Peter LaFuria, right, and attorney Glen Vamvoras. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Saturday, May 04, 2013 10:10 PM
Evidence seized during a search of former Lake Charles gynecologist Peter LaFuria’s truck and home can be used as evidence against him, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal denied a writ by LaFuria seeking to have the evidence thrown out because of search warrant issues.
LaFuria, 64, is accused of taking pictures of the genitals of unsuspecting patients. He faces 267 counts and is free on $1.29 million bond.
When LaFuria was investigated in April 2007, authorities searched his truck in the driveway of his house, finding a bag containing photos and cameras in his truck. Based on that evidence, authorities also searched his house.
Defense attorneys Glen Vamvoras and Shane Hinch argued that because the truck was not specifically outlined in the search warrant — which gave detectives the right to search the gynecologist’s medical practice and all vehicles on the premises — the evidence should be suppressed.
Both the prosecution and the defense agreed that if evidence found in the truck was thrown out, so too would be evidence found in the house.
Fourteenth Judicial District Court Judge David Ritchie in December ruled the evidence would have been inevitably discovered and ruled it admissible. He said he also considered there to be exigent circumstances.
The appeals court agreed with him in its one-page ruling, saying only that “the trial court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence.”
“We should have won, so I’m happy that we did,” prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth said. “Judge Ritchie ruled correctly, and now maybe we can get moving again.”
Vamvoras said he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
“I was very surprised that (the 3rd Circuit) did not articulate any reasons for denying the very, very important search issues that were raised by our writ application,” Vamvoras said.
“The searches were very questionable as to both the intent of the officers who performed the search, and there were some other very important legal issues that affect everybody’s rights to privacy, and they simply ignored them and refused to address them and tell us why.”
No movement has been allowed on the case because of the appeal to the 3rd Circuit. It’s possible the state Supreme Court could stay the case again while it decides on the writ.
Killingsworth said she hopes to set the matter to trial soon.
A location for the trial must be determined. Because of the number of victims and the publicity the case has garnered, Ritchie granted a change of venue the same day he ruled on the motion to suppress evidence.
Prosecutors must also decide how they plan to proceed.
Because of the search warrant issues, the prosecution filed a motion in August to sever the 186 video voyeurism charges from the 78 counts of sexual battery and five counts of molestation of a juvenile. But the motion was never ruled on.
“In order to get it moving, because this case was pending and pending, I thought, ‘Well, we’ll just go with the cases that don’t require pictures, and maybe that would get it moving,’ and it sure did,” Killingsworth said.