LaFuria civil settlement to help victims of sex crimes - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

LaFuria civil settlement to help victims of sex crimes

A state district judge has approved the final settlement in the civil case against Dr. Peter LaFuria, the former Lake Charles obstetrician/gynecologist who allegedly took pictures of patients in the exam room without their knowledge or permission.

The settlement means donations for several agencies that support women who are victims of sex crimes.

In the years immediately after LaFuria's arrest in 2007, patients who sued settled -- and received money ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands, depending on their circumstances. The money paid out then came from LaFuria's personal assets according to plaintiff attorney Ron Richard.

"Previously what happened, there was a $3.75 million settlement. Basically what me and other class counsel did was, we went and took all of Dr. LaFuria's personal money. That was his assets. We grabbed them. We stopped him from running away with them and took that money and it was distributed to the women and that was a substantial some of money and women received checks, nice sized checks, and there was recovery," LaFuria said.

The settlement, just now approved, resolves remaining claims against LaFuria's insurance policies. Richard said the companies basically provided money to buy peace and resolve the case.

"There was no claim left against these insurance companies because it was an intentional act.  It's not like the good doctor accidentally took pictures. It was an intentional act," Richard said.

Richard explains the $150,000 from the settlement will go to groups  that help women who are victims of sex crimes.

"One-third will go to the rape crisis center function at Oasis, which is basically part of the women's shelter. One third will go to the actual women's shelter portion of Oasis and one third will go to the sexual assault response team which does the rape kits, the special team that does rape kits for the women that come in as victims of rape at the local hospital," said Richard.

The community settlement, as it's called, was approved by Judge Kent Savoie at a fairness hearing. At least one plaintiff in the case questioned whether the last bit of settlement money should be divvied up among the victims. Richard says the administrative costs of disbursing the money would have exceeded the amount of the settlement.

Criminal charges against LaFuria are still pending. But issues related to the criminal prosecution will be taken up in November. A mock jury selection will be held Wednesday, Nov. 7. 

The mock jury selection is to help the court decide whether they are likely to have difficulty getting a panel of jurors who can be fair and unbiased to LaFuria in Calcasieu Parish where there has been publicity about the case. 

LaFuria is charged with multiple counts of video voyeurism, sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile. First Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Killingsworth says there are close to 200 women who are victims in the case.

Other defense pretrial motions for a change of venue and to suppress evidence will be considered Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8 and 9. The motion to suppress certain evidence was started in October, but didn't finish.

LaFuria has been out on bond since his arrest in 2007. The criminal case is assigned to Judge David Ritchie.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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