Carolina native in October 2013.

“It indicates he was walking around for quite a few months without an arrest and with a warrant,” FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said.

According to court documents, Stevens, 48, is accused of accepting checks from advertisers for radio ads on WBOK, then cashing them and pocketing the money.

The arrest warrant indicates that investigators from the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office received a complaint from WBOK general manager Paul Beaulieu in August 2013. Beaulieu reportedly told investigators that he discovered that money collected from advertisers was unaccounted for when he called advertisers he thought hadn’t paid for radio commercials, and was told that they had all given checks made out to WBOK to Stevens. According to court documents, advertisers also provided copies of the front and back of the checks.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

Before coming to WBOK, Stevens worked for Clear Channel Communications as an operations and programming manager for WQUE 93.3 FM for more than a decade. He is the founder of GM Productions, a voice and digital music production company, and has a master’s degree in communications from the University of North Carolina.

While at WBOK, Gerod Stevens’ aggressive style and probing questions made him a favorite among Black radio listeners and helped him to develop a small army of loyal followers. They heeded his call to aid in the search for a missing schoolteacher and his efforts to garner support for local Black businesses. WBOK listeners also joined Stevens in protesting the NOPD killings of Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen and offered support and encouragement to the talk-show host after the passing of his mother last year.

After Stevens’ abrupt departure from WBOK, rumors swirled about the reason or reasons he left. Some suggested that he had stepped on the toes of too many powerful people in local government and the business community while others linked his absence to a dispute over compensation.

Some in the community were clearly irritated about being kept in the dark about the reasons for the split between WBOK and Stevens, prompting “Showtime in the After?noon” co-host Paul Beaulieu to explain on the air last year that the pub?lic’s desire to know why Stev?ens was no longer affiliated with the station does not supersede privacy laws.

“You can’t deny his contributions to the station,” a former WBOK employee told The Louisiana Weekly on the condition of anonymity. “He had a voice and used it to draw attention to a lot of the problems facing the Black community. With so many problems facing the Black community and so few Black people in media willing to raise awareness of those issues, it was a big loss to see him leave WBOK.”

That loss was being felt at the station and in the community long before last week’s arrest, the employee added.

Among the myriad of issues raised by Stevens were racial profiling by the NOPD, the city’s lackluster record on the hiring of minority contractors, the snail’s pace of recovery efforts in the Lower 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans, the NOPD and OPP consent decrees and the search for missing schoolteacher Terilynn Monette, whose remains were eventually found in Bayou St. John.

“I get that he made a mistake and that whatever happened happened,” Gina Mitchell, a Gentilly resident and WBOK supporter, told The Louisiana Weekly Thursday. “He spoke up for those who had no voice in city government at a time when you could count the voices of brave Black people in the media on one hand. While I understand that actions have consequences, his termination was a big loss to the station and the community. The only winners in all of this are the people he called out on the air for violating Black people’s rights.”

“Whatever the issue was or is at WBOK, I hope that It gets straightened out soon,” Mark Collins, a WBOK supporter, told The Louisiana Weekly. “There are too few Black media outlets in New Orleans that deliver the truth about police brutality, racial injustice, economic discrimination and a host of other issues that impact our community. In post-Katrina New Orleans, states are high — we can’t afford to lose WBOK.”

WBOK is owned by Los Angeles businessman and Los Angeles Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell Sr., a New Orleans native and St. Augustine High School grad.

Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.

This article originally published in the April 14, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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