Peter LaFuria, right, and attorney Glen Vamvoras accompanies him. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Thursday, October 11, 2012 4:59 PM
The crux of Wednesday’s motion to suppress evidence hearing in Peter LaFuria’s video voyeurism case was whether LaFuria’s truck was included in a search warrant.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that if the evidence take from the truck is declared inadmissible, it is likely the evidence from LaFuria’s house will be inadmissible also, since evidence from the truck led investigators to search the house.
Glen Vamvoras, LaFuria’s defense attorney, said he would go a step further — that if the truck evidence is ruled inadmissible, he will ask that evidence taken from LaFuria’s medical office be ruled inadmissible also.
LaFuria, a former Lake Charles gynecologist, is accused of taking photos of his undressed patients. He is charged with 186 counts of video voyeurism, 78 counts of sexual battery and five counts of molestation of a juvenile.
The case, which dates from April 2007, has been held up by the motion to suppress evidence, which Vamvoras said he initially filed in October 2007.
On Wednesday, the case was continued again. After a morning in which a motion to quash charges was denied and a supplemental offense report was hotly debated, the motion to suppress dragged into the evening.
With witnesses still to be called at 6 p.m., the judge decided to resume the hearing Nov. 9, meaning LaFuria’s Nov. 5 trial date will be pushed back.
A mock jury selection will be held Oct. 22 and a change of venue hearing will be held Oct. 23.
Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office detective Patty Bailey was on the stand when the motion was halted.
Bailey said the Sheriff’s Office began investigating after one of LaFuria’s patients complained on April 20, 2007, that he had taken a picture of her genitals without her consent.
Bailey said the woman’s sister and husband confronted LaFuria, who claimed to have taken the photo for medical documentation of scar tissue. LaFuria claimed the photo did not develop because the battery died, Bailey said.
When no photo could be found in the woman’s medical records or the need for a photo to be taken, authorities went to obtain a search warrant, Bailey said.
She said she initially asked Judge Rick Bryant for a search warrant that included LaFuria’s medical office and all vehicles on the premises and his house and all vehicles on the premises. Bryant said there wasn’t yet probable cause to search LaFuria’s house and gave her a search warrant that included LaFuria’s practice and the vehicles on the premises, she said.
She said because she understood the search warrant to include LaFuria’s vehicle, when it wasn’t at his practice, deputies went to his house to find his truck.
“When I did it, I intended it for the vehicle he drove,” Bailey said.
When Bailey and her fellow officers arrived at the house, LaFuria’s truck was in the driveway and his wife was standing outside talking on the telephone, she said.
His wife told him to come outside and Bailey told him that his truck was included in the search warrant, she said.
LaFuria told her the truck was unlocked, Bailey said.
She said the doctor asked her what she was searching for and she told him the camera. She said he told her he had thrown it away in a Dumpster at the hospital.
She said she was on one side of the truck, searching it, while he stood on the other. She said she found a gym bag with two cameras and spindles of CDs.
She said LaFuria told her, “That’s it. That is the camera. I’m so stupid.”
He reached across the truck and tried to take the bag from her twice while saying again, “I’m so stupid,” she testified.
Detectives found one disc contained pictures of clothed black women who were pregnant and another disc had pictures of females’ genitals taken in the examination rooms at LaFuria’s practice, Bailey said.
She said she returned to Bryant, who then granted her a search warrant for the house, where two computer towers were found on a table near the boathouse.
Bailey said detectives then got another search warrant, this time from Judge Mike Canaday, to obtain patient records.
Because of issues that have arisen with the evidence, the prosecution severed the charges in August and is trying to proceed with the sexual battery and molestation charges.
Vamvoras argued for the motion to quash all charges, saying that he filed only one continuance and it was the prosecution’s fault that the case has taken five years and still hasn’t gone to trial. He said the only motions filed by the defense were what “any good lawyer” would do for a client. He said prosecutors did not get the photos and information about the photos to him by dates mandated by the court.
“We have had delays in the case, not by filing of motions, but by the state’s failures to respond to court orders,” Vamvoras said.
Prosecutor Hugo Holland’s rebuttal was short, saying the motion to suppress had to be completed before the prosecution was forced to proceed. “That’s the bottom line and that’s our argument,” he said.
Judge David Ritchie said that he did not believe prosecutors acted “in bad faith.” He referred to the magnitude of the case, the number of alleged victims, the number of photos and the technical aspects of the case in denying the motion.
“I recognize that things haven’t moved along as quickly as they should have,” Ritchie said. “But there are a lot of complicated issues and a large volume of information.”