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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

still too pretty for prision?

Last week, the news was that Debra "too pretty for prison" Lafave's attorney was going to try to have her sentence shortened from three years of house arrest to two years since she had done so well in the two years. Although house arrest is considered to be unpleasant, Lafave was permitted some liberties including an appearance with Matt Lauer on the Today show in which she blamed her involvement in child molestation on the victim. So much for remorse.

But now Lafave is back in the news for violation of her plea bargain; more specifically, having sexually-related discussions with a minor. Conditions of her sentence included no unsupervised contact with minors which seems to be a clear and reasonable requirement. It is clearly inappropriate for someone convicted of child molestation to be discussing sexual behavior with minors.

Lafave's attorney John Fitzgibbons will have quite a job to do this time around. During his previous work on the Lafave case, Fitgibbons made a public statement that Lafave was "too pretty for prison." While one might have thought that this strategy would not work, it did and Fitzgibbons was able to plea bargin a whole raft of serious felonies down to a short period of house arrest. Fitzgibbons' task was made more difficult as Lafave had molested her victim in two separate jurisdictions, so there were two state's attorneys plus two judges that needed to agree to the "no prison" deal Lafave ended up with. Actually, one judge in Marion County refused to go along -- instead of putting Lafave on trial and having her risk prison time, state's attorney Brad King decided to simply not prosecute any of the multiple felonies in Marion county, letting her off entirely.

The lenient treatment of Lafave raised quite a stir at the time since most offenders are sentenced to at least a few years of prison time for similar behavior. The justifcation for the sweet deal for Lafave was that the victim did not want to testify. Fitzgibbons was reported to have issued statements describing how difficult his cross-examination would be which probably helped to intimidate the victim.

This time around, there will be no need for the original victim to testify so we will see if the Hillsborough county prosecutor and judge are still inclined to let Lafave off. Violations such as these are typically treated fairly harshly in Florida. Fitzgibbon has already come out and characterized Lafave's behavior this time as "girl talk". We'll see what happens.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Nick Bolla and the Tampa Bay Rays

At first glance, there is nothing in common between the story about Nick Bolla (Hulk Hogan's son) and the Tampa Bay Rays' attempt to get the taxpayers to pay for a new $450 million for the team to play in but how the stories have been covered is quite interesting.

In the case of Bolla, the local media have been aggressively on the story from day one, even to the point of wondering why it was taking so long for the police to make any charges or release a report. When the report was released (130 pages) the entire document was made available online for review by members of the public. Although the fate of Nick Bolla is not going to have any kind of effect on the public, all details of this incident are being fully reported and explored.

On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Rays' plan to have taxpayers finance a new stadium for them will have a significant effect on everyone in St. Petersburg and most probably Pinellas county. The scope of effect is orders of magnitude more than anything about Nick Bolla. Yet, media coverage of the Ray's proposal has been primarily limited to publication of press releases produced by the Rays. To date, any actual investigative work has been gentle.

Among the issues raised in the Rays' plan that have been downplayed by the media are:

(1) the oft-quoted $150 million contribution to the stadium by Rays owners turns out to be only a promise to pay somewhat more rent for the new stadium although still way below market.

(2) the Rays started negotiating with the city back in March and city officials repeatedly lied to citizens inquiring about the plans for Al Lang field.

(3) although the Rays claim to have been working for a year and a half on their plan, it has the appearance of something put together in a big hurry.

(4) the Rays claim to have released a 600 page document discussing their plans but this has not been made available online for public review (contrast this with Bolla's police report). The Rays put up a web site http://www.majorleaguedowntown.com but that contains nothing of any real substance.

What is outrageous is that the media is more intersted in covering the actions of the son of a minor celebrity that has no real effect on anyone that in delving into the multitude of questions concening the owners of the Rays attempt to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayers for their private benefit.

not too pretty for prison this time

If you were an attractive young woman with a criminal allegation problem in the Tampa Bay area, you would probably be drawn to attorney John Fitzgibbons whose public statement that child molester Debra Lafave was "too pretty for prison" apparently was convincing to Florida prosecutors in two counties and one county judge.

Fitzgibbons seemed to work his magic for former American Idol contestant Jessica Sierra. Charged with cocaine possession and felony battery for hitting a man with a glass at a bar last April, she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 12 months of probation.

After last night, however, we will really see Fitzgibbons' magic put to the test as Ms. Sierra was arrested by Tampa police for disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence. As of this morning, she was being held in jail without bail.

too pretty for house arrest?

When I last discussed Debra Lafave, she had managed to completely avoid prosecution in Marion County, Florida for molesting a male teenager thanks to State's Attorney Brad King who evidently went along with her attorney's statement that she was "too pretty for prison". King wanted to negotiate a plea agreement that would sentence Lafave to house arrest and probation to run simultaneously with the same punishment that was agreed to by a pliant Hillsborough county judge -- this would, of course, have been no punishment at all and Judge Hale Stancil courageously refused to go along with the give-away.

Now, two years later, Lafave has completed two years of the three years of "house arrest" that she was sentenced to. Now, Lafave's "house arrest" included such activities as an interview with Today show host Matt Lauer in which she blamed her predicament on her victim. After two years of "good time", Lafave is now ready to ask to be released from the rest of her sentence. Apparently the victim's mother and the Hillsborough prosecutor plan to object.

Remember, men typically convicted of the same crimes Lafave was are often given the maximum sentence for identical offenses -- 30 years in prison, even if they show remorse over their conduct. Lafave, of course, is on record on national television as blaming the victim.

We'll see what happens.