Hurdles keeping LaFuria case from trial

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's coming up on four years since Lake Charles OB/GYN Doctor Peter LaFuria was arrested for allegedly taking explicit photos of hundreds of patients without their permission.

Rochelle Mallet, one of the hundreds of women who was, at one time, a patient of Dr. LaFuria says, "I was shocked.  And the first thought that went through my mind was, 'oh my gosh.  I was a patient.' and questions of, 'am I one of them? Are there pictures of me?' and it was just a sickening feeling."

LaFuria allegedly made thousands of explicit photographs of his patients in the exam room without their knowledge.

Rochelle adds, "You're already vulnerable when you go to that type of a doctor. You know, you already have to bare all. Then knowing that he was taking pictures or that there's evidence, your trust is just gone. You feel violated."

Mallet is one of many patients who received money from civil actions against LaFuria, but she and others wait to see what will happen with criminal charges.

In August 2007, LaFuria was indicted on 269 felony counts--most of which were video voyeurism, plus 78 sexual battery counts and five counts molestation of a juvenile.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier says they hope the case will go to trial this year.  "We've reviewed basically ten years of Dr. LaFuria's practice, that's what has taken such a long time, not to mention there has been an evidentiary battle going on since day one."

However, Defense Attorney Glen Vamvoras says it's unrealistic to expect the case to get to trial this year.  "I'm going to look at everything and I'm going to look at what the police did and the execution of the warrants and I'm going to protect that man's rights thoroughly and I think he is well within his rights to raise the issues he's raised.  We still haven't gotten all of the information that we're entitled to see and we've been asking for this for well over three years now."

DeRosier says he thinks that they are now being given everything that they are required to give them under the law.

The sheer number of alleged victims, computer images and privacy issues will make trial preparation tedious for both sides.

Throughout it all, protecting the identities of victims has been a major priority for law enforcement, prosecutors, and the court.

According to DeRosier, the judge has issued very strict protective orders relative to the use and utilization of the photographs.

The defense will likely try to keep out evidence they say was improperly seized. Vamvoras says, "When the motion to suppress is heard, it's going to be clear that the deputies exceeded the authority given to them by the initial warrant."

DeRosier says they will work through the issues. "We will bring this case to trial, we will bring this case to verdict no matter how long it takes."

Rochelle admits what allegedly happened angered her husband too. "He was upset, very upset.  More so, I was upset inside, but to hear him verbalize.  He was very upset, very angry.  And a lot of fathers of their young daughters I would think have been very upset.  I would love to see him do some time in jail.  I think he deserves to pay some sort of price."

For now, LaFuria remains out of jail on a very large bond.  His location has not been made public, but the DA says the judge in the case is monitoring the doctor's whereabouts.

In reference to the civil suits against LaFuria – they aren't over.  Though his personal funds were used to settle some part of the claims against him, attorneys say victims' claims against LaFuria's insurance companies are still moving ahead.

According to attorney Ron Richard, a trial date is set for this summer.

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