LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A former Lake Charles gynecologist will spend the next eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 20 criminal charges on Wednesday.
Judge David Ritchie sentenced Peter LaFuria to 23 years, with 15 years suspended, after LaFuria pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual battery, five counts molestation of a juvenile, five counts video voyeurism and five counts of obscenity.
The charges come from 20 of about 180 former patients of LaFuria.
LaFuria, who surrendered his medical license years ago, will have to register as sex offender as part of the plea deal. He was also fined $5,000.
"May God have mercy on your soul," one of LaFuria's former patients said. "Hell is made up of people like you."
On April 30, 2007, LaFuria turned himself in at the Calcasieu Correctional Center, several days after a patient claimed that he photographed her in the exam room without permission.
An arrest warrant was issued after law enforcement began investigating the allegations. Deputies seized computer equipment from LaFuria, which ultimately revealed thousands of explicit photographs of patients. LaFuria was initially booked for video voyeurism.
The same day LaFuria turned himself him, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office began reaching out to his patients, asking that they contact investigators if they thought they might be victims.
Investigators were soon inundated with calls from patients, wanting to know if they too had been photographed. As the investigation progressed, women were asked to identify themselves in photos seized in the investigation.
Within four months, the investigation grew to include more patients -- eventually 222. On Aug. 16, 2007, LaFuria was indicted on 269 criminal counts. The 15-page indictment accused him of 186 counts of video voyeurism, 78 counts of sexual battery and five counts of molestation of a juvenile.
Though it all, LaFuria has remained free on a $1.3 million bond. He was at a location not made public, but known to the court. At least part of that time was spent in a treatment facility.
There were civil suits brought by LaFuria's former patients.
In July 2007, LaFuria attended a meeting in federal bankruptcy court, where he was forced to answer questions about his finances.
Attorneys asked if LaFuria had ever made any money off photos taken of patients, to which he responded, "No."
During the meeting it came out he had $1.9 million in real estate and $7.9 million in personal property.
By the end of 2007, the class action suit had been mostly settled. The doctor's share of his estate was initially valued at about $9 million dollars. Part of the estate went to his wife and another part was exempt from seizure, leaving about $3 million for the former patients.
In 2012, it came to light that the woman who blew the whistle on LaFuria, Brandi Skye Taylor, died unexpectedly. If it was not for Taylor, LaFuria might never have been investigated for taking explicit pictures of patients without their knowledge and alleged improper touching, in some cases. In late 2012, a small group paid tribute to Taylor as the final proceeds from the lawsuit were presented to Oasis women's shelter. About $75,000 was donated to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
In the years after LaFuria's arrest, there were numerous, complex legal issues to be resolved in the criminal case. The defense tried unsuccessfully to get much of the photo evidence thrown out, arguing it was not properly seized.
The case was also unique because of privacy issues affecting victims. Through it all, law enforcement, the district attorney and the court went to great lengths to protect the identity of former patients and to strictly limit viewing of the photos.
The defense had argued search warrants issued for LaFuria's medical office were improperly extended to his truck at home. Ultimately, the Louisiana Supreme Court decided that the evidence could be used. A change of venue was also granted but Wednesday's guilty plea means there won't be a trial.
Even though the investigation identified 222 former patients, that number was whittled down to about 180 because some of the cases were too old to prosecute.
Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier has said he will go to the legislature and ask that the law be changed so that there's more time to prosecute such video voyeurism cases.
As it is, video voyeurism must be prosecuted within six years of the offense. DeRosier wants the law changed so that the deadline extends six years after the discovery of the pictures.
KPLC will have more on later editions.