SANFORD - Four months ago, federal prosecutor John "Jack" McLaughlin was arrested and accused of grabbing a bartender by the hair, pulling open her clothes and trying to rape her behind a biker bar in Sanford.
On Tuesday, prosecutors finally formally charged him - with misdemeanor battery.
If convicted, McLaughlin, 46, of Sanford faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Attempted sexual battery, the charge under which Seminole County deputies arrested him, carries a maximum sentence of five years.
McLaughlin, who resigned May 25, also was arrested on a drunken driving charge that night, another misdemeanor.
But why the lesser charge in the sex case?
" Because as it stands right now, there's only sufficient evidence to charge him with the battery," Assistant State Attorney Gino Feliciani said.
Witnesses at the Lake Monroe Inn told investigators they saw McLaughlin flirt with and kiss the neck of the 36-year-old victim, who had just finished her shift as a bartender there, on May 24.
However, the two were alone in a camper behind the bar when McLaughlin tried to rape her, according to an investigative report. There were no other witnesses.
The victim told authorities she tried to get McLaughlin to leave her alone, but he would not. She said he forced her into the camper, pulling her by the hair. She kicked him in the groin and escaped, she said.
The victim had marks on the back of her head where McLaughlin pulled her hair, Feliciani said, but that proves only that she was battered - not that she was the victim of an attempted rape.
There simply is not enough evidence to sustain an attempted-rape conviction, he said.
Also, he said, she is a two-time convicted felon who was on house arrest for a Brevard County gun conviction at the time of the incident. She previously had spent time in prison in Illinois for beating a woman.
Prosecutors were slow to file a charge in the case because they wanted to investigate it thoroughly, Feliciani said.
They did not file a lesser charge because McLaughlin was a fellow prosecutor, he said. Instead, the fact that he was an assistant U.S. attorney prompted a tougher look, Feliciani said.
Defense attorney Mark NeJame was not available for comment.
McLaughlin, who is free on $25,500 bail, is contesting the drunken- driving charge. He contends that charge should be thrown out because he asked deputies for a blood test after he failed two breath tests.
They told him that he would have to pay for it himself, then denied him access to a phone for eight hours, until it was too late to get a meaningful blood sample, according to a motion.
Source: Orlando Sentinel