Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

maybe not too pretty for prision after all

The incredible sweet deal that Debra Lafave's attorney had negotiated on her behalf to settle multiple counts of sexual misconduct with a 14 year old in multiple jurisdictions has evidently fallen apart. The judge in one of the jurisdictions (Marion County) was apparently unwilling to let Ms. Lafave walk away with almost no punishment despite the fact that the mother of the victim was unhappy about the idea of having her son testify.

The Tampa Tribune interviewed an expert on obtaining testimony from young witnesses:

Just because the mother doesn't want [her son] to testify," Afield said, doesn't mean he shouldn't. "All parents are protective of their children, but the question is: Is it going to cause permanent damage to him? If he doesn't have a history of mental problems, if he's not fragile or mentally ill, he gets over it just like you recover after having your appendix taken out or an impacted wisdom tooth pulled." There are ways to minimize the trauma for the boys, Afield said, by videotaping heir testimony or having them testify behind a curtain.
The response from Lafave's publicity-hungry attorney was fascinating:
Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, called Afield's comments "ludicrous and absolutely ridiculous." "The detail of questioning that a lawyer would need to do in a case like this would clearly have an impact on any young person. That's why we have tried so hard to keep the young man and his cousin out of testifying at this trial."

So, are we now supposed to believe that Lafave's attorney is now concerned about the victim in this case? Since the facts in the case are not really in dispute, why would it be necessary to aggressively question either the victim or his relative who witnesses Ms. Lafave's rather flagrant actions? Fitzgibbons had previously stated he would attempt an insanity defense which, again, would not require much in the way of testimony from the victim. (I'm assuming that Fitzgibbon's is not going to share his "too pretty for prison" claim with any jury; it just doesn't seem to me like that would go over well.

The way the system works is that Fitzgibbons owes his total loyalty to his client, Ms. Lafave. It is entirely to be expected for him to attempt to disrupt the lives of the victim and family as much as possible in order to reduce the punishment imposed on his client. The repeated delays in bring this case to trial are evidence of Fizgibbon's success to date and the plea bargain agreed to by the judge in Hillsboro county reflected an almost total retreat by the prosecution in the case. For Fitzgibbon to imply that his defense strategy for Lafave incorporated concern for the victims in any possible way is absurd.


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